Banned Book Club
by Kim Hyun Sook; Ryan Estrada
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 19 May 2020 | Archive Date 30 Jul 2020
Letter Better Publishing Services, Iron Circus Comics
A Junior Library Guild Selection
"Highly recommended for readers passionate about activism." — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, Starred Review
"Sure to inspire today’s youthful generation of tenacious changemakers." — BOOKLIST, Starred Review
"The messages of hope are universal." — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review
"A timely read about friendship amid chaos." — NPR
"It’s hard to imagine a world where Banned Book Club could be more relevant than it is right now." — A.V. CLUB
When Kim Hyun Sook started college in 1983 she was ready for her world to open up. After acing her exams and sort-of convincing her traditional mother that it was a good idea for a woman to go to college, she looked forward to soaking up the ideas of Western Literature far from the drudgery she was promised at her family’s restaurant. But literature class would prove to be just the start of a massive turning point, still focused on reading but with life-or-death stakes she never could have imagined.
This was during South Korea's Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. In this charged political climate, with Molotov cocktails flying and fellow students disappearing for hours and returning with bruises, Hyun Sook sought refuge in the comfort of books. When the handsome young editor of the school newspaper invited her to his reading group, she expected to pop into the cafeteria to talk about Moby Dick, Hamlet, and The Scarlet Letter. Instead she found herself hiding in a basement as the youngest member of an underground banned book club. And as Hyun Sook soon discovered, in a totalitarian regime, the delights of discovering great works of illicit literature are quickly overshadowed by fear and violence as the walls close in.
In BANNED BOOK CLUB, Hyun Sook shares a dramatic true story of political division, fear-mongering, anti-intellectualism, the death of democratic institutions, and the relentless rebellion of reading.
Average rating from 163 members
Graphic memoir was a really good medium for this story about students fighting against oppression in south Korea. It had an inspiring message and unique, interesting characters that really drove the story forward. Stories about speaking truth to power are particularly important right now and I appreciated the style and voice of Banned Book Club.
This book gives a very good look at a little talked about topic, at least it is rarely talked about where I am from. Books like this that discuss the history of social movements are very important in the current political climate of the world. The art is also very cute and expressive and does a very good job of capturing the emotion of the characters.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the importance of the story in the political world that we are living in now. How progress is t a straight line, but we can’t let that undermine the future or stand in the way of standing up for what we believe in as citizens.
This powerful biographical book tells an incredible story with lively, vibrant pictures. Readers will gain instinct into Korean history through the struggles of the main character. There are many opportunities for discussions with students reading this book. Most importantly, I loved how it showcased the power of knowledge, reading, and books.
The year is 1983. The place, South Korea. Hyun Sook is going to university, though against her mother's wishes, to study literature. However, her education is going to be more than novels and poetry. Her very first day, she must wade through the swarm of college students protesting, Molotov cocktails, and tear gas. On college campuses around the country, students are protesting the corrupt government. Despite her attempts to stay apolitical, Hyun Sook soon realizes that it is impossible, even in the folk dance group she joins. When one of the members invites her to a book club, she thinks she has an opportunity to make new friends and talk about books. And they do. The catch? All of the books they read are banned by the South Korean Government. A brilliant, thought-provoking, and timely debut autobiographical graphic novel written by Kim Hyun Sook, "Banned Book Club" provides readers a look at South Korean history from someone who lived it--and is still fighting to make her home a better place. "Banned Book Club" provides a much-needed narrative about politics and freedom of speech, particularly in Asian history and countries, as well as finding yourself and coming of age in times of political unrest.
"Banned Book Club" by Kim Hyun Sook is a wonderful graphic novel that blends both a story and history. The storyline is engaging and helps readers understand a bit more about the politics of South Korea and where censorship/banned books helped to shape political protest. This would be a perfect read to celebrate ALA's Banned Book Week or showcase with other censored books in a display.
