Monday, June 6, 2011

WSJ vs YA

By now I'm sure you've all heard of this little article here. And by 'little' I mean long, ugly, and not something I agree with, but that's the author's opinion, and she has every right to it. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, please go read it now and come back. I'm not going anywhere.

...Finished? Good. So now that we're all on the same page, I'd like to take a minute to express my own opinions and then point you in the directions of a couple of other things to read.


I saw the article by Meghan Cox Gurdon Saturday when it exploded all over Twitter, leaving YA authors and readers furious and hurt and sad that someone could think there was nothing appropriate for teen readers and that the books offered today are nothing more than dark and gruesome.

I don't want to rant and rave about this. I don't want to go into the evils of censorship or the rights of parents to say what is and isn't appropriate for their child. I do want to tell you that this is not a new argument. People have been arguing over books and their contents forever and will continue to do so. Why? Because I agree with YA author Libba Bray: books ARE dangerous. They hold knowledge and secrets, and through them we tend to learn a little more about ourselves. With their help, we learn and we grow.

Books are powerful, so I understand the fear of introducing something dark and dangerous into the lives of children. But the world isn't exactly rainbows and butterflies. There is darkness everywhere, whether you see it or not. And isn't it better to read about the horrific things that happen to others, to experience pain and heartache in a controlled setting so that you may learn how you react and feel about certain things, to learn that you aren't alone, to see someone so low rise above terrible circumstances? Or is it better to shield them from the ugly parts of the world and hope that when they come face to face with something dark or sinister in the real world that it doesn't completely destroy them?

We let children watch gruesome and dark movies at younger and younger ages, and, let's face it, more often than not they find it regardless of whether or not they're allowed. It's safe, then, to assume that the same thing applies to books. Attempt to take something away, to limit access to it, and the people will find a way to get their hands on it. All of this has happened before. All of it will happen again.

Now then, when the article appeared on Twitter and spread like wild fire, everyone had something to say. It even got its own hashtag in response called #YASaves, and I recommend checking some of them out if you haven't yet. But there are two things I'd really like you to read to balance out Gurdon's claims and opinions. (Because every great debate requires at least two sides.)

This response popped up yesterday and does a good job defending YA and explaining exactly why things are labeled the way they are as well as discussing appropriateness. And in a series of Tweets, Libba Bray had this to say:

"I'd like to roll my eyes at this article, but I can't. And not just because one of my eyes doesn't move that way. But because I genuinely believe that these articles are hurtful, that they goad banners & keep much-needed books out of the hands of the teens who should be reading them. Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. They open us to new ideas, new ways of seeing. They make us hurt in all the right ways. They can push down the barricades of "them" & widen the circle of "us" And when one feels alone--say, because of a terrible burden of a secret, something that creates pain and isolation, books can heal, connect That's what good books do. That's what hard books do. And we need them in the world." 


And I agree. Do you? 

3 comments:

Tere Kirkland said...

Couldn't agree more. I'm just glad YA has so many well-spoken advocates (who knew?) to stand up for the genre. Books may be getting dark, but they can't be judged by subject matter, leaving the actual content to be ignored.

I was most surprised the article didn't lash out at the huge number of adults who read YA, passing on the blame. Hopefully our secret is safe for a few more years. ;)

Shedrick said...

Nice summation of the argument...and thank you so much for the mention of my blog!

Amanda J. said...

Tere, I was actually surprised they didn't attack older readers as well. But to be able to write an article on how dark YA is, you'd have to read it yourself, so maybe that's why she left the adults who read it alone.

Shedrick, I had to pass on the good word. :) Thanks for speaking up!

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