update on the potential book ban

October 6th, 2006 | Uncategorized

Media Bistro has a nice little post about the effort to ban my book Fun Home and Craig Thompson’s Blankets from the Marshall, Missouri Public Library. The board of trustees met Wednesday night and tabled the final decision until next week.

85 Responses to “update on the potential book ban”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This disscussion of banning any book is terrible. It’s hard to believe we’re having to listen to this. I live in Missouri now and it is a very lonely place for non-conseratives.

  2. Andrew Ogus says:

    It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Why is it such people never realize (a) no one is forcing them to read the books they don’t like (b) other people might want to, and it’s none of the banner’s business?

  3. julia says:

    It’s fascinating that a coming out story could be called pornographic. It really says something about the use of inflammatory rhetoric to distort how a situation is percieved.

    (although, really, why can’t public libraries lend out porn?)

  4. tallie says:

    i wonder… did they READ the book?

  5. fjm says:

    porn? I’m not sure how anyone who had read the book could consider it porn. It doesn’t even come close.

    In the UK, if you sold it as porn, the customer would be entitled to their money back on the grounds that it didn’t fulfil the expecations of the advertising.

  6. Brunswick says:

    Yes! Go for the billboard!

  7. Diana says:

    Here’s an ironic tidbit form the town’s home page:
    Marshall, Missouri is a small town with a lot of character and even more heart!
    Let’s be pragmatic about this, people. yes, it silly, but there are still people who get upset at the idea of same-sex relationships and regard anything realted thereto as unfit for children, no matter how innocous the content. Loath though I am to institute anything lile a ratings system, it would be nice to have a way to recognize the content of a book- assuming, of course, that a parent can’t be bothered to open the book themselves.
    I don’t think children need to be “protected” from sex, but then, I don’t have children.
    I don’t have an answer. I’m just trying to see the question for what it is and throw out some general responses.
    And Alison, I’m very sorry this is happening to your book. It must feel really sucky.

  8. meg says:

    meself, I’d be pysched to be banned by the religious right. See it as it is – a tremendous compliment. After all, no one bothers banning the truly *bad* books (witness Harlequin romance, some of which are quite graphic, and many of which are available in your local library). Nooooooo, they’re left on the shelf to poison innocent minds with their twaddle.

    Anything that deals with reality honestly is scary, on some level, and if you happen to find that reality disturbing – well, it must be the fault of the *book* (or art piece, or article, or what have you).

    I can only aspire to the heights you’re reaching, Alison! Maybe someday…..

  9. --MC says:

    Significant, that both books are about young people breaking out of social and moral restraint. The young man in “Blankets” outgrows his fundamentalist upbringing, and Alison in “Fun Home” grows up and comes out and even meets with acceptance and tacit approval from her parents. Very dangerous stuff for young people to read — that you have an alternative choice and can take it and things will be all right if you do.
    But let’s not pretend we’re trying to keep dirty books out of the YA section, good pecksniffs of Missouri, this dustup is about maintaining repression.

  10. Duncan says:

    I’ve sometimes thought it would be interesting to try to expunge right-wing Christian books from public libraries. Maybe with a visibly satirical group, just to see if the religious right would start insisting on the importance of freedom of speech?

    We had something analogous happen here at IU a few years ago: a homophobic faculty member posted some fairly ‘normal’ antigay garbage on his weblog on the IU system. (Anyone affiliated with the university can have a web page or log, and they aren’t supposed to be censored, though you’d better be careful of certain copyright infringements. And I use the word “normal” there because, first, antigay bigotry is normal in the US, and two, what he posted was nothing unfamiliar or extreme or out of the way.) A little band of students, faculty and staff tried to get the university to censor it, but the university lawyers said there was no legal ground for doing so, and the postings were protected by the First Amendment. So then we had enraged letters to the student paper saying that the First Amendment was just garbage, for the protection of white men, etc. Who cares about the Constitution?

    Some of the frothers were volunteers on our local GLB Speakers Bureau, which I run. I toyed briefly with the idea of removing them from the volunteer list, telling them that since they don’t like freedom of speech, they shouldn’t have any. But I do take freedom of speech seriously (we even have gay Republicans among our volunteers! gay Christians! all sorts of awful people!), so I didn’t do it, even as a prank. But I would have liked to see how they would have reacted. So many gay people, including (but not only) younger ones, don’t realize just how important freedom of speech has been to the gay movement.

    A year or so later, when the notion of a Heterosexual Marriage amendment began getting publicity, some of the same people suddenly decided that the Constitution was a great holy document, and how could these awful people be trampling it under their feet! Of course, in principle there is nothing wrong with wanting to amend the Constitution. But that’s American political discourse in the Big Ten for you. That’s why we’re doomed.

