Banned Comics for Your Classroom

Banned and Challenged Books


The phrase “removed from the school library” is becoming all too frequent in our national discourse on the place of comics and graphic novels in both the classroom and the library. Graphic memoirs which illustrate the lived experience of queer youth, comics depicting Holocaust survivors, and graphic novels infused with childhood memories of political violence are once again being targeted. Amongst this discourse, educators and librarians are working together to keep comics in the library, but what to do once they return to the shelf? What about bringing them into the classroom?

For some educators, banned comics are already a part of their lesson plans. For others, this discourse is an opportunity to teach with banned comics for the first time.

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Illustration of comic creator Maia Kobabe saying “Please, leave the queer books on the library shelves”
© Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer is a graphic memoir about Maia Kobabe and eir meandering journey to the land of the asexuals and non-binary folks where e finds not only companions but emselves. The frequent bannings and challenges to Kobabe’s autobiography led to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) issuing a statement in support of this essential work “that benefits both those who identify as nonbinary and those who wish to better understand nonbinary identity.” CBLDF further writes, “Public schools and libraries have an obligation to support intellectual freedom and to meet the needs and interests of their entire community, including those who would like to read Gender Queer.” While public librarians in Wake County, North Carolina are taking steps to return the series to the shelves, a Loudoun County School Board committee overruled another committee to ensure the graphic memoir remains banned and thus inaccessible to readers. Fairfax Schools and Canutillo Independent School District inspired this blog post as the challenge towards Gender Queer at these schools ended with the graphic memoir returning to the shelf.

Lesson Plans & Teaching Resources

Expanding the Discussion to Other Frequently Challenged LGBTQIIA+ Comics

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Comic creator Art Spiegelman at a Maus exhibition
US comic book artist Art Spiegelman poses on March 20, 2012 in Paris, prior to the private viewing of his exhibition ‘Co-Mix’, which will run from March 21 to May 21, 2012 at the Pompidou centre. The Swedish-born New Yorker Spiegelman, 62, is known as the creator of “Maus”, an animal fable of his Jewish father’s experience in the Holocaust — the only comic book to have won a Pulitzer Prize, the top US book award.
(Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Many school children first learn about the Holocaust from survivor speakers – formally at schools and cultural institutions and informally from family members. As they progress through their schooling, Jewish literature – from banned comics to banned prose – further illuminate the atrocities to those who came after. Art Spiegelman’s graphic memoir Maus tells of the author’s Holocaust survivor parents’ life in Poland prior to the war to their liberation from the Nazi concentration camps. The New York Times reports, “A school board in Tennessee voted unanimously this month [January 2022] to ban “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from being taught in its classrooms because the book contains material that board members said was inappropriate for students.” This move follows a long history of suppression of the Jewish voice, and is being met with outrage by both comic creators and readers together with action by booksellers offering to ship the series to any Tennessean who requests it.

Lesson Plans & Teaching Resources

Expanding the Discussion Beyond Maus

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A page from Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis
© Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is a graphic memoir stretching from Marjane Satrapi’s childhood in Iran to her adolescence in France and eventual return to Iran as an adult. Stark black-and-white imagery welcomes the reader into this “memoir-in-comic-strips” illustrating the revolution and war which dramatically altered both Marjane’s future as well as the life of her fellow compatriots. Persepolis also stands as one of the most frequently challenged works by an Iranian author, and in 2014 reached second place on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books list. More recently, Persepolis was challenged by the Wicomico County Board of Education while a few states away the series was removed from Commack School District’s required reading list.

Lesson Plans & Teaching Resources

Expanding the Discussion Beyond Persepolis to Iranian Literature  


Bannings and challenges to graphic memoirs remain an ongoing issue for educators, librarians, and the students they serve. This piece only briefly contributes to our discussion on how to bring these banned comics to your classroom. Want to know what’s happening in your state? Check out the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC)’s Youth Censorship Database, an online resource featuring an interactive map of on-going and past challenges which can be filtered by reason, type, year, impacted population, and challenger. As always, please report any censorship occurring at your library.

One thought on “Banned Comics for Your Classroom

  • A great read! It really highlights the importance of remembering what broader social impact there is when we start to limit the books and other written materials contained within the library or an archive.

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