Banned Book Club is definitely a story of our time while being told about the past. In the political climate of today's world this is an incredible look back to a time of censorship and fascism in Korea. Hyun Sook is invited to join a banned book club and while apprehensive at first she realizes over time that being apathetic about politics can be more detrimental than not. Her and her friends use her colleges tools and clubs as means to secretly defy the government while hoping not to get caught. This story discusses things like corporal punishment (we see Officer Ok beating boys for information), rape (also committed by Officers), and women's rights. While this story went by quickly in my opinion, it's refreshing to see people continuing to write about corrupt government as an act of defiance against them. Hyun Sook delivers a beautiful monologue at the end, telling her younger self not to give up hope and to continue to fight. That there will always be corruption and progress isn't always linear but it will always get better. If there is one thing you can take away from this story it would be ...read banned books! Can't wait for the pub date to come so I can add this to my personal and professional collection!
I just want to start by getting this out there... this was a great book on a topic I knew nothing about! It would pair really well with "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood" to look at oppressive regimes and the actions youth take to fight their oppressors. As far as format, the pictures in this graphic novel were beautifully drawn! So, so, so much of the story was truly told by the pictures. At times I found myself not reading the speech & thought bubbles, just reading the pictures - that's how detailed and informative they are. (Of course, I always went back and read the text! Didn't want to miss anything!) I also appreciated the layout of the panels. The panels were quite varied in size and number. This kept the pages interesting. But, the layout was always very easy to follow - something I struggle with in other graphic novels. And the story being told is just amazing! I will admit, at the beginning, I had trouble keeping characters straight. But once I got into the story, I truly couldn't put it down. The plot is fast-paced and full of tension; the risks these young adults took to get books outlawed by the government are just astounding! The fear of discovery and the consequences is tangible on every page. I can't wait for this to come out so that I can share it with students. I'm also thinking I may need a class set to use next year during National Banned Books Week!
Thank you, Kim Hyun Sook & @ryanestrada for using your talents to craft a story that reminds us of the value of books. In the fight against ignorance, hate, and injustice books truly are our greatest weapons. #bannedbookclubs #ireadbannedbooks
I really enjoyed this book and it opened up my eyes to this oppressive regime in a digestible manner. The drawing and story-line drew you in and had a great pacing. I really like the use of this medium for serious topics and I stayed up to finish it. Recommended!! I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
What a lovely way to experience history. This book takes multiple real life stories to give the reader a fictionalized “true” version of the protests in 1983 lead by college students. Most of it is the story of the author, but for privacy reason has changed many names and consolidated some stories. It all starts with the government banning certain literature. Particularly Western literature. Kim wants to read these stories. She wants to study literature. But her mother is not happy. She should be working and finding a husband. If anyone is going to go to school it should be her brother. But with help from dad, Kim goes to classes, and learns about things outside her little home world. While she loves to read she never realized that people could be thrown in jail for what they read. And for what they right. No one pressures her to join any resistance movement, they just say “hey why don’t you read what those in power don’t want us to read”. It’s eye opening. And while trying to stay neutral, she actually ends up joining protests, and helping lead more people to this literature that the government says is bad for people. I have to give snaps to the author for the ending. We never get a clear picture of what all happen. We follow Kim though her getting involved, and then jump to 2017 where she reunites with her friends in modern protest for their land and their government. The reader gets snippets of what the characters when through, like jail time, being teachers, evening staying involved in politics to make their world a better place. Overall I really enjoyed this story and learned quite a bit. There are parts that are a bit confusing, but I think that is from taking a long and varied history and converting it to graphic novel form. I think this book isn’t only interesting to read, but to discuss. I think it should appear on banned book lists, even if it itself has not been banned. It opens up a wider discussion on why people and governments police what others read. #BBRC #AuthenticVoice #ReaderHarder #journalism #GondorGirlGNChallenge.