  11. Aimee says:

    I just wish people would take the time to read the book. It is the only “comic book” I’ve ever read that moved me to tears.

    Above all, I think Fun Home is a book about family, and I can’t grasp what any library would have against that.

  12. Suzanonymous says:

    I’m puzzled by the response to this.

    I’m sure the mindset of the typical “religious” person is that this a comic book, so kids will be much more likely to grab it than, say, Ulysses. A lot fewer words, and much more interest for the eye. Once you get into it, there are drawings of naked women, also a naked dead guy. The drawn women are doing sexual things. Are those sections pornographic? On a scale of 1 to 10? To call the entire book “porn” is a total stretch, as people have pointed out, but, if you’re identified as religious in the traditional sense, it’s part of that identity to object to this.

    Anyway, getting on a banned book list amounts to free publicity. In the short term, it’s insulting, but in the long term, people will judge it on its merits. In the meantime, people see it on a shelf and recognize it, perhaps not even remembering what they heard about it. Browsing, it looks good, some buy it: Alison’s sales go up.

    Or am I too optimistic about people’s judgement?

  13. Ginjoint says:

    There was an editorial in Marshall, Missouri’s local paper lumping in Fun Home with the recent killing of the Amish girls. No joke, sadly enough. The writer attributes them both to the decline of morals, blah blah blah. He states that “it’s time to take a stand, and time to pray.” So this is what Fun Home and Blankets are up against. (Side note – one thing I can’t stand about the Religious Right is how, in their minds, they have the lock on anything to do with ethics, integrity, or morals – an atheist, a lesbian or gay person, or a person who believes in having all kinds of books in a LIBRARY can’t possibly be an ethical human being. Grrr.)

    Alison, like Diana said, I’m sorry this is happening to your (particularly terrific!) story of yourself and your family. This move to censor your document of your times must have a uniquely personal punch, but please remember how many people are behind you. I’m sure you do, but hey, sometimes reminders are nice to hear too.

  14. PKintheUK says:

    As Suzyanymous says, there’s a naked man, and naked women doing sexual things. With a dictionary, if I recall. I really enjoyed that part 🙂

  15. pd says:

    I believe the reason given for wanting to ban Fun Home, was more about what Bruce was doing than Alison.

  16. supporter says:

    I live in Marshall, Missouri, and I attended the hearing. It was scary, so many narrow-minded people jammed together in one room (well, actually the crowd flowed over into the hallway outside). I did not stay for the entire hearing, but the speakers I heard who criticized the two novels stressed the “pornographic” nature of both novels rather than the gay aspect. I had expected the speakers to criticize “Blankets” because it is critical of over-the-top “Christian” homes, but the focus was on the “pornography” and the untold “loss of innocence” that would occur should a child happen to pick up the book and look at the drawings.

    I have considered filing papers to have Christian books removed from the library if we lose the fight on these two books. But oh, how it goes against my beliefs to even think about removing books from a public library because of content.

  17. RudigerVT says:

    Supporter, yes, you’re correct: it completely undermines the 1st-Amendment argument to start suggesting that a certain sensibility should exercise dominion over a library’s collection.

    That’s an ugly, familiar, scene, though. Way back, I was in a similar situation in Rogers, AR, which is a couple towns north of Fayetteville, where I lived and studied. Sad that it’s not a thing of the past. But also, there’s something sort of pathetic about it now, given what’s available on the internets. The notion that a city can enforce some sort of ideo(il)logical purity cult within their borders is just pathetic. Besides, what could make it more beguilling to young people, eager for some forbidden fruit?

    The great thing, though, about those scenes is how it galvanizes librarians. Do NOT mess with them on this issue. They are fierce, and live out a calling to put people and ideas together.


  18. shadocat says:

    I am a life-long resident of Missouri, and with the exception of “supporter” and a few others, I find that the rational thinkers seem to live on the eastern border (St. Louis) and the western border (Kansas City). The closer one moves to the center of the state, the more stupid people seem to get, until you reach Jefferson City,(home of our conservative, Republican Governor), which is the apex of stupidity.

  19. Dweeb says:

    I don’t understand why a book would need to be banned from a library in order to keep it from children.

    Aren’t there children’s and young adult sections in the library?

    Don’t put the book in those sections. Duh. I mean, that’s the way libraries worked when I was a kid.

    I haven’t read the book yet, but looking at the reviews and general synopsis of the content, hell, why not ban all fiction altogether?

    Geez, what a bunch of maroons. Besides, it’s an empty gesture, since any kid who really wants to read it would just order it off the internet.

  20. Dweeb says:

    Not that Fun Home is fiction, btw. I was thinking of Vonnegut, my fave writer as a teen.

