Last week, several sources reported on Tara Schultz’s quest to have Persepolis, Fun Home, Y: The Last Man (Vol. 1), and The Sandman (Vol. 2), banned from the English 250 course at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California. This story is different from most of the book challenging stories I see in the news because 1) it’s at a college and 2) the student calling for the ban isn’t objecting because of triggering material. Schultz wants these graphic novels (all fantastic, by the way) removed from the curriculum because when she opened them to read them, she “expected Batman and Robin, not pornography” (Redland Daily Facts Newspaper). The same article further quotes Schultz, “At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.” It’s worth noting that English 250 is a class on graphic novels and the four books mentioned at the top of this paragraph represent 2/5 of the curriculum.
While I have worked my way around to understanding the need for trigger warnings (within reason), Schultz request to “eradicate” the books from the “system” sounds exactly like the calls from concerned parents to ban books from school and public libraries across the country. These calls I cannot abide. The students Schultz is trying to protect from “garbage” are old enough to vote, if not legally drink. Even if the students were minors, who is Schultz to put herself between them and books? To be honest, I have the same question for parents who want to prevent other people’s children from reading certain books.
My experience as a librarian and a reader is that every one is different. Not only do we have different tastes in genre and style, we also have our own boundaries when it comes to what we can tolerate when it comes to violence, language, sex, and other possibly offensive material. To make the same rules about what can and can’t be read for everyone is simply absurd. Maren Williams’s article for the Comic Books Legal Defense Fund quotes the instructor of Schultz’s class, Ryan Barlett, on his book selections:
I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. As Faulkner states, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heartbreak, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.