CBLDF’s Top 15 Stories of 2015

PersepolisAs 2015 comes to an end, we’re taking a look back at our 15 most-read stories of the past year. In many cases we’ve also included links to follow-ups or other related stories.

College Student Wants Graphic Novels Banned from Graphic Novel Course

In June, CBLDF rose to the defense of comics at Crafton Hills College in California. A 20-year-old student and her parents sought to have four graphic novels covered in an elective English class that she had completed in May “eradicated from the system.” Tara Shultz, who is working towards an Associate Degree in English, knew when she began the course in January that it focused on graphic novels but said she “expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Shultz contacted her parents, and the family challenged the inclusion of four of the ten books taught by Associate Professor Ryan Bartlett: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, and The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman and various artists.

Crafton Hills declined to modify its curriculum based on the family’s complaint but hinted at requiring a disclaimer on the syllabus in the future “so students have a better understanding of the course content.” After CBLDF and members of the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter urging against that action, the San Bernardino Community College District ultimately decided not to implement such a requirement for Crafton Hills and its other campus, San Bernardino Valley College.

Emails Provide Insight on Persepolis Ban in Chicago Public Schools

Nearly two years after Chicago Public Schools’ botched attempt to ban Persepolis from classrooms and libraries, University of Illinois graduate student Jarrett Dapier submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the release of internal emails showing district administrators’ scramble to remove the book from schools and then spin the story to deflect negative feedback from students, staff, media, and free speech organizations.

Women Who Changed Free Expression

Throughout Women’s History Month in March, we ran a series of 23 biographical profiles on our Tumblr featuring women who changed free expression in comics from the Pre-Code era through the present day. On the final day of the month, we brought them all together and it became one of our most-read stories of the year!

deathnoteAnother Student Investigated for “Death Note”

In October we saw a repeat of what has become a familiar story: a high school-aged New Hampshire fan of the Death Note manga and anime series compiled a list of classmates’ names in a “death note” book, and panic ensued among parents even after police investigated and determined the student had not engaged in “criminal threatening” or any other crimes. In the past eight years, at least 10 U.S. students ranging from elementary to high school were disciplined, suspended, expelled, or arrested after “death notes” were found in their possession.

CBLDF’s Charles Brownstein Counters UN Call to Ban “Extreme” Manga

After UN Special Envoy Maud de Boer-Buquicchio recommended that Japan take steps to “ban manga of extreme child pornographic content” along with a host of other tips for curtailing child sexual abuse in the country, CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein wrote an in-depth commentary analyzing the cultural differences in the way manga is received and the reasons why banning manga would accomplish nothing to protect actual children.

Young Adult Graphic Novels Shine During Banned Books Week

This year’s theme for Banned Books Week was Young Adult literature, so we featured 12 YA graphic novels that have been challenged or banned over the years.

sagavol1Most Challenged Books of 2014

In 2014 alone, three graphic novels — Saga, Drama, and Persepolis — made the American Library Association’s list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books.

UN Envoy Calls for Ban on “Extreme” Manga

After a week-long fact-finding trip searching for strategies to curtail underage sex-trafficking in Japan, UN Special Envoy Maud de Boer-Buquicchio made a number of perfectly sound recommendations, but also advised that the country ban manga and anime that includes “particular, extreme child pornographic content,” even though it does not involve any actual children. She is expected to provide more detail on her recommendations with a full report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016.

Atena Farghadani Sentenced for Cartoon

Iranian artist and activist Atena Farghadani was given a draconian sentence of nearly 13 years in prison for drawing a cartoon depicting lawmakers as apes and bovines. The cartoon mocked a bill that would ban voluntary sterilization procedures such as vasectomies and tubal ligations in an effort to reverse Iran’s falling birthrate.

After her sentencing which followed a cursory trial, Farghadani’s troubles continued as she and her lawyer were both charged with “non-adultery illegitimate relations” because they shook each other’s hands. Contact with unrelated members of the opposite sex is illegal in Iran, but rarely prosecuted. It was later disclosed that in the course of this secondary investigation, Farghadani was subjected to forced virginity and pregnancy tests.

In September, Cartoonists Rights Network International honored Farghadani in absentia with its Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award.

Curious Incident Banned in Florida

In August, a high school principal in Leon County, Florida violated district policy by pulling Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time from a summer reading list after a few parents complained of profanity and other “inappropriate” content in the book. CBLDF and other members of the Kids’ Right to Read Project sent a letter urging district officials to follow existing policy, but unfortunately the school board backed the principal’s action.

The Charlie Hebdo Attack

The year began in tragedy, as 12 people including five cartoonists were killed in a terrorist attack on the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The ambush was in retaliation for the magazine’s occasional caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among many other religious and political figures. The repercussions of the attack were evident in numerous stories throughout 2015 and surely for many years to come.

More Americans Support Censorship

An early 2015 poll of more than 2,000 Americans revealed a disturbing trend: Since 2011, the percentage of Americans who believe that there are books that should be banned has increased from 18% to 28%. Perhaps even more disturbing, only 48% of Americans stated that books should never be banned.

PalomarPalomar Challenged in Rio Rancho

Rejecting one parent’s complaint that the highly-regarded graphic novel Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez was “child porn,” a district review committee in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, voted to keep the book in a high school library. CBLDF led a coalition that included NCAC in defending the book after it was attacked in a lurid and biased news report from local TV affiliate KOAT, which continued its attack after the decision to keep the book was announced. The win was tempered by news that the parent was going to appeal the review committee’s decision to the school board, but school board meeting minutes reveal no further discussion of the challenge.

Although Palomar is technically back in the RRHS library, the victory is qualified: A parental signature is now required for anyone under 18 who would like to check out the book.

Magazine Loses Spiegelman Cover

A May issue of the UK’s New Statesman magazine, on the theme of “Saying the Unsayable,” was originally slated to feature a cover by Art Spiegelman. But the legendary creator of Maus pulled the cover “at the very last minute” by his own description, when the magazine reneged on an informal agreement to also print his “First Amendment Fundamentalist” piece reflecting on the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The issue was guest-edited by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, who according to Spiegelman were blameless in the incident but wound up getting “mugged in the crossfire.” At Gaiman’s blog, they provided an extensive joint account of events.

The Tweeks Read SideScrollers

This summer twin tween geeks Maddy and Anya Ernst, aka the Tweeks, embarked on a Challenged Graphic Novel Reading Challenge and invited readers everywhere to join in via their podcast and the ComicMix website. Their assessment of Matthew Loux’s gaming adventure SideScrollers rounded out our top 15 stories of 2015!

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