  21. DSW says:

    As a christian, I find it very hard to understand why these people in Missouri are making such a fuss about your book. If they find it offence they don’t have to read it, and if they don’t want their children to read it they should keep an eye on them, and make sure they stay in the children’s section of the library. Censorship is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is a sin.
    However, I am glad they have raised this issue, because it has given you publicity, and nothing will make their children want to read the book more than it being banned from the library to keep them from reading it. A banned book always interests people, and the kind of people who enjoy your work are not the kind to be put off by the protests of these extremists.

  22. --MC says:

    Well, I was googling around to see if I could find that editorial Ginjoint mentioned — didn’t find it, but ran across this note from the Marshall librarian, Amy Crump, from Sept. 20:

    “In a bit of irony, the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week overlaps with Constitution Week this year…
    Observed since 1982, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom and reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This freedom is guaranteed in our Constitution, specifically in the Bill of Rights…
    I am particularly fond of what Ben Franklin had to say about this: ‘Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.’ ”
    Go Amy!

  23. JimmiJon says:

    Aw..screw them! Move out West!! The most conservative Western state (in my opinion) is Colorado, but a lot of gay and lesbians live in the state. Everywhere. I visited a friend in Durango which is heavily conservative (yes, even their bookstores), but you still find a great deal of gay/lesbian literature. If it’s one thing Western conservatives love, is gay/lesbian literature. Keeps ’em off the IM from having online intercourse with Page Boys ..

  24. Revcat says:

    I live in Queens, NYC now, but I grew up in Columbia, Missouri (college-town, USA is how I usually describe it – probably not unlike Oberlin). I also am friends with a circle of populist democrats up in northern Missouri (Kirksville). The progressives are there, truly, as they are in any state. There is life between the east and west coasts! (and between the two “edges” of Missouri too – actually I found Columbia far more progressive than the two big cities). With the power of the internet, hopefully the progessives in Marshall are ordering your book online and reading your blog, Alison! And maybe through this conversation, some of them will find each other 🙂

  25. shadocat says:


    You’re right. Columbia is a very cool, progressive town, and progressives can be found everywhere in Mo. But out in the “hinterlands” (such as Booneville, Chillacothe,or Branson) they are few anf far between…

  26. Josiah says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve added the attempted banning to Fun Home‘s Wikipedia page.

  27. Ginjoint says:

    Here you go, MC –


    I hope this shows up as a link. If not, I apologize. I’m only basically computer literate.

  28. ragthetiger says:

    Coming in a bit late on this… Some good points have been made.

    First, that the banners probably haven’t read the book. I’d like to add that they’ve probably never encountered pornography, either, or they’d never make the comparison.

    Second, that librarians are a fierce lot. Yes. Yes we are. Like Superman ripping off his shirt to reveal the SuperSuit underneath, we tear off our bun/cameo/glasses-on-a-chain (or cardigan and bowtie) and reveal an enraged tiger when we hear the word BANNED.

    Third, that many people still don’t get graphic novels. They think they’re comic books, therefore meant for children, and therefore should have G-rated content.

    Fourth – actually I’m not sure this came up in so many words – why does it seem like RELIGIOUS always seems to translate to CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN? What, did they co-op the word?

    DSW and Dweeb, you both commented that the book could simply be placed in the YA or adult sections of the library, which does sound like a sensible solution. However it would not prevent a child from checking the book out if the library is anything like mine. Everyone, child or adult, gets the same kind of library card and can take out anything in the library.

    Our graphic novels are in the YA section, but any age kid can, and does, check them out. We certainly don’t censor their choices. If a parent were to complain, we would innocently tell them that well, it WAS in YA, and you know, you gave your child permission to have a library card, so deal with it, moron (well, no, not that last part, but sometimes I wish we could).

    Anyway – congratulations, Alison. You are in good company. And if it’s banned in a library or two, hell, that many more people will go out and buy it. You’re golden.

  29. Josiah says:

    Ragthetiger asks, why does it seem like RELIGIOUS always seems to translate to CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIAN? What, did they co-opt the word?

    The short answer is, yes, they did. And religious liberals (like me) let them, much to our shame. The religious left is beginning to organize, under the leadership of folks like Jim Wallis, but we’ve got a lot of ground to make up. Part of the problem is that human beings like easy answers and slogans, and the religious right has done a very good job of providing both of those.

    But this is something of a digression from the topic at hand: even though in recent decades many (if not most) of American censorious impulses have come from conservative Christians, they don’t have a monopoly on censorship.

    As for the placement of the graphic novels in adult or YA sections, my understanding is that Fun Home and Blankets were in a “new purchases” display, which is where the horrified hausfrau found them. Not that that excuses her censorious impulse, of course.

