Banned Books #34 Habibi by Craig Thompson

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to April’s edition of Banned Books, where Beth and I read a banned book, once a month! This month was Habibi by Craig Thompson.

Habibi

Synopsis:

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.
 
At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

Habibi by Craig Thompson
First published: 2011
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As a fairly recent release (2011), there aren’t going to be many differences in my opinions as I don’t really believe attitudes have changed that much in the past six years or so. I’m finding expressing my opinions about this graphic novel quite difficult and apologies if my words aren’t coherent! I have such mixed views on this book, you see. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Can I see why it was challenged/banned? Well, er….yes I kind of can. This is NOT to say that I agree with banning books, not in the slightest! I can however see why this book may have been controversial. There are a LOT of adult themes in the books that may not be suitable for younger readers mainly involving rape and graphic sexuality. Of course the book should be available to read but perhaps not in settings where much younger children have access to it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t agree with banning books as I don’t think people should be ‘told’ what they can and cannot read. However, this book is one of those books that it’s easy to see why it’s challenged. It’s certainly controversial and it deals with many contentious issues. There’s some quite graphic sexuality, nudity and rape which isn’t suitable for younger readers in my opinion. I’m not sure if this book is intended to be for adults, but that’s certainly what it came across to me. A work of adult literature!

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So the reasons for banning/challenging this graphic novel are nudity which there is an abundance of. Seriously, every other page seems to have a naked character on it (probably 95% of them are female, I have to say which I’m not going to even get into but which made me slightly uncomfortable for my own feminist sensibilities). Then there’s the fact it’s sexually explicit and that is certainly the case. Naked bodies are not a bad thing don’t get me wrong but some of the sexual scenes which mainly involve sex that is non-consensual are incredibly graphic. Finally, it states that it’s unsuited for the age group. Here’s where I have a bit of confusion. I don’t know what age group it’s actually meant to be aimed at? Yes, it’s a graphic novel which may make you automatically think of younger readers, however the themes are so adult that it cannot be anything but an adult read.

CHRISSI: I can see why it’s challenged. I read a wide range of literature, but this one made me feel particularly uncomfortable and that’s quite something!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: First of all, this book is absolutely beautiful. It’s a beast at about 700 pages long but don’t be intimidated by it’s size, I read it quite easily in two sittings in the space of a couple of hours. The illustrations are fantastic and some parts of the story I really enjoyed but other parts….I could just see why it may be offensive, especially to some cultures and religions. I didn’t really enjoy the stories within stories that talked about the similarities between Christianity and Islam as religions either which is strange as I normally like that sort of thing. In this novel however, it just made the narrative feel quite bumpy – if that’s the right word!

CHRISSI: Despite my uncomfortable feeling whilst reading this book, it didn’t take me long to read at all. I found it interesting in parts and offensive in others. It was a mixed bag for me, like Beth, but I’m leaning more towards not enjoying the reading experience.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: I’m going to say maybe as I think some people will love it, other people will not so much. It’s a Marmite kind of book!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- Others might enjoy it,  but it was too much for me.

Banned Books #33- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to March’s edition of Banned Books (a little late, sorry!) where Beth and I have read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
First published: 2006
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: violence and other (“graphic images”)

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  This is one of those books where I don’t necessarily agree with the reason for challenging/banning it but I can understand why someone may have had problems. I don’t think a book should ever be banned outright and people should always have access to it but in some cases, it might not be suitable for younger readers. There is however one reason I’d like to point out as I’m confused about it – the violence part. Now I’ve just finished this graphic novel/memoir and I really am racking my brain to remember any specific incidence of violence. There is a couple of slight incidents at the beginning where Alison’s father hits her or her brothers but it isn’t portrayed terribly graphically which I was a little relieved about as that would hit a bit too close to the bone for me.

CHRISSI: I can somewhat understand why this book has had some issues. There’s some er… rather risque moments that I can imagine would be a bit difficult to handle in the classroom. That’s not to say that I don’t think it should be challenged and banned completely, but from a teaching perspective… I wouldn’t dream of having this in the library unlike some of the other books that we’ve read for this feature.

How about now?

