Comics Lowdown | ‘Gender Queer’ creator responds

Plus: More book challenges, creator interviews, and recommended reading.

Cartoon by Maia Kobabe showing the artist speaking. First panel: "Please, leave the queer books on the library shelves, where the queer teens can find them." Second panel: "As a queer teen, I desperately needed them. And the queer teens of today need them too."

In a thoughtful op-ed in the Washington Post, Maia Kobabe responds to critics who have challenged her book Gender Queer in school libraries. She writes that when she was growing up, she turned to books to help her understand something she couldn’t put into words, and that she wrote Gender Queer primarily for her own family, who were supportive but also puzzled. And she ends with this:

Three weeks after I first heard about the “Gender Queer” ban at Fairfax County Public Schools, I received this message:

“You probably won’t ever see this but I am a queer FCPS student! My mom and I read your book. I loved it! I related to almost everything you said. I felt so understood and not alone. I think my mom understands me better and I’m more confident in confiding in her since she read your book. Thank you so much for creating your memoir!”

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Nonetheless, the challenges continue. In Washington state, the Kitsap Sun reports that Kitsap County Prosecutor Chad Enright has declined a parent’s to bring criminal charges against librarians and staff of the Central Kitsap School District over Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer. The parent called the book, which was then available at the Olympic High School library, “graphic pornography to include pedophilia.” Enright cited the First Amendment and also said that the book did not meet the criteria for pornography in state law. However, the high school did remove the one copy of the book from the school library. Although the complaining parent did not go through the proper procedure for challenging books, a spokesman for the district said that they decided to accept his e-mail in lieu of the standard form because the book had not been properly reviewed before being acquired. The school board is now considering revising its procedure for reviewing library materials.

Cover of Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Meanwhile, in Troy, Michigan, a parent has complained that Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home contains a pornographic image. The Troy Athens High School library has one copy of the book, which has been checked out three times in the past six years; the book was added in 2015 when it was part of an AP seminar, but it has not been required in any course since then. A committee is currently reviewing the book. The parent complained to the school board, the City Council, and the local police department; according to the article, “the parent who voiced concerns was fully aware of the review process but chose not to bring the issue to those who could address it.”

Passings: Iranian cartoonist Kambiz Derambakhsh has died of COVID-19 at the age of 79, the Teheran Times reports. Derambakhsh began drawing cartoons for a satirical magazine at the age of 14 and went on to have a lengthy career that spanned a time of revolution and change in Iran. His work has appeared in over 50 one-person shows in Iran, and the French government awarded him the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor Medal in 2014. His most recent book, book Cats and Birds, was published in January 2021.

Kickstarter Question: Why did Legendary decide to crowdfund its new Dune graphic novel? Heidi Macdonald asks that question and gets the answers at The Beat.

Cover of On Tyranny

Public Display of Disaffection: To celebrate the publication of the graphic adaptation of Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, UK publisher Bodley Head has put up a poster display of the book’s contents in London’s Newington Green. The book is published by Ten Speed Press in the U.S.; the artist for the project is Nora Krug.

Creator Interviews

Cover of Discipline, showing the silhouettes of a woman in a 19th-century dress and a soldier with a rifle facing away from each other

Greg Hunter of The Comics Journal talks to Dash Shaw about his new graphic novel Discipline, which is a departure from his previous work in both style and story: It’s about a Quaker teenager in 19th-century Indiana who leaves to join the Union Army.

Cover of ExtraOrdinary

At Publishers Weekly, I interviewed writer V.E. Schwab about her new graphic novel ExtraOrdinary, which ties in with her Villains series

Reviews and Recommendations

At the LA Times, David L. Ulin review Kim Seuk Gendry-Kim’s The Waiting, a story about a family that was separated during the Korean war and is hoping for a reunion.

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