Sunday, March 8, 2009

Graphic Books Receive NYT's Stamp of Legitimacy

In my Library Stuff news feed this morning, I was delighted to see a link to a story about how the New York Times just released best-seller lists for graphic books.

I have had delight in graphic novels dating back to around five years ago. I remember reading a Chronicle of Higher Education story about new art programs for cartoonists (for lack of a better word). And I saw the quirky movie Ghost World and read the graphic novel it was based on. Probably a year later I read about Maus, and quickly checked out the book from the library to see a Holocaust survivor's story put in graphic novel form by the survivor's son. And several years later, I became hooked on the Persepolis series about a girl's experience growing up in Iran before and after the country's cultural revolution. I delighted in the girl's personality and loved how my eyes were opened to the culture and people of Iran. I realized how my perceptions had been so ill-informed up until reading Marjane Satrapi's book.

I expected there to be negative comments posted to the above blog as well as celebratory ones, but in the 25 comments I read no one said anything negative. Perhaps the audience for this particular blog skews toward people who are already fans of graphic books. I did find one post that referred to the naysaying against graphic books, though. A poster named Joshua Carlson wrote the following:

“… As a librarian, I know how important graphic novels have become in libraries. Not only am I an avid reader myself, I’ve seen first hand how popular they are with library patrons. There are still many obstacles for many libraries, however, in convincing staff, the public, library boards, and critics of all kinds, that graphic novels are an important format (equally as important as any other format a library carries from DVDs to traditional novels) and one that does have a place in the building. This best seller list can only help to add credence to what many librarians have already known, that graphic novels are worthwhile, and should be recognized.”

It should be no surprise that there is resistance to graphic books. People are habitually averse to change, are they not? But the overwhelming popularity of the format and all the research that speaks to the benefits of reading graphic books should, over time, convince the majority of the naysayers of the legitimacy of graphic books. That’s what I expect to happen, at least.

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