BETH: This book is now over ten years old and still reads as very contemporary so I don’t think attitudes would have changed too much in that short period of time. I was surprised at the graphic sexual imagery that there is, I wasn’t really expecting that and although I wasn’t personally offended by it it might be a bit too much for very young readers. It shows a lesbian scene and I was quite pleased that this kind of thing is being included in graphic novels. The other graphic image is of a naked male corpse which again I wasn’t perturbed by but might frighten those of a more sensitive disposition. 

CHRISSI: I’d have to agree with Beth, there are some images that might be a bit too much for some. I’m happy that it’s an LGBT graphic novel/memoir, but the male corpse was a little bit too much for me!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately I was really disappointed by this book. I thought Alison Bechdel certainly led an interesting life, being brought up in a funeral home with a gay father and coming out as homosexual herself later in life made for a fascinating read. However, I didn’t really get on with the story as a whole, the literary references to Proust and Fitzgerald seemed a bit over the top and unnecessary at times and I would have enjoyed it more if she had specifically focused on the relationship between herself and her late father.

CHRISSI: Beth asked me what I thought of it before she started it and I didn’t want to spoil her reading experience. However, I really didn’t like this book. I thought it was going to be really interesting, it certainly has potential to be a fantastic read but I felt the story as a whole didn’t gel well for me. I was bored at points which isn’t what you want from a book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- This book didn’t capture my attention.

Banned Books #27 Bone by Jeff Smith

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Bone by Jeff Smith.

Bone Complete Set, Volumes 1 9: Out From Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eyes Of The Storm, The Dragonslayer, Rock Jaw, Old Man's Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, And Crown Of Horns

Synopsis:

Three modern cartoon cousins get lost in a pre-technological valley, speanding a year there making new friends and out-running dangerous enemies. Their many adventures include crossing the local people in The Great Cow Race, and meeting a giant mountain lion called RockJaw: Master of the Eastern Border. They learn about sacrifice and hardship in The Ghost Circles and finally discover their own true natures in the climatic journey to The Crown of Horns.

Bone, Volume One (Issues 1-6) by Jeff Smith
First published: 1993
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)
Reasons: political viewpoint, racism, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I can’t believe this graphic novel is over twenty years old! It was first published in 1993 which doesn’t seem that long ago to me and I don’t think attitudes have changed too much in the past twenty years so, as with most of our banned books, I don’t agree with the reasons for it being challenged when it was originally published. I was struggling with reasons why this book had been challenged as I read it and I deliberately don’t look at the reasons why until I write this part of the review. To be honest, I’m pretty dumbfounded. The violence – yes, I get to a point…but political viewpoint and racism? I must have been reading a different book?

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I was really searching for a reason why this book was banned. I read it over a week ago and nothing has stuck in my mind for a reason why it should be banned. Political viewpoint and racism- I really couldn’t pick out ANYTHING, so if anyone does know why then please enlighten me! Yes, there were certainly some violent scenes but nothing overly shocking, although I can understand why some educators wouldn’t want it in their classroom or libraries.

How about now?

BETH: In a open, liberal society (we would hope!) there’s even less reason for any book to be banned or challenged (the exception is if it is being considered as a taught text for some age groups in schools). As I mentioned above, I struggled with two of the reasons for this graphic novel being challenged as I don’t really remember any instances of either political viewpoint or racism in the narrative! The only thing that made me a bit wary of it being available for all age groups is that some of the monsters in it, known as the rat creatures, are a bit scary and I can imagine it being a bit too frightening for certain children. I still think it should be available in case they fancy scaring themselves a bit though!

CHRISSI: I have said before that censoring a book can make children (and adults alike) more keen to try it out. Like Beth, I understand that the violence and scariness might be unsuitable for certain children, but in the main part, I don’t see that it should be banned now. Children can see much worse on the TV, in the news, or computer games.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a bit of a strange one for me. I liked the artwork and some of the characters like Thorn and her grandmother were very endearing, (others very irritating) and I did laugh out loud at a couple of points in the story. However, I wouldn’t rush to read the next one in the series. Apparently Neil Gaiman is a fan though, which makes me slightly more curious to read on.

CHRISSI: I didn’t really like this book. I wasn’t hooked by the story. The artwork was good, but it didn’t capture my attention.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

The Nao Of Brown

The Nao of Brown

How did I get it?:
I bought it at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

Synopsis:

Twenty-eight-year-old Nao Brown, who’s hafu (half Japanese, half English), is not well. She’s suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and fighting violent urges to harm other people. But that’s not who she really wants to be. Nao has dreams. She wants to quiet her unruly mind; she wants to get her design and illustration career off the ground; and she wants to find love, perfect love.