    Oh, two more things I should have said in my earlier post:

    1) when I added the section on the banning attempt to the Wikipedia article, I tried very hard to phrase it in a manner consistent with Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” policy. Let me tell you, that wasn’t easy!

    2) a big thank you to “supporter” for braving the sea of intolerance at the meeting, and speaking up for First Amendment rights in a hostile environment. I salute you!

  30. kat says:

    I’m completely baffled as to the motivation of people who think that the innocence of children is so paramount that nothing should exist that is not “family friendly.” The people who attempt to ban books are probably also the ones who try to get TV shows pulled because they aren’t made for kids (or “family audiences, or whatev), even if they’re not supposed to be.

    God forbid adults should read books written for adults, or watch shows that are for adults……

    It always seems to be the sex/pornography thing though…..I’ll save my musings on how the US is so screwed up for glorifying violence and shaming sex and sexuality, but you don’t see anyone trying to ban “Sin City” or other more traditional comic books that are violent as hell….

  31. --MC says:

    Thanks, Ginjoint. Oh, this is lovely. Forgive me for quoting it at length.
    “We’ve given up. Plain and simple. We’ve let the way of the world take over and now we are reeling in the waves of outrage and disgust and shock that pour over us as we digest the news reports or investigate what passes for children’s literature these days. We’ve abdicated our rightful place as concerned citizens and have allowed the vileness of a pleasure-seeking world gone mad to become the norm by repeating the mantra of complacency — ‘it will never happen here.’ I dare you to say that to the parents of those girls in Pennsylvania. Tell it to the parents of the girls gunned down in Colorado. Tell the parents of the little girl who brings home a copy of one of those books to read and has to ask mommy or daddy to explain what the two women shown in the illustrations are doing. Tell them that it could never happen here. Tell them that these things only happen in metropolitan areas or in urban population centers or in ultra-liberal Oregon or back east in Massachusetts. Tell them that they are safe and secure in the heartland of the nation.”
    Note “what passes for children’s literature”. Yeah, those sinful kid’s books full of references to Proust and Joyce! That’s the game, isn’t it — corrupt the kiddies by luring them in with images of women loving each other, then turn them on to the hard stuff — ineluctable modalities of truth, and all! Then they’re OURRssss!
    Really, comparing the murder of children by a gun-toting wacko to a library shelving graphic novels about young people finding theirselves is mighty melodramatic.

  32. ragthetiger says:

    Josiah says: “Part of the problem is that human beings like easy answers and slogans, and the religious right has done a very good job of providing both of those.”

    I believe you are absolutely right. But there are no easy answers, and slogans solve nothing. Which leaves us with what, common sense and reason to fight back with? Sigh… it’s gonna be an uphill battle.

    (And thanks for so gently correcting my misuse of co-op. Yes, I should have said co-opt.)

  33. meg says:

    “Tell the parents of the little girl who brings home a copy of one of those books to read and has to ask mommy or daddy to explain what the two women shown in the illustrations are doing.”

    Loving each other, as Jesus told us to do.

    There, that wasn’t hard, was it? 😉

  34. Josiah says:

    Quoth ragthetiger: there are no easy answers, and slogans solve nothing. Which leaves us with what, common sense and reason to fight back with? Sigh… it’s gonna be an uphill battle.

    Too true. I’m afraid that people are always more ready to listen to Socrates’ accusers, and find someone else to blame for their problems, than to listen to Socrates himself…

  35. Alexi Falls says:

    On the evil marketers side, a potential book ban is one way to make sales soar elsewhere. On a common sense level, the idea that stocking Fun Home would make ‘shady characters’ enter a ‘good neighbourhood’ so they can buy pornography, is an unbelievably stupid (yet funny and sad) thing to say. Does anyone even still buy dirty mags now you can get images free on the net?

  36. MAG says:

    To ragthetiger (and anyone else who might help elucidate the issue): why are graphic novels in the young adult section? Since when was Maus or Fun Home a young adult book? (Yeah, I’d also like to know since when either was a novel, but that’s a different issue….) And why do young people get to be the only ones who are visual learners/readers/responders?

  37. Anne says:

    I’m amused by the idea that a pervert would move to Marshall just so they can read “Fun Home” in the library… And sad that the book becomes “porn” not because it deals with human sexuality (every library I know has hundreds of romance novels, and then there’s the self-help section, and that’s before you get to literature), it’s the inclusion of images. As the Gordon Lee case (http://www.cbldf.org/) demonstrates, some people can’t see drawn images as anything but children’s literature.

  38. ragthetiger says:

    MAG: Graphic novels are in the YA section mainly because we purchase graphic novels written for young adults. It’s not a hard and fast rule; our Maus books are in Adult Non-Fiction.

