Friday, April 17, 2015
"Graphic" Novels: A Story of Misunderstanding
This last summer, I moved to a new community, one that was not quite as literary as the communities that I have lived in the past. I searched high and low for book availability in my area, finding only a handful of bookstores and a library with a minimal selection of graphics. Yet, I remained hopeful when I saw that the library was having one of their book sales. I knew that I would make it a point to check it out, and when I first walked into the room, I was not disappointed. It was a large room filled with lots of books, stacked on top of the tables, stacked in boxes below the tables, on bookshelves lining the walls, and in usual library style, bookshelves standing side by side in the back of the room. They even had a room devoted to special collections and editions.
I spent hours at that book sale, visiting every aisle, every table, looking high and low for any and all books that caught my eye. Yet, I did not spot a single graphic novel or comic. I thought I might have been missing something, so I politely asked one of the library volunteers, “Do you have a graphic novel section?”
Instantly, this kind woman with grey hair and thick glasses was very uncomfortable and she only looked at me with large eyes. I was not sure how to take this response, until she quietly asked me after that long pause, almost in a whisper, “Do you mean graphic sexually?”
“Ummmm, no.” My only response that I could muster. I had never received this kind of reaction to my request before. Then, of course, I thought, not necessarily. Because let’s admit that some of the best graphic novels and comics that are out there may have some sexual content.
After gathering my own thoughts, I then clarified, “More like comics in book format.”
“I would try the children’s section.”
I resigned myself to checking the children’s and young adult’s section one more time, quietly hoping as I browsed the shelves amongst the young ones that the books I was looking for were not found here, where little eyes may be opened to quite another world. Not bad worlds per se, just worlds that are meant for more mature eyes.
I left the library book sale that day with a great stack of books, but sadly not one graphic in my stack and quite a different view on how they may be perceived. I wish I had found a good one that I could share with the volunteer that day, to open her eyes to the beauty and fabulous literature that can be found in panels.
Have you ever experienced a graphic misunderstanding in your bookish life?