First of all, I really enjoyed this book. Even though it is set in the not-so-distant past, its message still holds very true today. The basis of this memoir is challenging things you know are wrong, even when you're standing alone. Especially as a librarian, the message against censorship rings very loudly. I've read other stories that deal with similar issues, but this doesn't hold back. I wouldn't say it is graphic in nature, but it is clear what atrocities are going on that our main characters are fighting against. I won't give away the ending, but the message in the last few pages hit me hard because it is a very important message our youth should be hearing today. As a youth services librarian, it's great to see books like this showing our young patrons that it is important and right to stand up for what you believe and learn as much as you can to help make the world a better place.
I really liked this book a lot. It strikes the perfect balance of educational and entertaining; I learned more South Korea's history and found myself really drawn into both the story and the characters. Though it covers a historical period in another country, there are a lot of parallels to be drawn to the situation in the United States today, and it's an excellent to talk about both the past and the present. What's more, there's some great gay representation, which is always a pleasure to see. I'm looking forward to getting this for my library when it's published.
Banned Book Club was a truly remarkable graphic novel memoir. It’s about the 1983 protests lead by college students in South Korea against the military regime who censored, tortured, and murdered protesters. It is based on a true story. This story brought back a lot of memories from the few years I lived in South Korea because I literally remember my older teacher colleagues telling me about the country’s history of protests. This graphic novel depicted what I learned, and it felt surreal reading it again. I love how simple the pictures were and how easy it was to follow the author’s story. What made an even bigger impression on me is that the story is based on the author’s own story. I will definitely add this to my classroom to expose students to Asian history and show them the importance of freedom of speech and how easy it is to lose it - such an important lesson in today's political climate. Thank you NetGalley and publisher for this eARC. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
I enjoyed this manga-esque book told from a Korean perspective. It made me appreciate the freedoms I have in my country when it comes to content consumption. This book would be a great one to incorporate in a Banned Books Week display (for obvious reasons)!
‘Banned Book Club’ is the Daring Memoir That Comes Once A Generation Banned Book Club from Iron Circus Comics caught my eye from the beginning. I love reading about places I’ve never been, about historical events involving folks people who don’t look like me, speak the same language as me or worship the same way I do. I love comics from the Asian diaspora, especially manwha. Banned Book Club presents the true story of a South Korean woman’s student days in college in the early 1980s. Under an authoritarian regime she found — through the rebellion of reading — her purpose and learned how powerful a tool censorship can be. There is this wonderful thread in the narrative on art, on literature and the political nature of it all. My friends, let me assure you it is one of the best turning points for both Kim Hyun Sook and the reader. Our girl just wants to exist, and moreso try her hand at making a life for herself. We can’t fault her. So she reads her assignments, goes to her classes, joins a club, and tries to keep up. Yet at every turn, she is hella surprised when she is confronted with the fact that nothing is apolitical — from the tried and true plays of William Shakespeare to more traditional Korean art forms like the stories connected to Korean mask dances. It is a startling turning point for Kim Hyun Sook and a brilliant reminder for the reader as we can all turn a critical eye to all the media we consume now. From fairy tales and folklore from days of old to AAA video games we buy and heatedly discuss and debate on the internet. The artist, Ko Hyung-Ju, illustrates the adventures of Kim Hyun Sook and her ragtag band of friends effortlessly. Banned Book Club visually shines with a stark, black and white color scheme. What comes across the best are the emotions. We see nervous smiles on faces of girls entering bookstores looking for forbidden, banned books, the look of fear echoed in someone’s eyes when a government authority turns their sly grin their way in an interrogation room. The fast pacing of the book is enhanced by Hyung-Ju’s art with big, bold action sequences. Grittiness and softness both have their place in this narrative across the pages. That Ko Hyung-Ju? He has THE RANGE. I’ve always loved manwha, often placed second to Japanese Manga for years. This is a great representation of it to share with someone who is looking to get a start in reading it.
