September is Banned Books month at Bookmans so we are taking a closer look at Arrested Reading. These are graphic novels that have been flagged for one reason or another by the American Library Association or have been challenged on whether they should be allowed in school libraries. Readers might find themselves shocked at what titles have been challenged and/or banned by the association or schools nationwide. Many titles are considered classics to modern audiences, and even more are considered essential reads given that they challenge social, political, and religious norms of their eras.

Many of these brave authors dared much to bring their ideas to fruition. Here we will have a look at a relatively new genre, graphic novels. Graphic novels have come a long way since their humble beginnings when they concentrated on superhero characters and themes. The genre has since grown dramatically to include not only memoirs and fiction but the retelling of classic titles. These works not only challenge the mind and push the boundaries of thought, but they now give our eyes a good time. Here are three of our favorite challenged graphic novels:

graphic novels

First is the well known work: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
This work has so deeply effected readers that it was made into a film which not surprisingly, was the winner of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize. While classified as fiction, Persepolis is a first hand account of Satrapi’s childhood in Tehran, and then in Vienna. This tale is multi-faceted, giving readers an inside view of family life in Tehran while also providing an original account of the turmoil faced by those caught in the midst of political upheaval. Interwoven is a searing reality of adolescence. Once her family is fortunate to escape the revolution in their homeland, our young heroine is forced to start high school in an entirely foreign land and culture in Vienna. One of our favorite parts is the addition of an introduction in 2002 by Satrapi. The excerpt on the political history and foreign relations is brief but informative and gives the reader a solid grounding of the history in which Satrapi was entrenched.

Next is a graphic adaptation of the classic work: Howl by Allen Ginsberg, with brilliant illustrations by Eric Drooker.
This title is especially apt because it is not only a poem but it deals with “an epic raging against dehumanizing society that overcame censorship trials and obscenity charges to become one of the most widely read poems of the century.” Ginsberg’s thoughtful prose challenges established norms, ruffles feathers and opens a much needed dialogue about what is considered acceptable. Eric Drooker worked closely with Mr. Ginsberg to bring his ideas to life, often almost jumping off the page to give perfect visual representation to the complex ideas being brought to bare. The combination of text and visuals brings clarity to the text. Ginsberg’s work is challenging and Drooker’s images heighten it’s meaning as opposed to taking attention away from the higher ideals Ginsberg wished to explore.

Last, but certainly not least, is what can easily be described as one of the most important and powerful works our generation: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home – A Family Tragicomic.
This deceptively simple work delves deep into the author’s childhood and development. She adeptly handles her complex relationships with her parents using searing humor and unflinching honesty. None of the characters in her tragicomic are one-dimensional or simple. These are highly intelligent, well educated (though flawed) people and we relate to them as such. Within this matrix we see a powerful development of sexual freedom and destruction of gender stereotypes unfold within one family. They stand to represent a dynamic that ultimately played out in multiple variations in homes and families across America. We come to feel for these tragic yet noble characters as we can easily see them as our neighbors or even more likely, as our own families. Thrown into uncharted social waters, we watch the sea change in American culture as it tries to cope with altering social norms. These are heavy ideas readers might not expect from a graphic novel and that alone gives Fun Home an extra punch.

Sparing you another 300 words, one last thing must be said about Bechdel’s illustrations. Like most truely talented artists, she conveys the complexity and full range of the human emotional response with eerie simplicity. Her artwork is not vast, not sweeping landscapes of color, but they thoroughly express the inner landscape of her characters. We get the privilege of seeing the characters in totality, and wish desperately that they could have enjoyed that insight themselves.

Bookmans is waiting to share these graphic novels with you and help you along your path of #ArrestedReading this month. Stop by today to grab a copy of one of the excellent works we’ve highlighted above and get your #BannedBookMugshot while you’re at it.