Twin ween geeks Maddy and Anya — the Tweeks — have tackled another banned book! In week five of ComicMix’s Challenged Challenge, they discuss the critically acclaimed coming-of-age manhwa The Color of the Earth and the controversy surrounding it’s coming-of age story.
Creator Kim Dong Hwa’s graphic novel is about a young girl, Ehwa, growing up in a country village in Korea with her widowed mother. Along with issues of class that put Ehwa and her mother at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the book is also about a young girl learning from her mother, coming of age, and ultimately falling in love. It is a book about Ehwa’s exploration of her young adulthood as she moves towards becoming a woman. Dealing with topics such as sexuality and the adolescence, though, is what made The Color of Earth the second most challenged book in 2011.
Citing scenes in the book in which the mother is naked, the book has been challenged as being “age inappropriate,” with many parents insisting that it should be classified as an adult graphic novel even though the overall subject matter is explicitly written for and geared towards teens. “Just because some parent thinks that the nudity should make it an adult book shouldn’t mean that the book becomes and adult book,” noted the Tweeks. They add:
Unless you’re totally uncultured, you know that there are plenty of naked women in sculptures and in paintings hanging in museums. I don’t think that you would try to censor art in a museum… And most sane people aren’t trying to censor art because they don’t want their kids to see what people look like with their clothes off, but the issue [with The Color of Earth] probably lies with the fact that Ehwa grows up from age 7 to her early teens and finds out how babies are made.
This being said, though, as opposed to strictly pulling the book from library and school shelves and becoming “literature police,” Maddy and Anya remind their audience that the manhwa instead represents an excellent opportunity to engage in conversation with teen readers about these difficult topics. “This book would be a great one to read with your daughter. It’s a great jumping off point for questions,” said the Tweeks. “Discussion is a much better way to handle these kinds of uncomfortable but very real topics.”
For educators and librarians, below is a quick list of several of the resources that CBLDF provides should you need to defend your students and patrons’ right to read if this book is challenged in your community:
- Case Study: The Color of Earth
- Using Graphic Novels in Education: The Color of Earth Trilogy
- CBLDF Banned Books Week Handbook
- Raising a Reader! How Comics and Graphic Novels Can Help Your Kids Love to Read!