    Of course that leads to the question – why do we only buy graphic novels for young adults? Because they’re the demographic that read them. Most adults who come into our library wouldn’t even think to check out a “comic book”. They think of an adult book as something to read, or, increasingly, to listen to.

    Unfortunately, our book-ordering budget is limited, making it pretty much necessary that we purchase items that are likely to circulate. And adult graphic novels are not among those items, at least not in our community, at this time.

    As the current “young adults” grow up, I expect that will change.

  39. Chris says:

    Sometimes I ask myself why I hate living in Missouri.

    Then something like this happens and I remember.

  40. Chris (in Massachusetts) says:

    Yes, we ARE a libertine enclave here in Massachusetts.

    Oh, wait. No, we’re not, not with THE LOWEST divorce rate in the US.

    Yes, we recognize the right of homosexuals to get married. The sky hasn’t fallen, the waters of neither the Charles River nor Boston Harbor have turned to blood, and the ground hasn’t opened.

    Buck up, Alison! You’re in good company. Bradbury, Joyce, Shakespere, J.K. Rowling, et al.

  41. shadocat says:

    Tonight I looked up the website of the Marshall Public Library;www.marshallpubliclibrary.com If you look under the “Staff” heading, you’ll see pictures of the various staff members, along with their e-mails, if they have ’em. I e-mailed Ms.Amy at amycrump@real.more.net, just to give her my support.

    If anybody looks up the website, I have a small (although it may be a little less than kosher) request: look at those staff pics and let me know-is it just me, or could it be possible we have some “family friends” back in Marshall?

    Just wondering…

  42. egret says:

    ***If a parent were to complain, we would innocently tell them that well, it WAS in YA, and you know, you gave your child permission to have a library card, so deal with it, moron (well, no, not that last part, but sometimes I wish we could).***

    This is why I am an academic librarian – nobody every wants to ban books on things like transpersonal psychology. Unless they’ve been assigned to read them… On the other hand, I never get to buy any fiction for my (psychology & education) library. What little we have is all donated. For some reason, it all seems to be serial killer fiction. Hmm.

  43. Jaibe says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but I grew up in a small town & read probably every book in the children & young people’s sections of the library, and then moved on to adult non-fiction (I thought fiction was boring.) I don’t think I ever once saw a picture of even animals having sex though in that library. I would guess the muff diving pictures are the problem. I think the masturbation scenes & even Bruce’s life are probably not things little kids would really understand if they pulled out the book for the pretty pictures, but the full-on sex pictures might attract some attention. (& the naked dead guy with the hole in him.)

    Though of course I agree the solution is just a high shelf! By the time kids know enough to look there they will be hearing about a lot more from every other source, so honest depictions of coming of age wouldn’t be an issue I shouldn’t think.

  44. ragthetiger says:

    Egret, you make academic librarianship sound most interesting!

    Jaibe, to expand on your “high shelf” – In my library there’s a section called Parenting. It was set up before my time, but my understanding is that it was originally a place for children’s books that parents might object to. It’s a little bit removed from the children’s section (though not on a high shelf) so kids would be less likely to find them. It accommodated complaining parents without actually removing the titles. A decent compromise.

    It has evolved over the years, and now includes both kids’ books that a child might not take out on her/his own but that parents might want their children to read – e.g. books on toilet training, sibling jealousy, disabilities – and books for parents on raising kids. The original purpose has been all but forgotten, but once in a while if a “controversial” kids’ book comes in, that’s where it’s shelved.

    I realize I’ve gotten off-topic here, as Parenting would not be an option for the graphic novels we’re discussing, but I thought I’d mention it.

  45. ragthetiger says:

    Shadocat: thanks for that URL and email.

  46. DeLand DeLakes says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that this little war of hypocrisy is being waged over Fun Home. I lived in Missouri for five years and it can be a truly repulsive, Deliverance-like place. So, I guess I’m disapointed, but not surprised.

  47. nurseingrid says:

    While I agree that it’s a nice compliment to have your work banned by the religious right, it is a MYTH that it will help your sales! Just ask any recording artist who’s had that “parental warning” sticker slapped on their album cover, or an indie filmmaker whose movie got rated NC-17. The people who make these decisions have a lot of the money and power, and if they want to they can — and do –keep “controversial” work out of mainstream stores, theaters, or wherever anyone but a few well-connected hipsters are likely to see it.

