When the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom released their list of the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2011, the second-most challenged book on that list was The Color of Earth, the first book of a critically-acclaimed Korean manwha, or comic book, series. In spite of numerous positive reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, the School Library Journal, and other outlets that praise the book as “richly literate and imaginative” (Booklist) and “a work of great humanity” (Publishers Weekly), the coming-of-age tale is challenged due to nudity, sexual content, and suitability for age group.
Macmillan, which owns First Second, the imprint that published the book, describes the story:
First love is never easy.
Ehwa grows up helping her widowed mother run the local tavern, watching as their customers — both neighbors and strangers — look down on her mother for her single lifestyle. Their social status isolates Ehwa and her mother from the rest of the people in their quiet country village. But as she gets older and sees her mother fall in love again, Ehwa slowly begins to open up to the possibility of love in her life.
In the tradition of My Antonia and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, from the pen of the renowned Korean manwha creator Kim Dong Hwa, comes a trilogy about a girl coming of age, set in the vibrant, beautiful landscape of pastoral Korea.
When it comes to manwha, creator Kim Dong Hwa is a revered household name in Korea, and The Color of Earth is the first of his books to be translated into English. Brigid Alverson with CBR’s Robot 6 caught the story and talked to Calista Brill, the editor of the book:
I checked in with the folks at First Second, a publisher more at home on ten-best lists than most-challenged lists, and this is what Calista Brill, who edited the book, had to say: “We knew we were risking challenge when we published these books. But sexuality is a part of the adolescent experience, and The Color of Earth and its sequels handle this conversation with remarkable honesty and positivity. These books may have ruffled some feathers, but we remain very proud of them.”
Alverson describes the book’s award-winning pedigree:
As is often the case with frequently challenged books, this one has some critical support: the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) named it to its Great Graphic Novels for Teens list in 2010, the Texas Library Association’s Maverick Graphic Novels List and Booklist’s Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth. Interestingly, assuming the list is in order of the number of challenges, this book racked up more challenges than The Hunger Games and frequent fliers like Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice books, Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and of course, To Kill a Mockingbird.