I had no clue about South Korea's history so this was fascinating to me! I picked it up solely based on the title, and was surprised/amazed by the content as it was not what I was expecting. South Korea was under a fascist rule in the early 80s, and this is Kim Hyun Sook's autobiographical graphic novel on her freshman year of college - when she discovered just how limiting her government was, and somewhat inadvertently got involved in the protests against it. When all she wanted was to be able to read any book she wanted! Books like this are exactly why I love graphic novels so much - it covers a topic I otherwise would never choose to read about, in an easy to digest format, especially when that topic is so important to learn about and holds so many good lessons and takeaways!
Fantastic book about subverting unjust authority. Great #ownvoices title. I think it would appeal more to older teens and adults so I am hesitant to add to my teen collection since my library's teen readers skew younger but overall a solid title.
Banned Book Club recounts the author's memories of a time of unrest in South Korea. In the 1980's, the protesters called for the president to step down, and the author found herself pulled into the struggle. By recounting those events, she ties them to the recent nationwide protests for President Park to step down. Because this is a political novel based on the author's own memories, this can be a heavy read. There's nothing heartwarming about the strict censorship or brutal arrests the author recounts. But this is an impactful story, strongly linked to today's political climate, and I think it's a valuable read for young people. Kim Hyun Sook encourages readers to question authority, educate themselves, and stand for their beliefs in the most trying of times.
A beautiful tale of dissidence and the importance of uncensored and freely available literature for all. This is an important text that should be integrated into many curricula.
A history I don’t know, but should. Relevant to all of us. Can’t wait to share this with students. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2937068620
This book surprised me. I wasn't sure what to expect going into it but I was immediately drawn into the main character's discovery of antiestablishment politics. It paints a brilliant picture of student revolutions and leaves the reader feeling hopeful, despite perceived setbacks in progress. The only critique I have is that there were one or two too many characters and they were difficult to keep track of.
This graphic novel blew me away! I am shocked by the amount of history and knowledge I gained from these pages. A large expanse of South Korea's political history appears in the text and with such compelling images. This story rings true for any time period and any country.
Recommended for fans of graphic memoirs similar to Persepolis. Banned Book Club tells the true story of South Korean student activists in the 1980s and ties their story to more recent activism in 2016.
This book takes a look at the corruption in South Korea in the 1980s, when the author was in college. Based on her life, but with peoples experiences and names moved around and mixed up, we get a good idea about what was going on in those times. Yum Sook joins a banned book club, because reading banned books gives you a good idea what the authorities don’t want you to read about. This looks at one year of her life, int he group, and what they’d I’d with their time, and how they help protests. At first Hyundai Sook looks as though she is terribly naive, and you fear for her safety, but then she turns things around and shows that she doesn’t take no guff. Engaging story. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review
Hi, I'm an ignorant American who was raised in the American public school system. I'm not dumb, and I try to learn on my own via reading books, magazine articles, web-based news (with a grain of salt) and watching various videos/documentaries online, but there are HUGE gaping holes in what I know. This graphic novel exposed one of those areas of lack of knowledge to me. I had NO IDEA that South Korea wasn't magically a democracy after the Korean War. I had no clue that there was a dictatorship and that the people of South Korea had to fight and revolt for democracy. I just assumed they always were democratic after the war. You know what I think would be a good high school/college class? One about democracy around the world and how the people had to fight for it, and the places where they are still fighting for it. This book would be required reading for that class. Honestly, I think it should be required reading for all Americans in the school system. When I went to school at least, we didn't get a lot about other countries, at least, not that I remember. To be fair, that was a while ago. Also to be fair, I don't recall most of what I learned back then. Or at least I can't differentiate it from what I just "know" and don't know where I picked it up. Maybe from school, maybe from a book, who knows? So, back to the book. It was amazing and terrifying and I can't imagine living in fear of the Government and having to fight for basic rights like voting and reading what you want to read. Yes, America has it's issues, but I'm not afraid I'm going to be dragged to prison by the police, beaten to give up my friends and locked up without due process because I was seen reading 1984 or the Handmaid's Tale. America isn't perfect and it is always possible to go in the reverse re: human rights, but I think there are a lot of people who are extra vigilant about making sure we don't lose our rights, so we haven't back-slid to dystopia, yet. This book is a good way to keep us awake and aware and not take our rights for granted. Yes, they got violent. I'm not pro-violence at all, but I am not judging what they did to get the freedoms they deserved as human beings. I think they were immensely brave and they did things I don't know I would be able to do if I was in that situation. So thank you Kim Hyun Sook, for sharing this with the world. It needed to be said and shared and I am glad that I was able to read this book. This is one I will be recommending to everyone. 5, life isn't always how we think it is and sometimes we need to fight for it to be the way it should be, stars. My thanks to NetGalley and Letter Better Publishing Services/Iron Circus Comics for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.
