Cover Image: Banned Book Club

Banned Book Club

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Member Reviews

Great non-western society graphic novel dealing with censorship by government.  Has its tense moments and really shows a point of history that I knew very little about.
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FANTASTIC! I loved this book. It has an important story to tell and does so fantastically. I would recommend this to any teen/adult interested in history or rebellion.
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This historical graphic novel takes place in 1980's South Korea and is an eye opening story that highlights the struggle of the Korean people facing unjust perscution and censorship.  This is a very powerful graphic novel that shows the fight of a group of young adults to read the books that are important to them even if they face imprisonment and torture at the hands of thier government.  So scenes are very hard to read due to the tragic subject matter but still I highly reccomend it to anyone highschool level and up.
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Name of the book : Banned Book Club
Authors : Kim Hyun Sook & Ryan Estrada
Illustrator : Ko Hyung-Jo
Publisher : Iron Circus Comics
Number of pages : 204

Banned Book Club is a graphic memoir set in South Korea of 1983, which was then under a brutal militaristic regime. A group of university students hold secret meetings, where they discuss books that are forbidden by the regime and political news that is being suppressed. This means that they have to be careful of the Secret Service , who are constantly on the lookout for communists and other subversives. 

Kim Hyun Sook is a freshman, who becomes a part of the group, erroneously believing it to be a regular book club. She soon finds out how dangerous the club is, but also how important these small acts of defiance are. 

The book opens up a great discussion on censorship -- why do people ban books? Is it purely because of the content? Do they see danger in the authors that create the content? Or is it because there's a possibility that they see themselves in the "villains" or characters of the story and they're too ashamed to admit it? 

Progress truely isn't linear. It's filled with twists and turns but in the end, that doesn't mean we stop fighting for what's right. I would highly recommend everyone to read this!
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Great coming of age story of a South Korean student's journey. This graphic novel addresses personal growth, social issues (political regime), and will inspires readers!
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It was great to know more about social situations, injustice  and cultural backgrounds. I feel like this topic is still not widely discussed, but this graphic novel can be a change.
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Banned Book Club might be set in another country and time, but it is absolutely relevant to today. Once I picked this up, not knowing what to expect, I could NOT put this down. The parallels to today and what does censorship really do hooked me right away. A must read and must have title.
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In Banned Book Club, Hyun Sook shares a dramatic true story of her time in college in South Korea during the 1980's - there is political division, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, the death of democratic institutions, and the relentless rebellion of reading.

I don't know much about South Korea, and was fascinated by the story told in the book. The fact that the author lived it (even if some details were changed/people were combined) made it all that much more impactful. It was also chilling to see the echoes of what we're going through now as a country and wonder where we will end up, and to see that even at the end of the book, 40 years later, she and her friends are still protesting.
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This graphic novel is well written and an interesting read about events that I was not taught about at school. The illustrations are great and really capture the different emotions that the student activists experiences during the storyline. Even though these events took place nearly 40 years ago the topics are just as relevant today. For instance, a couple of recent events that come to mind are the demonstrations in Hong Kong and the Black Lives Matter movement in United States.

I found that the graphic novel format worked really well as it gave the artist the opportunity to create powerful illustrations alongside the storyline, making it more accessable to a wider range of readers. Personally, I find it difficult to read big, heavy books about historic events so having a graphic novel that gives a short introduction makes it easier to pick up more books about these events and learn more.

Because the storyline is a bit fast-paced it sometimes feels a bit rushed. In particularly the character development from timid student to full-on protester. However, the fast paced nature of the story might have been intentional from the author as it would better reflect the ever changing events of protests and the backlash.

