CBLDF has taken the lead in defending Ariel Schrag’s Stuck in the Middle, a comics anthology that has been challenged in an Oklahoma school library. Today, we signed a letter from the Kids’ Right to Read Project in support of the book. The letter also addresses concerns over school policy that requires that challenged materials be pulled from shelves during the review process.
Per district policy, the book was pulled from Del Crest Middle School library for review after a small number of parents challenged language and adult themes in the graphic novel. A review committee has been formed to read and discuss the book before advising the school board.
CBLDF learned of the challenge due to egregiously biased news reports from local news affiliates, which misrepresented the graphic novel, contained misinformation, and included biased Amazon reviews as justification for banning the book.
Stuck in the Middle presents seventeen stories that address issues faced by teenagers today by a variety of award-winning graphic novelists, including Daniel Clowes, Dash Shaw, Gabrielle Bell, Lauren Weinstein, and more. The book received praise from Booklist, New York Times, and Publishers Weekly, and it was selected for New York Public Library’s “Books for the Teen Age” list in 2008.
In the letter, KRRP reminds the district that “The presence of allegedly offensive language and so-called ‘adult themes’ provides no justification for removing an educationally valuable work such as Stuck in the Middle from the library.” Doing so opens the door to countless classics. Further, the letter states:
In addition to possibly incentivizing additional complaints, permanent removal of Stuck in the Middle would ignore the diversity of opinion on moral issues within the community and prioritize the ethical views of a vociferous group of complainants over those of the parents and students who want the book to remain in the library.
Finally, the letter addresses concerns over Policy I-16, which instructs school officials to “temporarily withdraw [challenged] material pending a decision of the review committee.” Such a policy provides an avenue by which a single or small number of complainants could put the school in an administrative quagmire if they file multiple challenges, denies students access to valuable materials, and may lead librarians and teachers into self-censorship as they avoid potentially controversial material to prevent complaints.
CBLDF is a sponsor of KRRP. We are joined on the letter by American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, Authors Guild, and the Intellectual Freedom Center of the National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN America. You can read the letter in full below.
CBLDF resources for Stuck in the Middle:
- Using Graphic Novels in Education: Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an UNPLEASANT Age
- Case Study: Stuck In The Middle