Books are powerful!

by  in Comic News Comment
Books are powerful!

Margaret Barbaree of Crestview, Florida, has asked that city’s City Council to remove all manga from the library, claiming that it is “graphic” and “shocking.” And she gave some rather startling testimony.

“My son lost his mind when he found this,” Barbaree said of the manga book from which her examples were taken. She said her son had removed the book unsupervised from the library’s general stacks last summer and put it in his backpack. “Now he’s in a home for extensive therapy.”

Let me tread carefully here: I do not mean to minimize anyone’s illness or the pain it can cause. I’m a parent myself, and I would fight anything that I felt threatened my children. That said, it’s hard to believe that a book alone could cause someone to become mentally ill.

While the newspaper did not mention the title of the book in question, the meeting is a public record and a call to the Crestview City Clerk’s office revealed that Barbaree mentioned two comics, “The Naked Suicide Girl,” which seems to be a chapter of Gantz, and Psychic Academy. While Gantz is rated 18+ and should never be shown to a child, Psychic Academy is rated 13+, the same as Fruits Basket. The article does not give Barbaree’s son’s age but describes him as a teenager.

Barbaree, who has founded a citizens group called “Protect Our Children,” had a petition with 226 signatures that called for “anime” to be removed from the library (she seems to have been a bit confused on the manga vs. anime thing, but that’s not unusual). What’s less forgiveable is that some of the signers say they were misled:

“They told us she (Barbaree) approached them at the Christmas parade and asked them to sign a petition protesting pornography in the library,” said Resource Librarian Sandra Dreaden.

Manga were not on the agenda for the City Council, but like most such bodies, they allot time during each meeting for members of the public to speak. The council took no action afterward, according to Assistant City Clerk Loretta Scardina.

City Council President Charles Baugh Jr. actually visited the library, looked over the young adult manga, and deemed it “perfectly innocuous,” which should keep the kids away from it. He also verified that the adult manga was in a different part of the library. While it is refreshing to see an elected official take such a sensible approach, it should also be noted that the City Council probably has no power over the library other than to set the budget; in most places the library director and board are responsible for matters like this.

As for the library, they seem to have done their due diligence; library director Jean Lewis told Barbaree that they stock manga because their patrons want it.

Lewis said the manga available in the young adult section of the library is oriented toward young teen readers and does not contain the adult themes of the book Barbaree’s son took. That book had been in the general stacks, on a top shelf in a section with other graphic novels and comic books not geared toward young readers.

Which suggests that the troubling manga was indeed Gantz.