Banned Book Club

Iron Circus Comics. Feb. 2020. 192p. pap. $15. ISBN 9781945820427.
Gr 9 Up–It’s 1983 in South Korea, and Hyun Sook is on her way to her hard-won first day at college. Excited to study literature, she dodges her mother’s arguments about the safety and necessity of schooling, but at school, she’s greeted by violent demonstrations. Though she tries to ignore the students protesting President Chun’s totalitarian regime, Hyun Sook starts to realize that the art and literature she loves are hardly apolitical. When she accepts an invitation to attend a seemingly benign book club that turns out to focus on banned books, her political awakening begins and she becomes involved with the underground student rebels. Husband and wife team Kim and Estrada walk readers through a complicated story, based on Kim’s experiences as a young activist. Intermittent scenes of friendship and romance lighten a heavy narrative that features several depictions of police interrogating and torturing students. While the text is didactic at times, the superb storytelling and artwork keep pages turning. The black-and-white line artwork pairs deftly with the text. Ko plays with proportions, panel size and spacing, and overall style, moving seamlessly from cartoonlike to serious, detailed executions to suit the many moods of the tale.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers passionate about activism or political history, or for those who are simply looking for an excellent comic book.

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