  48. Alexi Falls says:

    What the above person says is sadly true, though it is still one way of assuring that your work is remembered. (Saying this cause I’m positive and I generally only read stuff that’s been banned at one time)

  49. --MC says:

    The CBLDF has weighed in with a statement — read it here:
    Note Craig Thompson’s response to the ban:
    “The article you sent gave me a good chuckle … Then I felt sad for all those librarians out there that have to put up with endless puritanical demands for censorship and risk their jobs by introducing a graphic novel or two to the book shelves. Then I wondered if the USA will outlaw homosexuality, and if so, maybe I’ll have a chance to date Alison Bechdel, because I’m pretty in love with her book…”

  50. --MC says:

    And another thing: Joplin, MO, where that kid fired an AK-47 into the ceiling at his middle school, is very near Marshall, MO. Bet they’ll probably blame it on sexy graphic novels.

  51. chuck hird says:

    Question: I’m from Marshall and oppose censor of books from our public library. The folks that want to ban “Blankets” and “Fun Home” copied pages from each book and distributed the copies widely in Marshall, Mo.to gain support to ban the books. Is this a violation of copyrite laws? If so someone should notify the publishers or authors. Does anyone have the authors email address?

  52. Josiah says:

    IANAL (that’s the first time I’ve had occasion to use that acronym!), but unfortunately I fear that if only selected pages were photocopied, and especially if they were accompanied by commentary by the would-be censors, the copying would be covered by the “Fair use” doctrine. The very principle of free speech on which these people wish to impinge protects their use of excerpts from the work to criticize it. I’m sure they wouldn’t see the irony, though.

  53. shadocat says:

    They copied the book pages and PASSED THEM AROUND???
    Call me crazy, bur isn’t that a little counter-productive to their “glorious cause”?

    BTW, here’s a nice reply sent to me by Ms. Amy, madame librarian of the Marshall Public Library:

    : “Amy Crump” Add to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
    To: “‘Barbara ORoark'”
    Subject: RE: book banning
    Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 10:36:41 -0500
    Ms. O’Roark,

    Thank you for writing me. I appreciate your comments and support – it really helps! The board will be making a decision about a course of action at the meeting on Wednesday evening.

    Amy Crump

    By all the news accounts it looks like she could use all the support she could get. So if any of you are so inclined please drop her a line and give ‘er a little support.

  54. Duncan says:

    shadocat: “Call me crazy, bur isn’t that a little counter-produtive to their ‘glorious cause’?”

    That’s how censors’ minds work. Emma Donoghue mentioned in her lovely book “Passions Between Women” how, back in the 19th century, the headmistress of a girls’ school explained that she marked the risque passages in the library books, so that the girls would know what parts *not* to read.

    And then there was the controversy over Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho” a few years back. Greatly concerned that this book would foster violence against women, NOW made available recordings of the violent parts that anyone could access by telephone. Mim Udovich did a great piece on it in the Village Voice.

  55. Nele Abels says:

    All this sounds very strange to a non-anglophone European…

  56. DeLand DeLakes says:

    It just occured to me- Alison, have you considdered bringing this case to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund? I know they have delt with censorship cases in this vein in the past.

  57. --MC says:

    DeLand — the CBLDF stands ready.
    Here’s Tom Spurgeon’s commentary, with linkage, from today’s “Comics Reporter”:

  58. D-J says:

    >> And another thing: Joplin, MO, where that kid fired an AK-47 into the ceiling at his middle school, is very near Marshall, MO. Bet they’ll probably blame it on sexy graphic novels

  59. D-J says:

    Quoting Josiah – “As for the placement of the graphic novels in adult or YA sections, my understanding is that Fun Home and Blankets were in a “new purchases” display, which is where the horrified hausfrau found them. Not that that excuses her censorious impulse, of course.” I live in Marshall and personally know that the books were in a ‘new purchases’ display, but within the YA section. Also, my above post was cut off. I wanted to say, MC, that Joplin is a good three hours SW of Marshall. Not close at all. By the way, the library here is a good one. Great staff, interesting programs. I’ll be glad when this is all over. Our little town is in an uproar. Hoping the board decides to make a stand and leave the books. Then we can go back to our quiet Andy Griffith style of life..

  60. supporter says:

    At the meeting tonight of the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees, the Board President proposed that the board appoint a committee to revise the library’s materials selection policy. That proposal passed, but with at least one “no” vote. I was sitting in the back and could not see all the hands, so I don’t know how many voted against the proposal.

    Here’s the problem, as far as I am concerned: While the committee works on a new materials selection policy, the two books (“Blankets” and “Fun Home”) will be removed from circulation. They will be unavailable. There was no mention of how long the process will take.

    When the Board President asked which of the Board members wanted to serve on the committee, apparently most of the hands went up, because we heard her say, “Well, I guess the whole Board could be on the committee.”

    I don’t know what is wrong with the library’s present materials selection policy because that was not addressed.

    Again, I am not happy over the removal of the books while the policy is being revised. It seems that a public library should have a default position of making books accessible rather than restricting them.

