Banned Books Week is turning thirty-two this year.
Founded in 1982 by an American Librarian named Judith Krug, Banned Books Week celebrates the First Amendment and the freedom to read by drawing attention to books that have faced censorship attempts and to authors who have been persecuted for things they have written. Held each year during the last full week of September, its sponsors include the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association, and many libraries and other educational institutions offer exhibits and events during the week to promote intellectual freedom.
In June it was announced that the 2014 Banned Books Week would focus on comics and graphic novels. Such materials have come under attack from censors since the 1950s. During that decade, Fredric Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent, in which he blamed comics for an increase in juvenile crime, and also testified about their supposed dangers before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency. His efforts led to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which spent the next several decades regulating the content of mainstream comics.
The restrictions placed on comics creators by the Comics Code Authority also helped to create the conditions that led to the rise in the late 1960s of underground commix. While writers and artists of underground commix enjoyed a lot of creative freedom, for many years they had significantly fewer markets in which to sell their works. Although the Comics Code Authority became less influential over time and ceased to exist in 2011, there have nonetheless been a number of recent attempts to censor comics and graphic novels in libraries and schools. Some attempts have even gone after such highly regarded works as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
Founded as a non-profit organization in 1986, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund seeks to assist comic creators when they face such challenges. The SDSU Library Comic Arts Committee applauds Banned Books Week’s 2014 focus on comics and graphic novels and also the work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. To assist in awareness-raising efforts, the Comic Arts Committee is presenting a display of banned comics, graphic novels, and related materials in the library’s reference area during the week of September 21-27. Please stop by and check them out. (Yes, you can check them out.)
For more information, please visit the following websites:
Banned Books Week
SCUA is especially happy to host this guest blog entry written by Markel Tumlin!