Every National Library Week, the American Library Association releases a “Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books.” This year, we have three comic books on the list. I’ve never read Persepolis so I cannot comment there. As for Saga, it’s absolutely an R-rated book (if not NC-17), and that’s part of the point. There’s full-frontal nudity, swearing, sex on camera, etc. The only nonsense is that it’s “anti-family”; it’s very “pro-family.” Still, though, I would be shocked it it weren’t challenged.
But check out number ten–Drama, by Raina Telgemeier, is on there for being “sexually explicit.” Keep in mind, this is a “top ten” list. Meaning that Drama was challenged quite a bit. Which is actual madness.
For those unfamiliar with Telgemeier’s most recent work, Drama is centered around Callie, a member of her school’s drama society. Callie has an almost-contagious passion for theater (both in story and for the reader).
Callie has an unrequited crush on one person when the book opens, and develops one on another boy. That’s basically the extent of the “sex” here. There’s a kiss or two, hand-holding, etc. Indeed, Drama may be one of the most chaste comics I’ve read in some time. I think there may have been racier Mary Worth strips. Heck, compared to this, the Archie comics of my childhood were pornography.
The only thing I can think of is that “sexually explicit” is weasel-speak for “there are gay characters in the book.” One character comes out to Callie very early on, another is the object of a crush by another male, and (trying very hard not to spoil), a third character comes out as well. There’s no sex, though; just a fairly blanket acknowledgement that some boys like boys instead of girls, and that there is an equal level of drama involved.
Gay people existing is not “explicit.” Gay people exist. Gay kids exist. Trying to block a book that shows them being the same as any other child isn’t going to get them to not exist. Yes, I noted Drama and Sisters as possibly too mature for a 7-year-old. Not for being “sexually explicit,” though. Just for dealing with themes not on a 1st/2nd grade level. I actually regret that now. You know what? Drama might be a pretty good way to introduce to your child the idea that “hey, some people get crushes on the same gender.” Gasp!
If Raina Telgemeier’s perfectly innocent portrayal of affection is too sexually charged for your child, then you may wish to keep them away from such racy comics as any comic where there is an unrequited love aspect to the story! You’re their parents and, yes, it is your right. But how about being honest about the reason?