‘Banned Book Club’ by Kim Hyun Sook, Ryan Estrada and Ko Hyung-Ju is a dramatized account of Hyun Sook’s life as a South-Korean student activist in the 1980s. The story starts off with a young woman excited about her first day in college, but what she encounters on campus is far from the ideal environment she had in mind – angry protests against the current President and cop vs student clashes. And if you aren’t familiar with South-Korea’s political history, it’s best to treat this book as a fictional account (like I did) and go with the flow.

The year is 1983, Hyun Sook slogged through two jobs to save for college, where she hopes to study and steer clear from politics. But when the charming Editor of the school newspaper asks her if she’d like to join a book club, she is thrilled to bits, hoping it would enable her to discuss her favorite fictional classics. Sook soon realizes it’s a club exploring banned material and discovery could lead them straight to prison. So she panics and tries backing out of the club, but the spirited members make her re-think things.

The artwork is simple, sketch-book/doodle style, expressive and joyous. There’s something youthful about the panels that capture the protagonists’ fear, excitement, angst against the system. The creators vividly capture the role of students in political movement and how the totalitarian military regimes suppress dissent in the most insidious ways, imposing heavy censorship to hide and distort ground realities. ‘Banned Book Club’ celebrates the act of reading, how it can empower people to look beyond the blinkers their rules want them wear.

Depending on what page you are on, the mood tends to dramatically shift, from violent defeated scenes, to moments celebrating friendship, love and rebellion. The climax ends with a mini reunion of Hyun Sook and her friends in 2016, readers are informed how their lives turned out to be after their stormy student years. ‘Banned Book Club’ is worth reading for anybody who likes reading graphic novels and doesn’t mind a politically packed story grounded in realism.

It’s a 4/5 from me.

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Ep 15 – Banned & Censored Graphic Novels – What’s The Fuss About ?