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

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.

Related

‘Tintin’ comics to remain in Amherst library children’s room despite parents’ objections

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

AMHERST — A graphic novel series containing racial stereotypes that some parents argue is inappropriate for pre-teens will not be removed from the children’s area at the Jones Library as a group has requested. But library officials are pledging to be part of a community dialogue focused on racial issues and to better inform the public about the children’s room … 8

Some people continue to make their case against moving the Tin-Tin books from the children's section by saying "Well then what about Tom Sawyer" or "The Bible" or the "Little Houses" series? But those books are already not housed in the children's section, so they are making the point for the position they say they oppose, it seems to me.

Also, it is inappropriate for white librarians to make the final decision on material that depicts blacks in extremely racist stereotypes. African American librarians, historians, area scholars, and parents should be making this call about how to deal with the Tintin books, and engaged by white curators at Jones to be the decision-makers. It is my firm conviction that to allow children access to this book without comment or warning or enlightenment about its stereotypical (and immoral) content is to actively teach racism. That is not what the mission of Jones Library should be about.

To say that children need the freedom to read a admittedly racist book - historical context is irrelevent unless racism is also of the past - is to not understand either racism, children or the meaning of a "public" library. Presenting it as a normal book gives it the cache of approval. We already "censor" what appears in the children's section, with the context of approriateness, so the idea that racism is approriate because it was so it the past is clearly the view of an insenstive majority.

To remove a racist book from the library would have been censorship. That is not what the parents asked Jones to do. But to keep it on the children's books shelf with no commentary about the book is to treat racism and racial stereotyping as normal. It is also a failure to warn vulnerable youth about the content of the book. Adults should educate children that racial stereotyping is wrong. Silence = complicity. I think Jones should move the Tintin book(s) to the adult graphic novels section and post a sign that includes commentary on its historical context. Otherwise, Jones is missing an opportunity to educate both kids and adults about the racist depictions and white colonialism in the Tintin books and is turning its eyes away from it, doing nothing.

Disagree. As Commonsense wrote below, let parents and teachers 'teach,' not libraries or librarians.

Good call by the library and how unfortunate that some parents just don't understand the true meaning of free speech. Any form of censure ship is unacceptable. Would the same parents using the same rationale ban Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn? Parents can use this as an educational moment. Certainly the Tintin books -- like other forms of literature -- are a reflection of the times they were written. Literature provides great insight and an opportunity for all parents, teachers, librarians to create awareness and understanding.

Oops...I meant censorship...to censure the book is unacceptable too!

Children love Tintin. To deprive them of the fun and laughter that these books evoke from children would be a crime. As far as serious matters are concerned they will understand and make their own mind, which is their freedom. But history cannot be earased to facilitate them or any one else.

More tyranny of the minority in Amherst. I feel sorry for people who live in Amherst while this very small group, with their selective view of the facts and the issues, can't seem to stop forcing their views on others. The nut ban, the campaign against fluoridation, and now putting Tintin in the back room .Phew! It must be exhausting to be so right about everything all the time, and so much smarter than everyone else. No live and let live for these folks.

Oh boy...here we go again Amherst. These five people need to understand Hergé, the world he grew up in, and the role of libraries. Please don't waste the library's staff and trustees time with your ignorance. Perhaps a good place for The Five to start is the Wiki article on Hergé, especially the section on personal live and accusation of racism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hergé

I hope their children are warned about reading the Bible. Such sexism.

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