This was a really interesting read where I learned a lot and would highly recommend everyone to read this. Please don't fly though it just to mark it as read. Make sure to discuss it and bring in both current and historical relevant events. It sheds a light on very important topics like censorship and government policing that is very important.
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Interesting story line, okay illustrations.  I learned interesting things and the story is presented well.
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I am excited to share this book during Banned Book Week! I think that older teens will really identify with the main character, a college student in South Korea who joins a book club, not realizing that it is truly an act. of protest and resistance.
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I honestly don't know on what basis I should give this book stars so I decided on these all aspects: Was it engaging? yes. Was it entertaining and made me want to look stuff up? yes. Was the art awesome? definitely yes. Do I wish it dragged more long? yes.

To elaborate, I loved this book a lot. It can be considered to be my first memoir and on top of that it was a graphic novel (I am trying to read more graphic novels!), so I was a bit timid to pick it up. But since it was set in South Korea and had a political theme and the MC loves to read books, I don't think I couldn't have not picked it up. I don't know much about the political affairs of South Korea but this surely made me super intrigued to know more about it. It talked about so many important things - corruption, police brutality, sexism, activism, feminism etc. And even though it discussed so many things, it didn't seem that heavy to read. I flew through the pages like my life depended on it and made so many notes to look things up.

I especially liked the fact that it didn't go much deep into the happenings or politicians because it made me look up about them. And apart from that, I don't think so much of information would have been suitable for this book. Apart from that, I cannot stress about how important this book is. Starting from as little as banned books, it made me wonder which all books are banned at present in my country and on what basis. It is exceptionally necessary to make students and youths to realize that govt. authorities are accountable to us because they have a societal responsibility that cannot be neglected. And at the same time, we as citizens shouldn't sit back and let things happen the way they are happening. Through a very simple example, this book passed on a very good message - nothing can be apolitical. Politics is present in every part of our lives, even when we think it isn't.

Apart from that there were these moments in the novel wherein not so implicitly, women's struggle were highlighted for which I am glad. I cannot believe that when I started reading this book, I was trying to translate some of my known words from English to Korean! Omg, these instances were so hilarious and it made me realize that watching all those kdramas did pay off in some way ;) And the art was just super fantastic!!! I loved it to bits <3<3 Oh and also, keep a pen and paper ready nearby because there is mention of various books that one might want to check out as well as certain political leaders and instances mentioned.

Trigger warnings: Violence, Tear gas, hinting at sexual assault.
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“How can Chun trick everyone? How do people not see what’s happening?”

“He doesn’t care if we believe him or not. He created such a divide between the people who believe his lies and those who don’t that the country is too torn apart to come together and properly oppose him.”

A MUST READ!!!! Loved it so much. EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS.
Actually made me tear up towards the end. So simple yet evocative.
A perfect read for the turbulent times we live in.
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The Gwangju Uprising, May 18 to May 27, 1980. Government troops opened fire on students protesting the martial law imposed upon South Korea at the time, prompting local residents to take up arms and fight back. The official death toll sits at just 170 casualties, but the actual number is estimated to be far higher—between 1,000 and 2,000.

This was a turning point in a long-held struggle against authoritarianism in South Korea. For almost 20 years, from 1961 to 1979, the country was ruled by Park Chung-hee. He was responsible for major economic growth, but also severe civil rights abuses, to the point of imprisoning critics, having political opponents kidnapped and murdered, and amending the country's constitution to extend his rule and allow further authoritarian powers. He was assassinated in 1979, paving the way for a military coup that installed Chun Doo-hwan as de facto ruler. He continued his predecessor's dictatorial rule, using the spectre of a communist threat as justification for imposing a nationwide martial law and violently repressing any opposition to his rule.

Despite their efforts to suppress dissent, both Park and Chun's regimes were met with protest and demands for democratic rule, particularly from university students. But they were also broadly popular—Park especially, who even today is regarded as one of South Korea's most popular presidents, especially among older and more conservative groups. But the profile and visibility of Gwangju became a turning point, helping to spurn uprisings across the country and draw more public attention to the human rights abuses of Chun's regime, eventually paving the way to the 1987 presidential election—the first peaceful transfer of power in South Korea's history.