Nao’s life continues to seesaw. Her boyfriend dumps her; a toy deal falls through. But she also meets Gregory, an interesting washing-machine repairman, and Ray, an art teacher at the Buddhist Center. She begins to draw and meditate to ease her mind and open her heart—and in doing so comes to a big realization: Life isn’t black-and-white after all . . . it’s much more like brown.

Thoughts:

My sister Beth and I are trying to read more graphic novels, so when we attended our second reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium we asked for some graphic novel recommendations. Ed recommended The Nao of Brown amongst some others. I was really intrigued after he discussed the book, so we decided to buy it!

The Nao of Brown centres aroune Nao Brown who is a Hafu, she’s half Japanese and half English. Nao is in her late twenties, she shares a flat with a nurse and works in an adult Japanese toy shop. Nao has obsessive compulsive disorder. She is plagued by intrusive thoughts which can often be violent. One particuarly disturbing scene that comes to my mind is when Nao imagines attacking a pregnant woman-killing the baby. Nao is searching for love and becomes obsessed with Gregory. The story follows Nao’s love life and her battles with her OCD.

This story really is grim at times, yet there’s something about it that kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Nao. I think it’s quite a unique story even if it can get a little muddled at times. I don’t think it’s the clearest or strongest storyline that I’ve read, I also didn’t enjoy the ending at all, but it’s well worth reading if you don’t mind a strange tale. It may have a dark edge, but there are also some great humorous moments which I appreciated.

The art in this graphic novel is simply beautiful. It’s got such detailed watercoloured art work. I often spent some time just looking at the pages admiring the art!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst this graphic novel wasn’t my favourite to read, it was still highly engaging and unique!

Banned Books #23 Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to our banned books feature where this month Beth and I have read Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Drama

Synopsis:

PLACES, EVERYONE!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

First published: 2012
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As one of our most recent releases (2012), I don’t believe things have really changed much in the past four years so my answer is the same for both this and the next question, which is of course a resounding NO! I try and approach every banned book we read in the same way – with an open mind and also without reading the reason for banning/challenging this book in the first place (although usually I can kind of guess!) When I first started reading this super-cute graphic novel, I thought I had hit the nail on the head on why it may have posed a problem, namely that there is some homosexuality in the book which I know can be an issue for some people. However, I was supremely surprised when I saw that the actual reason is that it is “sexually explicit.” Well, blow me down with a feather, I am struggling to understand where exactly the explicit parts of the book were! Honestly, in my opinion there were none.

CHRISSI: I have to agree with Beth. I didn’t look up the reason why this book was banned, prior to reading it. To find out that it was because it was sexually explicit…well, I can’t even begin to think about what was supposed to be sexually explicit anywhere in the story. There was homosexuality- which is why I thought it was going to be banned, as I know that’s a ‘problem’ for some readers. I honestly don’t see anything or any reason why this book should be banned. AT ALL.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! And if “sexual explicit” was a fancy term for disapproval of the fact that there was teenage homosexuality afoot, then especially not. I like to think that we live in an open, accepting society nowadays but unfortunately there will always be those people that challenge others who are attracted to the same sex and discrimination of any kind really gets my hackles up. I think it’s a fantastic book for demonstrating that people who are gay just happen to be human beings like the rest of the heterosexuals in society and should not be judged as a result.

CHRISSI: It should not be challenged in my opinion. I think it’s important that every individual is respected and represented and I loved to read a story where homosexuality was represented in a book that was aimed at teenage readers who might be going through similar experiences.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I loved this book so much! I am just dipping my toes into the world of graphic novels and am so glad I have, this is a wonderful example of great graphics, awesome characters and a plot that is off the cuteness chart. I have previously heard of the author, through her other graphic novel “Smile,” which Chrissi and I were tempted to pick up before reading this but now I for one will definitely be picking up for sure!

CHRISSI: It’s adorable. It’s quick and easy to read. The artwork is simple, yet effective. I’d definitely read another book by this author. I hope many people aren’t put off by the fact that this book is banned. It’s so worthwhile.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

Nimona

Nimona

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Thoughts:

I had Nimona on my radar for a long time now. I have recently started to get into graphic novels and picked up a copy of Nimona when I noticed it around a few blogs. I’d heard amazing things about it, so in the midst of a book slump, I decided to pick it up. I thought Nimona was a funny, intriguing, action-packed read.

