One of my reading goals for 2018 was to read more diverse books. I want to read more juvenile and youth materials, more original graphic novels, more diverse authors, more diverse characters, essentially channeling myself to read things I wouldn’t normally pick. I just finished reading The Prince and the Dressmaker, a youth graphic novel written and illustrated by Jen Want. Prince Sebastian is hiding a secret. He like to dress as a lady and tour the dance halls and nightlife of Paris. While his parents search for his bride, Sebastian is in search of a daring new dress designer, and finds a common seamstress named Frances, who’s creative flair is appreciated by Sebastian more than the other ladies of the palace. With her designs, Sebastian’s alter ego, Lady Crystallia, takes the fashion world by storm, but, afraid his secret will get out, Prince Sebastian forces Frances and himself to stay in the shadows, risking Frances’ chances at meeting her fashion icons and advance his own career.
For some reason, this book really spoke to me on a personal level. Could it be my yearning to return to Paris having seen the notifications that it’s been ten years since I lived in France? Could it be the fact that I recently took out my sewing machine, disenchanted by the current fashion market that I thought I could make all my clothes from scratch? Or maybe it’s the lack of confidence I’ve had lately, especially when it comes to writing and talking about comics. What does matter is that I was able to connect with a book on a personal level, something all authors strive for. It’s also what librarians are always hunting for, the personal experience a patron has with a resource.
But not everyone values the reading experience the same way. There have been times when I talk about my passion for comics and get a lot of push back. Can’t you read full paragraphs? Can’t you imagine the story in your mind instead of needing the illustrations? Aren’t all comics for kids? (In this case, yes!) Aren’t all comics hyper sexual/violent? But others are much more open to the idea, saying things like, wow, I didn’t realize there were so many different art styles in comics! I didn’t realize that character has changed!? What do you mean there are non-superhero comics?!
While comics become a more ubiquitous part of our culture through the major superhero films and their use as an educational tool, it may seem like advocacy is not as needed as it was before. But, there has been an interesting development in the library/comic book world. Whereas YALSA has done their “Great Graphic Novels” lists for years, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund helps libraries defend the first amendment rights of comics, but what I’m most excited about from and advocacy standpoint is the transition of the ALA Graphic Novel Member Interest Group into the ALA Graphic Novel Round Table. What this group will do exactly is yet to be determined, but I am excited at the aspect of graphic novels they will focus on, as there is no age restriction, content restriction, and it’s not nestled in another group, so it won’t be focusing on just collection development or creating recommended lists.
I am very excited for the new ALA GN RT. Building community and working towards advocacy is one of the best feelings for me personally. Any opportunity I have to work with other people who are passionate about comics is a great thing. So, consider joining the ALA GN RT, think of some ideas for programs, best practices, projects you would like to work on with other professionals to promote and advocate for comics and graphic novels in libraries.