Title: Blankets

Published: 2003

Author: Craig Thompson

Challenge status: Included on the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s list of case studies. Book #21 on Summer of Banned Books ’13.

Why: In 2006 the book was challenged was challenged in the Marshall, Missouri Public Library, the complaint alleged the book contained pornographic images that might be seen by children, and that people who frequented pornographic bookstores might start showing up at the library. The board of trustees of the library ultimately voted to retain Blankets, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

First line: “When we were very young, my little brother Phil and I shared the same bed.”

Synopsis:

592 pages! That is a LONG comic book. But the book isn’t long in a “look at me, I’m spinning this out so it will take you a long time to read” way, it’s long in a “I’m taking my time to paint a picture” way. Blankets is an award winning (3 Harvey awards and 2 Eisner awards in 2004) autobiographical graphic novel, that takes us through Craig’s coming of age, growing up in Christianity, falling in love, and then falling out of love (both with his first love and with his faith).

There are definitely some uncomfortable spots; regrets on his relationship with his younger brother, some early traumas and disappointments, and challenges in his relationships with his parents. While his experience and voice is unique, we can all relate to those key events from childhood that shaped that time and who we’ve become.

Most interesting is the depiction of Craig’s “letting go”. As he heads-off to art school he lets go of his past; he releases his childhood, his family dramas, lost love, and lost faith – and experiments, and tries to figure out what his new path is. I love this scene where he’s moved to the big city:

“On my first visit to the public library, I was like a kid at a candy store where all the candy was free.”

*I’m allowed to read any book* [he thinks to himself].

“I gorged myself until my tummy ached.”

*…and yet, I’m still hungry.*

I love this imagery of gorging oneself on new ideas. Obviously I can related a bit, this summer, as I’ve been trying to max out my library card. I can relate to the strange feeling of gluttony of being immersed in these amazing worlds that writers have created for us. Though the books I’m reading are new, the library-induced joy/exhilaration makes me feel connected to an old feeling.

In the end, though, I think Craig decides that we don’t escape our past so much as identify patterns in our overall narrative, and choose which patterns to repeat (as ritual, or incorporated into our sense of self) versus patterns we try find new and subtle variations on.