Three Things | Anders Nilsen, Johnnie Christmas, Maia Kobabe

Here are three things to buy, to watch and to listen to today.

Three Things spotlights, as the title states, three things from comics today. It’ll be three things with links, no more, no less. This is the fourth one in the series, collect them all.

1. To buy: Tongue #5, the yearly series by Anders Nilsen

Anders Nilsen, the award-winning creator of Big Questions and Rage of Poseidon, has released the fifth issue of Tongues, his self-published comic that features Prometheus, Teddy Roosevelt and a whole lot more. It’s … kind of hard to describe, actually, but it’s a labor of love for the creator, with emphasis on the labor.

In a post on his blog, Nilsen details how much work and time went into this fifth issue — and into every issue — and he reveals that he has about five more issues left to complete. For the process junkies, he also goes deep in how the sausage gets made…

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Virginia politicians seek restraining order to prevent Barnes & Noble from selling ‘Gender Queer’ to minors

The move comes a week after the Virginia Beach school board removed the book from library shelves.

Virginia State Delegate and lawyer is seeking a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools “to enjoin them from selling or loaning” the graphic novel Gender Queer and the novel A Court of Mist and Fury to minors without parent consent, according to Book Riot.

On his Facebook page, Tim Anderson, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, says he is seeking the restraining order on behalf of his client, Tommy Altman, who is currently running for U.S. Congress in Virginia.

“Today, the Virginia Beach Circuit Court has found probable cause that the books Gender Queer and a Court of Mist and Fury are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors,” Anderson posted. “My client, Tommy Altman, has now directed my office to seek a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools to enjoin them from selling or loaning these books to minors without parent consent.”

The move follows a decision from last week by the Virginia Beach school board to remove Gender Queer from shelves in the school district’s libraries.

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‘Gender Queer’ tops the ALA’s ‘Most Challenged Books of 2021’ list

Half the books on 2021’s top 10 list were targeted for including LGBTQIA+ content.

In a year that saw the highest number of book challenges in libraries and schools since the ALA began compiling data on the topic, the graphic novel Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe topped the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books for 2021.

More than 700 book challenges — which are reported attempts by citizens and parents to have books removed from their public library or a school library — were recorded by the ALA, a record number since they began sharing data and making this list in 2000. This resulted in almost 1,600 individual book challenges or removals, as some challenges were against multiple titles.

“The 729 challenges tracked by ALA represent the highest number of attempted book bans since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago,” said ALA President Patricia “Patty” Wong. “We support individual parents’ choices concerning their child’s reading and believe that parents should not have those choices dictated by others. Young people need to have access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives. So, despite this organized effort to ban books, libraries remain ready to do what we always have: make knowledge and ideas available so people are free to choose what to read.”

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Ohioan launches ‘Banned Books Box’ subscription service

The first month’s box will include a copy of ‘Gender Queer,’ along with a lapel pin designed by creator Maia Kobabe.

Ariel Hakim, a librarian former library reference associate in Northeast Ohio, has put a timely spin on the subscription box idea with the Banned Books Box, which delivers banned books and graphic novels to your door each month.

And December’s selection couldn’t come at a better time; it’ll feature Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, a graphic novel that has been making headlines recently in Virginia, Michigan and Florida as school districts face a barrage of criticism from overzealous parents for including it on their library shelves. (Kobabe recently responded to critics in a write-up published by the Washington Post).

“Maia wrote this graphic novel that parents of high schoolers have found in the school library and been completely vocal about how offended they are by some of the images,” Hakim told Cleveland Scene. “Maia wrote it to explain to family members about what non-binary means. Maia came out as queer and then several years as non-binary. When I decided that this was the book I wanted to use, I emailed the agent to see about getting signed books, and we got some book plates, and then Maia designed an enamel pin that will be one of the pieces of the book box. I like the book a lot, and I think it’s entertaining and educational. I love memoirs. Just reading anyone else’s story written in a sincere way is something I will always enjoy.”

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Comics Lowdown | ‘Gender Queer’ creator responds

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

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!”

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Comics Lowdown | More ‘Gender Queer’ controversy

Plus: Tanzanian cartoonist arrested, NYCC manga news, and more!

Gender Queer Challenged and Defended: The Brevard, Florida, Public Schools have removed a book from the Melbourne High School public library because it contained “adult images that have no place in education.” While they did not name the book, Florida Today speculates that it was Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, which was the subject of a recent discussion on a local Facebook page. Superintendent Mike Mullins said that “BPS staff immediately agreed that this book violates our guidelines and that it has no place in our school district,” and he added that he has instructed the staff to check that there are no other such books in the school libraries. Gender Queer was also removed from the Fairfax, Virginia, public school libraries, but local station WTOP reports that students have pushed back: Over 400 students from across the district have signed a letter protesting the removal of the book. And in Williamstown, Michigan, parents are objecting to their children getting library cards because the book is in the local public library, according to the Lansing CityPulse.

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Comics Lowdown | Graphic Novels challenged in TX, VA, WY

Plus: The latest on the supply chain woes!

It’s almost TOO on the nose that three book challenges involving graphic novels came up during Banned Books Week, but that’s exactly what has happened.

Cover of Jerry Craft's New Kid, showing a boy looking at a school notebook

Katy, Texas: The Katy school board has canceled a virtual appearance by Jerry Craft, after an online petition claimed that his middle-grade graphic novels New Kid and Class Act promote Critical Race Theory. TV news station Click2Houston has a good overview of what happened: After a parent complained, the school district put the Zoom visit on hold and pulled the books from the library for review, per their policy; they will review the books within 15 days and are trying to reschedule the visit outside of the instructional day. Kara Yorio at School Library Journal has more details on the backstory: The petition (since removed) urged the school board to cancel Craft’s appearance, claiming that “these books … are wrought with critical race theory in the form of teaching children that their white privilege inherently comes with microaggressions which must be kept in check.” New Kid has won numerous awards and was the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal; both books are best-sellers.

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‘New Kid’ wins the Newbery Medal

Several graphic novels were honored at the American Library Association’s annual Youth Media Awards.

The American Library Association recognized several graphic novels this past weekend as part of the 2020 Youth Media Awards at their Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. These included the prestigious Newbery Medal, which has been given out since 1922 to “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children;” the Coretta Scott King Book Award; and many others.

The winner of this year’s Newbery Medal was New Kid, the graphic novel by Jerry Craft that was published by HarperCollins Children’s Books. It also won the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award. It’s interesting to note that these aren’t in a “graphic novel” category or anything like that; The Newbery Medal is the highest honor the ALA gives out every year, and this is the first time a graphic novel has won it outright.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Maia Kobabe

The comics creator discusses ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir,’ working with siblings, the craft and process of creating comics, and more.

Maia Kobabe has been making comics for The Nib, and anthologies like Mine!, Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, The Secrets Loves of Geeks and elsewhere for years, but eir first book is the just released Gender Queer: A Memoir from Lion Forge.

Gender Queer is an exploration of identity, an explanation of what the term means, but more than that, it’s a thoughtful look at coming to understand oneself over time and what it means to be human. Maia and I spoke recently about the book, working with eir sibling on it and reluctantly crafting a memoir.

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