Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Editorial calls for common sense in library debate

The editorial page of the Portland, Maine, Press Herald weighs in on the debate over the appropriateness of stocking "racier" manga in school libraries. As with the earlier discussion, the newspaper's stance is fairly subdued, and even reasonable:
It is difficult to see the appropriateness of comics that marginalize women into sex-based roles. Reinforcing such stereotypes can be damaging to young people. A blanket ban on graphic novels, however, wouldn't make sense, either.

Some illustrated novels explore issues such as racism, history and culture. Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis tells the story of a girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran, for example. David B's Epileptic illustrates what it was like growing up with a brother suffering from epilepsy. Art Speigelman's Maus won the Pulitzer Prize for his cat/mouse character depiction of the Holocaust.

Such novels are a form of literature that's gaining more acceptance in the mainstream. In a time when kids are hooked by flashy electronic media, including the Internet and video games, illustrated novels can help draw them back into the library and bookstores. They're also great outlets for artistic expression and can encourage kids to try drawing their own stories.

Graphic novels shouldn't become a substitute for reading full-text books, but they can become an additional tool in teaching kids about literature.

Which books a school chooses to carry is a question that should be answered on a novel-by-novel basis.