Interesting story about early 80s South Korea and the culture of university protests. I used to live in Seoul in the early 2000s and the spring and summer were known for student protests in Seoul. I didn't understand it at the time, but now I have a greater clarity at the tradition of protesting in South Korea.
I loved this book, it was an exciting story with so much heart and put me so perfectly in the mindset of the characters and a perspective that I knew of but hadn't really followed to all of its implications. The ending really blew me away too, that there is not resolution or solution in politics, we can only keep pushing for better and better and to stay vigilant. An excellent book and an important book, can't wait to start handing it to teens and adults.
I'm so happy I got to read this. It was a fantastic short read that really packed a punch. It's scary how this fight still goes on— the fight for democracy and the fight for what's right. The artwork is fantastic and I can't wait to own a copy when it comes out.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Letter Better Publishing for providing me with a free E-Arc in exchange for an honest review. Ok. Let’s first just talk about the front cover and the title. The bookworm in me could not resist. When I read the summary I was intrigued. However, I must admit before reading this amazing graphic novel I knew very little about South Korean politics. This nonfiction tale follows Hyun Sook as she leaves home to pursue her dream of attending college, against her mother’s wishes. After arriving at college she quickly realizes that the atmosphere and environment isn’t quite what she had envisioned. Although she tried to stay away from the student protestors, it became increasingly clear that wasn’t going to be possible. So Hyun joined the school book club in hopes of reading some of her favorite western literature. Unbeknownst to her she had just joined a book club that was ran by student protesters who read and discussed books that had been banned by the government. Initially terrified of what she had gotten herself into, Hyun soon learned that the protestors weren’t yelling to just cause a ruckus. They truly had something to say and deserved to be heard. In this realization she decided, she wanted to be on the frontlines to help ensure they were heard by the masses. “So you gotta wonder. Do they ban books because they see danger in their authors, or because they see themselves in their villains?” I highly recommend this novel for any collection. It truly is an amazing non-fiction graphic novel. The art, done in all black and white, made this an even more enjoyable reading experience. As I said in the beginning I went into this book with little to no knowledge on this subject but I left it feeling much more informed. Although this did not happen in the United States, it is still important to have knowledge about history outside of your own. Not to mention, what everyone can relate to in this novel no matter the country for which you live, is to fight for what is right and never stop believing in progress. “Progress is not a straight line never take it for granted.”
1983: Kim Hyun Sook's college experience isn't what she thought it would be. As soon as she arrives at her Korean college, she is shocked to see students protesting. Hyun joins what she thinks is an innocent book club, but is terrified when she discovers it's a BANNED book club. She runs away, afraid of losing her scholarship or disappointing her father by being arrested or kicked out. But her curiosity gets the better of her and soon she's down a rabbit hole learning things that shock her about her own government and country (Korea). She attends an illegal news screening and helps to create and distribute flyers of banned writing. Many of her friends are captured and beaten for information. The book is based on real events and real people (names changed for protection). The book ends with a history lesson on the events that happened to overthrow a corrupt politician in Korea in '16 and '17.
This book couldn't come at a better time. This graphic memoir about the author's college days in South Korea during a time of upheaval and police brutality is strikingly similar to current politics and struggles in the United States today. Information is parceled out by the characters so it doesn't become an info dump. The characters have distinct personalities and "voice" so the reader can keep them straight. I love that a graphic format was chosen to make the story accessible to more readers.