Monday, June 6, 2011

Young Adult Fiction.

I started out with a teaching career, and because of it, found myself reading a lot of Young Adult Fiction. The teaching career went away, but not the love of that genre. Because of this, I follow a few YA authors's blogs. Sunday afternoon, I read blog after blog defending the genre.

Why would Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak, or Diane Duane, the author of the Young Wizards series, or countless other authors and teens tweet about this?

Because the Wall Street Journal published an article claiming that "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity."

Well yes, some of it is. The new rash of YA Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic fiction is harsh. But that goes with the category. The Vampire and Werewolf books are too. Again, comes with the category.

Their issues are with the books that have basis in real problems that real teens share: suicide, rape, sexuality, eating disorders, bullying, abuse. Laurie Halse Anderson wrote: "Teens are drawn to YA books when they don’t have loving, trustworthy adults in their lives who will listen to them. Kids who have been raped, harassed, neglected, abused, ignored, misunderstood – the list seems endless sometimes – open these books in search of answers."

So what is the problem? According to Meghan Cox Gurdon: "Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue." Teens do copycat, but thinking that cutting or eating disorders are glamorous because of a book is silly. Most of these novels don't glamorize it. They show how destructive and dangerous these behaviors are.

In the end, I think the answer is simple. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!! If they are reading books that you find too graphic, ask them why. Ask your kids how they felt about the material. Ask them if they know of anyone in that situation. just talk.

I'm going to end with Anderson's words on the subject.

I know what makes people like Meghan Cox Gurdon afraid of YA literature. I mentioned it during the BEA panel on censorship. As a preacher’s kid, and as someone who loves a lot of conservatives, and lives in a rural, conservative community, I understand the adults who are terrified of YA books. I feel compassion for them.

Because it’s not the books they’re afraid of.

They are afraid of their inability to talk to their kids about the scary, awful, real-world stuff that is out there. And they know, deep-down, that even if their own children are blessed with violence- and trauma-free childhoods and adolescences, their kids will daily come in contact with other kids who aren’t that lucky. So they know they should be talking about this stuff, but they don’t know where to start. And when their kid starts reading books about subjects that make Mom and Dad uncomfortable, the reaction is to get rid of the book, instead of summoning the courage and faith to have conversations that make them uneasy.

That is sad. Kids and teens need their parents to be brave and honest to prepare them for the real world.

In my experience, the parents who scream the loudest about YA books tend to have younger kids. They become aware of the genre when their oldest child enters middle school, just as they are realizing the enormity of the challenges of parenting teens. As their family survives the bumps along the road of middle and high school, they become more confident in their own parenting skills and they accept (sometimes embrace!) the opportunities presented by these books.

Great young adult literature connects us. It bridges the darkness. It saves lives. Thousands of people are testifying about the life-saving abilities of YA books on Twitter. I urge you to read their thoughts, and to share your own stories here, at the Wall Street Journal, or on your own blog or social media space.

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