Having not read a lot of graphic novels thus far, I can’t really compare the art work. I did really enjoy Noelle Stevenson’s style though. It was bright, simple and caught my eye. It certainly captured my attention.

Nimona is all about villains vs heros, but certainly not villains as you might expect them. As you read the story you realise the villains aren’t great people, but at the same time, you end up rooting for them. Nimona is a shapeshifter, but there’s so much more to her character than I ever anticipated.

The story is action-packed. I was expecting a lighter read, but it really is quite dark at times. There were some lovely moments throughout and some wonderful humour too. A perfect combination. It’s perfect at playing around with fantasy and fairy tales.I raced through the story, wanting to know what was going to happen next. I would definitely read more from this talented writer!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic graphic novel which many YA fans will adore!

Banned Books #21 Saga Volume 1 (Chapters 1-6) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

banned books

It’s the last Monday of the month which means it’s time for our Banned Books feature. This month we read Saga, Volume 1 which includes chapters 1-6.

Saga, Volume 1

Synopsis:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

First published: 2012
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Okay, so here’s where things might get a little bit interesting. I am very much against the idea of ANY book being banned as we should all have the freedom to read anything we desire without restrictions or fear of recrimination but ever since starting this feature and with what I’ve learned from my sister as she became a primary school teacher, I can see why books might be challenged in certain situations and with certain age groups. I’m afraid Saga is one of those graphic novels that I can understand why it might be appropriate to restrict access in schools for the younger children. I think it’s probably one of those books it would be terrific to discover as a teenager (and perhaps either hide from your parents or share with your parents if they are particularly cool!)

CHRISSI: I TOTALLY understand why it is challenged. I don’t think it’s particularly a book for teenagers even though I’m sure they’d lap it up if they found it. It’s incredibly explicit and definitely geared towards adults. It even says in the synopsis ‘sexy subversive drama for adults.’ Sure, teens may really enjoy it and have a good giggle. Like Beth says, I can imagine some discovering it and hiding it from their parents. I’m all for them reading it eventually, but being promoted in a school? No. Just no.

How about now?

BETH: As this book is a relatively recent release, please see previous answer. I have a bit of an issue with one of the reasons for the challenge though, the anti-family one, as from what I’ve read so far and that’s only the first six chapters, there is a clear family in the novel – Alana, Marko and baby Hazel, the mother and father despite being two aliens from separate planets who are in the midst of a very bloody war, seem to have a very loving and protective relationship. Just because something in literature isn’t the conservative “norm,” doesn’t make it “anti-family,” in my opinion and it makes me cross when this is brought up, especially as a reason to avoid a particular piece of literature. The other reasons, well I have to admit to being shocked by exactly how graphic this novel gets. I was going to reproduce an example in the post but don’t want to intentionally offend anyone. Maybe just do what my sister and I did and flick through a copy in your bookshop? Warning – you may snigger uncontrollably.

CHRISSI: Oooh, look at Beth on her soap box there. I have to say, I agree with her though. There is a family involved. It’s not a conventional one, but it’s a family nonetheless. I know there are some pretty strange family units where I work and that’s everyday life, not another world! I do agree with the explicit, sexual content and offensive language bit though. There’s plenty of it in there, so if it’s likely to offend you then I’d stay clear…

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: As soon as I heard about this book and as soon as Chrissi and I found ourselves a copy in Foyles (marvellous UK bookshop) to look through I knew I had to have it and add it to our banned books list for this year. I enjoy reading a diverse range of fiction and we both desperately wanted to get more into graphic novels, a genre we have both been tentative about approaching in the past. I’m so glad I’ve finally started the series, I can see it being something I will carry on with and look forward to future releases. The artwork is amazing, the story original and intriguing and I really enjoyed the anticipation of flipping over a page – it was soon guaranteed that there would be something to surprise, shock or indeed, inspire me!

CHRISSI:  I am really jumping on the bandwagon with graphic novels. I really didn’t think Saga would work for me. I’m not heavily into fantasy, I don’t usually read gore-y, violent stuff but for some reason I really enjoyed Saga. I think this is largely down to the artwork and the shock factor!

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!