‘Tintin’ graphic novels at Jones Library in Amherst spark protest

Wednesday, January 01, 2014
AMHERST — Parents concerned about what they argue are racist caricatures in a cartoon series available in the children’s area at the Jones Library are asking that the graphic novels be moved to another section of the public building.

Five patrons of the Jones Library recently filed a formal request for reconsideration, under the library’s collection development policy, to have the “Tintin” graphic novels, by Georges “Herge” Remi, placed in the young adult or adult sections.

The parents will be meeting with the elected trustees board Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Goodwin Room at the Jones Library.

Jeannette Wicks-Lim of Belchertown Road said she and other parents recently became aware of these early- to mid-20th-century works because they are popular with grade-school children.

The parents maintain that some of the “Tintin” novels portray characters in a negative light and reflect imperial attitudes evident at the time.

“The Tintin series has quite a reputation of racist imagery and story lines,” Wicks-Lim said.

Wicks-Lim filed the formal request for reconsideration along with Ali Wicks-Lim, Greta Shultz, Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas.

Jeannette Wicks-Lim said after becoming aware of the issue through their children, the parents met with Library Director Sharon Sharry in October.

“We initially had a conversation with the library director and she told us we could bring this topic up to the board of trustees,” Wicks-Lim said.

The collection development policy traditionally calls on the library director and library department heads to decide whether a request by patrons has merit.

Wicks-Lim said the parents are not asking to remove the decades-old cartoons from the library or prohibit children from accessing them, but rather to put them in a place less prominent and give parents more information about their content.

“We’re just hoping to have a good conversation with them,” Wicks-Lim said.

In information provided to the trustees, the parents call this a “principled middle ground,” arguing that derisive portrayal of racial groups that have historically been discriminated against, done purely to entertain readers and as a vehicle of humor, should have more oversight.

“We respectfully request that the Jones Library apply discretion about placing such material in the children’s area.”

This would not be dissimilar from practices already in place in which the library places material depending on age appropriateness and adds additional warnings for the violence level in movies that circulate. Such screenings would take place with any new material, Wicks-Lim said.

Wicks-Lim said she hopes the presentation before the trustees can also be the beginning of a larger community dialogue about parenting and race.