  61. NLC says:

    Here is a link to an article on the vote in today’s
    paper from Marshall Mo. (It quotes several times
    from this ‘blog.)

    Executive summary: The motion to ban the books got trounced.

  62. supporter says:

    No, NLC, the motion to ban the books DID NOT get trounced.

    It got delayed, but during the delay the books will be out of circulation.

    See my post above.

    In short, the Board decided to review the way books are selected for the library. During this review, the books are off the shelves, out of circulation. Once the new (or revised) policy is in place, they will reconsider both books, and that is when the decision will be made.

    Our newspaper here in Marshall comes out in the afternoon, Monday through Friday, except for holidays. Today’s paper was printed before the meeting, which was held at 7 p.m. The editorial page is filled with letters — two long ones against censorship and one short one against pornography. Yesterday’s paper features quite a few letters, pro and con. More letters will be printed in tomorrow’s paper.

  63. Josiah says:

    Thanks for the update, supporter. And thanks for the correction, D-J; that wasn’t clear from the newspaper articles I had read.

    D-J’s point alters the question slightly, but only slightly. There might be a legitimate argument for saying that Blankets and Fun Home shouldn’t be in the YA section. (I don’t know whether I’d agree or not, but I concede that there is a legitimate argument.) As far as I can see, there is no legitimate argument for saying it should be removed from circulation.

    Putting aside the many works of classic adult literature that are as “graphic” as Fun Home and Blankets, let’s consider other YA books. I’m sure that there are parents in the Marshall area who would object to the content of Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, which I’d wager is on the shelves in the YA section. Should Judy Blume be removed from the shelves? If not, what is the difference between Judy Blume and Alison Bechdel, really?

    Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here. The real “executive summary” here is: the library board punted. They took the books out of circulation but created a cover story plausible enough to deflect the strongest criticism. It’s just like when the Bush administration says that global warming (or any other piece of science they don’t like) “needs more study”. The effect is the same as an outright ban.


  64. chuck hird says:

    The decision of MarshallLibrary Board Oct. 10, 2006

    The Library Board appropriately appointed a committee to form a “Marshall Library Book Selection Policy”. However, in my view they inappropriately removed two titles, “Fun Home” and “Blankets” from the shelves until after the new policy is approved. If it is appropriate to remove these two books until after the policy, I submit it is appropriate that the library be closed until after the new policy is approved.Otherwise we are censoring “Fun Home” and “Blankets”, even if only on a temporary basis. All books should be left on the shelves until the selection policy is formed and at that time all the shelves should be reevaluated in line with the new policy.

  65. D-J says:

    I have to correct myself. I said both books were displayed within the YA section in the new books area. Actually it was only Fun Home which was in the new books area. Blankets had been purchased earlier in the year and was already out of the new books section and with the graphic novels. However, both were still within the YA section.

    Josiah, I echo your sigh. I was really disappointed in the board’s decision. With all due respect to the trustees, I feel as you do, that they punted.

    By the way, it was apparent early that the library meeting room would not hold the crowd and the meeting was moved across the street to the municipal court building.

  66. shadocat says:

    Man, I was all ready to print my big scoop(the newspaper article that quoted some of our posters), but y’all are too quick and beat mw to it.

    Marshall is home to Missouri Valley State College-I’m sure they have a library-are “Fun Home” or “Blankets” available there? Or perhaps in the college bookstore? I would be nice if the citizens could get the books there, just in case the get banned…

  67. supporter says:

    Yes, “Fun Home” and “Blankets” are both in the Missouri Valley College library. Someone recently bought them and donated them to the library. Yesterday they were in the “new additions” bookcase. No attempt has been made to remove either book, and none is not expected. However, should someone try, you can be sure that the college librarian would not remove any book because of its content.

    “Blankets” is a Young Adult novel. That is how it is categorized, and the Marshall Public Library lists it as such in its online catalog. (The listing also says “No copies currently available. Estimated wait undetermined.”) “Fun Home” is NOT considered a Young Adult book. The listing for “Fun Home” also has the “No copies” etc. notice.

  68. supporter says:

    Whoops! I meant to say “none is expected.” (I did have “one is not expected,” and made just part of the change I should have made.) I will go to Grammar Hell for using a double negative in public.

  69. Amy Crump says:

    I think it’s important to make a clarification. The Marshall Public Library has never had a collection development policy — a crucial tool that most libraries have in place. So we are not “revising” the policy as it is stated on Wikipedia. — we are creating one.

    If this challenge proves nothing else, it demonstrated the need for such a policy at the Marshall Public Library. Otherwise, we don’t have a leg to stand on as far as whether the books should stay or go because there’s no policy to base the decision on — just personal feelings.