It's against this backdrop that Banned Book Club sits, telling Kim Hyun Sook's story of rebellion against an authoritarian military regime, based on her own experiences of that time. Taking place in 1983, Banned Book Club sees a young Kim starting her life as a university freshman. She knows little of the true nature of Chun Doo-hwan's rulership—a common position, given the regime's efforts to suppress the truth—and just wants to get a good education and a good job. She's heard about the protests erupting at campuses all across the country and been warned to avoid them for her own safety, but they're something she's never seen or experienced herself.

Which makes her first day at college all the more shocking. A stand-off between protesters and police blocks the gates, and Kim's only way to get to class is to fight through the tear gas and molotov cocktails being thrown around. The opening ceremony begins with the chancellor condemning the protest and students "throwing away their parents' hard-earned money" in order to "join the commies".

Kim's eye-opening experiences continue when she joins the school's masked folk dance team and book club. These seemingly innocent clubs are actually a front for organising protests and sharing books banned by the government—the likes of The Communist Manifesto, Rhee Young-hee's Logic for an Era of Transition, the poetry of Kim Ji-ha, and Che Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries.

What follows is a journey of radicalization, as Kim learns the real truth that's hidden from the government-sanctioned media and comes to see the importance of a fight for democracy. It's a glimpse into a snapshot of South Korea's history that touches on everything from the Gwangju Uprising to the Chun regime's "3S" media policy—a focus on sex, sports, and screens as a way of distracting the populace from political reality. As Kim's new friends explain it: "People mad they can't gather in public? Bring the Olympics so they can cheer for their country instead of against its leaders. Filmmakers complain that you're limiting their political speech? Lower the regulations for on-screen nudity instead!"

It turns the lens the other way on occasion, too, to look at how protest movements can fracture from within or be exploited. To this day, across movements of all sorts, seemingly well-meaning allies use their influence within a space and the implicit trust that they're "one of the good ones" to engage in predatory behaviour, often without even realising they're doing it. And even when things aren't quite as serious as that, the interpersonal politics and romantic developments can disrupt a group that is, by design, relatively structured and leaderless. Banned Book Club touches on all these things, too. 

It's not a book with a clean, neat ending where everything is all wrapped up and the heroes save the day, because that's not how these things work. But it ends on a hopeful note, and one that really emphasises why protest is so important, even if it seems like the world is against you. Such bold actions may seem to alienate the masses at first, especially with an authoritarian government's propaganda arm doing everything it can to discredit the movement. And though it may not be many at first, there are people who you'll reach, who'll pay attention, and the cause will grow stronger. Change may be slow and incremental, but if you fight for it, it will come.
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Concept and ideas very strong and important especially today with extremist movements on the rise (  what kind of censorship will we be facing?). I really liked the illustrations, but the story was clunky at times and seemed to stumble over itself. Nonetheless it's something to check out if given the opportunity
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An eye-opening graphic memoir about life in South Korea in the 1980s. The narrative I had understood--or at least assumed--was that after the Korean War South Korea was immediately a democracy. This was not the case. In this historical graphic novel South Korean university students risk their education, freedom, and even their lives during the rule of the authoritarian militaristic regime of the Fifth Republic. While educational, this graphic novel is still very fun and entertaining. The characters and plot are well developed and will keep you turning pages to see what happens next.
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A really interesting graphic novel that packed a punch and had great artwork in addition to the engaging story.
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This book was a great read. I learned so much of Korean activism. This is something we are living right now. The writing was phenomenal and the art, fantastic.
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This book was very eye-opening. It's easy to forget how little we know about other countries' histories, but the graphic novel genre makes it so accessible for students (and adults!) to learn. This book is not perfect, but I enjoyed it and would recommend it to higher level students.
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Gorgeous art and such an important message. 
I think the authors did it beautifully. 
I really enjoyed this one!
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