In response to one New Mexico parent’s complaint that a highly-regarded graphic novel was “child porn,” a district review committee has voted to keep the book in a high school library.
One month ago local TV news station KOAT reported that a Rio Rancho parent was deeply troubled that her son checked out Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar from the school library. She told KOAT that the book contained “child pornography pictures and child abuse pictures,” and the segment concluded by noting that local school officials “looked at the book and agreed it’s clearly inappropriate.”
The National Coalition Against Censorship’s Kids Right to Read Project (KRRP) sent a letter on March 9 to the Rio Rancho Public Schools to rebut this inaccurate and lurid storyline. Alongside allies like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, National Council of Teachers of English, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and PEN American Center’s Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, KRRP pointed out that the book was not pornographic at all. In fact, Hernandez’s work is widely acclaimed for its honest and lyrical exploration of culture, sexuality and memory.
The letter also argued that one parent’s objections cannot be allowed to determine the rights of other students to enjoy Palomar, or any other literary work. And the letter urged the school district to adhere to its own guidelines, which state that reviews to challenged materials be treated “objectively, unemotionally, and as a routine matter.”
The Rio Rancho review committee agreed. By a 5-3 vote, the committee voted on March 16 to retain the book.
“We commend the Rio Rancho Public Schools for adhering to its challenge policy, and are pleased with the result that the review committee has retained this important book for the benefit of its student community,” says Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of KRRP sponsor organization Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
As NCAC’s original letter stated, a decision to keep Palomar would
demonstrate respect for your readers and their choices, for the professionalism of the librarians who serve the reading public, and for the First Amendment and its importance to a pluralistic, democratic society.
Publisher’s Weekly called Hernandez “an extraordinary, eccentric and very literary cartoonist.” This decision preserves the rights of Rio Rancho High School students to read the work of this acclaimed and important contemporary literary figure.