    The President of the Board of Trustees stated very clearly last night that “at no point will the policy be written with an attempt to ‘work around’ the materials in question The policy will be written to be a lasting policy for any selections to be made in the future.”

    As library director here at the Marshall Public Library, I oppose censorship and book banning. In the same role, I fully support the Board’s decision last night.

  70. Disappointed in Marshall says:

    Missouri Valley College has never sought to be known as an academic powerhouse. Neither of its top administrators, Dr. Bonnie Humphrey, President, nor Dr. Earl Wellborn, Chief Academic Officer, attended the October 4 meeting to defend the freedom of books and reading. Further, the college’s Associate Professor, Mark Mills, who also holds a Ph.D., spoke at that meeting in support of book banning.

  71. Ehrrin Keenan says:

    Unfortuantely, it looks like the censorship fascists won…

  72. supporter says:

    Amy —

    I don’t dispute Marshall Public Library’s need to have a materials selection policy. From where I was sitting, it was difficult to hear Anita, so I’m sorry that my original post here was in error when it said the Board would “revise” the policy.

    I really am disappointed that the Board chose to take the books off the shelf while the policy is being written.

  73. […] It looks Louise Mills has won. According to Tom Spurgeon, the library trustees voted against keeping the books on shelves. More in the thread over at Alison Bechdel’s blog: At the meeting tonight of the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees, the Board President proposed that the board appoint a committee to revise the library’s materials selection policy. That proposal passed, but with at least one “no” vote. I was sitting in the back and could not see all the hands, so I don’t know how many voted against the proposal. Here’s the problem, as far as I am concerned: While the committee works on a new materials selection policy, the two books (”Blankets” and “Fun Home”) will be removed from circulation. They will be unavailable. There was no mention of how long the process will take. When the Board President asked which of the Board members wanted to serve on the committee, apparently most of the hands went up, because we heard her say, “Well, I guess the whole Board could be on the committee.” […]

  74. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Thanks for the link, MC. I’m glad the CBLDF stands vigilant as Missouri proceeds to remove yet another smattering of art that may have made their putrid state worth living in. This all reminds me so much of a shirt my mom had when I was little (she was an English teacher) that had an extensive list of banned books printed on it- all of them were amazing novels, natch. I also recall a display of banned children’s books that the library in my hometown mounted about eight years ago- it turned out that a good number of my favorite childhood books (“Bridge to Terabithia”, “How to Eat Fried Worms”, even “The Stupids Step Out”) had been banned in one place or another! I guess only the good stuff gets censored.

  75. Josiah says:

    Thank you, Amy, for posting, for the correction, and most of all for standing against censorship in your community. I’ve fixed the Wikipedia articles, and will update them again when the Marshall Democrat-News posts the news story.

    I must say that I am disappointed in the board’s decision — not the decision to create a materials selection policy, but the decision to remove Fun Home and Blankets from circulation until the new policy is approved. This is tantamount to giving in to the would-be censors, at least temporarily. Will you also be removing other challenged books, like Judy Blume’s Forever… and the Harry Potter novels, until the policy is written? If not, then Blankets and Fun Home are being singled out unfairly.

    The default position of a library should be against removal of challenged materials, not in favor of it. Last night’s decision gave up too much ground to the censors.

  76. NLC says:

    OK, I apparently misunderstood the intent of the article
    (that’s what come from reading ‘blogs that late at night…)

    Thanks to supporter for pointing this out.

    Consider this a “rescind” of my post above.

  77. Jaibe says:

    Wow, I never heard of a city board defending themselves on a blog from a Wikipedia article! Someone call the NYT, or better yet Wired 🙂

    PS just figured out how to say a page reflects a current event 🙂

  78. Josiah says:

    To be fair, Jaibe, Amy is the Director of the library, not a member of its board.

  79. chuck hird says:

    I also have expressed serious reservations about the temporary ban on “Fun Home” and “Blankets”, however this is not the end of the story. I believe the Marshall Public Library Board will do the right thing and conclude that censoring in any form is not appropriate. Even though we now have temporarily banned two books we will not continue down that slippery slope. I have confidence in this board.

  80. --MC says:

    You know what? It has been suggested that the library board is hoping to put the books quietly back on the shelf after the furor dies down. And this is an election year. So the books will surely be back in circulation in mid-November.

  81. Deena in OR says:


    Thanks for being willing, as a library director and (I assume) city employee, to clarify what’s happened and share the facts with us, Alison’s rather rabid fans. 🙂

    I’m on City Council here where I live, have worked with our library’s advisory commission, and I don’t envy you the position you’re in. Not one little bit.

  82. chuck hird says:

    The Marshall Public Library is very soon to tell the fate of “Fun Home” and “Blankets”.

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  84. Jennifer says:


  85. Alex says:

    Thank You