Spotlight on Censorship: ‘Drama’

ALA Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books, Banned and Challenged Books, Censorship, National Library Week

By: Ellie Diaz

Save your drama for your… school board? This young adult graphic novel takes place in a school and so do many of the threats to remove it.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier coverDrama, by New York Times bestselling author Raina Telgemeier, was No. 2 on ALA’s list of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2016. The graphic novel centers on a middle school student named Callie who deals with the production of the school play, as well as her school crushes. This Stonewall Honor-awarding winning book features gay characters, and one of them shares a kiss onstage with another boy. The chaste kiss prompted parents, librarians and administrators to remove it under the reasoning of LGBT content, being “sexually explicit” and having an offensive political viewpoint.

A public censorship case occurred in Kirbyville Junior High School in Texas, where Drama was removed from shelves for being “politically, racially, or socially offensive,” according to the ACLU of Texas report. Drama also made the ACLU of Texas censorship report — which is based on open records requests — in the 2014-2015 school year and the 2013-2014 school year.

In 2014, Drama appearanced on the Top Ten Challenged Books list for being “sexually explicit.” In a Banned Books Week video, author Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities, Dear Teen Me) claims that’s a “strange” accusation, since the graphic novel is about middle school crushes.

A play scene from the graphic novel DramaSome of the LGBT objections are captured in the Amazon reviews of the book, which feature frustrated readers who were discouraged to find no warning that gay characters would be included in the graphic novel.

I would have preferred to have had some amount of conversation before they encountered the homosexuality in the book,” wrote one customer in a popular Amazon review. “On the other hand this prompted the discussion which we have never had before, and that is ultimately a good thing.”

In an interview with TeenReads, Telgemeier explains that she originally imagined the novel taking place in a high school, but Scholastic convinced her that middle school would be a better setting.

“That meant adjusting certain elements to be more age-appropriate,” said Telgemeier in the interview, “but we all agreed that the finding your identity, whether gay or straight, is a huge part of middle school.”

Drama was just one of the books on the 2016 Top Ten list that was challenged for both “sexually explicitness” and “LGBT content,” following This One Summer and Two Boys Kissing.

Find Top Ten talking points, resources and graphics at ala.org/bbooks/NLW-Top10.

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