Florida Tries to Ban Book About Banned Books

Banned Book Club

Kim Hyun Sook entered college under the military dictatorship of Chun Doo-hwan. In the 1980s, looking to expand your literary horizons in South Korea could get you into hot water. She and fellow students risked punishment to read the likes of Noam Chomsky, Che Guevara and Paulo Freire. One of her friends was imprisoned for reading Kim Il Sung’s autobiography.

It was a terse chapter of her life that Hyun Sook documented in her 2020 graphic novel, Banned Book Club; a book which Florida has attempted to, well, ban.

“I was surprised!” says Hyun Sook. “I thought it was ironic! When we wrote my story, I thought I was just informing Americans about a part of Korean history. We don’t have book bannings like this in Korea any more. We became a democracy.

“The attempted ban was initiated by No Left Turn in Education, an organization which seeks “to push back on the Leftist agenda sweeping into public education.” The group requested that Banned Books Club be banned in schools and libraries throughout Clay County, Florida. If successful, it would be even more on the nose than the controversial banning of Art Spiegelman’s Maus in McMinn County, Tennessee in 2022.

No Left Turn is one of the many conservative groups in America flooding public complaint channels. They are coordinating against books with any progressive rhetoric, targeting school boards and meetings, especially in counties where one does not need to live to file complaints.

“I have a lot to say, but I already said it, IN Banned Book Club,” says co-writer Ryan Estrada. “I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. Writing about the importance of intellectual freedom, and talking about it all over the world.”

The ban was overturned, “but hundreds of others were not so lucky.” The process gave Estrada an opportunity to see the complaint for himself, which made “our book about nerds who like to read sound like an Anarchist’s Cookbook for ANTIFA supersoldiers.” Ryan’s next book, Occulted, is also based on a true story about how reading contraband books helped a friend escape a cult.

“I hope our book shows people that these kinds of bans are just for powerful people to try and hold on to even more power,” says Hyun Sook. “You can learn a lot about a society by seeing what they want to hide.