Thursday, June 9, 2011

MyTwo Cents

Posting a link a day without much (or any) commentary on my part probably shouldn't count for my "one-post-a-day-for-the-month-of-June" vow. But work's got me down and it's been difficult to muster up enough energy to be both witty and interesting, and consistent.

Anyway. I've been following this WSJ controversy fairly closely, and I'm having regrets that I'm not on Twitter to participate more fully. Do I think the Megan Cox Gurdon is totally off the wall? Well, I realize the point she was trying to make--that YA lit has gotten so dark and so gritty, parents may be concerned about the effect these books have on their children. Point taken, Megan, I'd be lying if I said I haven't read any recent YA books that I'd be very leery of handing over to, say, a 12-year-old.

That said, my own reading material, back in the sixties and seventies, was never monitored by my parents. Nor did I ever restrict my own children's reading material. Yes, I knew what they were reading, and, in most cases I was okay with it. If I wasn't (Stephen King comes to mind) we discussed it. But I never snatched a book our of their hands and screamed why are you reading this trash? I trusted my children to make the right decisions. They read what they were interested in. I was just thrilled they were reading..

One thing that annoyed me about the article was Gurdon's not-so-subtle book bashing, e.g. referring to Cheryl Rainfield's SCARS as "dreadfully clunky." Seriously, even if she'd found the novel flawlessly and exquisitely written, would she have admitted that in print? I doubt it. After all, I think she'd avoid saying anything positive about the book. What if a positive review tempted a child to read the book and then later decide to slice herself up? I highly doubt Gurdon would want that on her conscience.

What REALLY ticked me off was her baseless assumption that "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."

Okay, Meg--show me the scientific study that says that children who read books about "pathologies"--particularly kids who might otherwise never have imagined these things--decide to try these pathologies out.What? No study? No scientific evidence. You mean it's just your opinion? Perhaps you should say so.

FYI: Funny, I've been reading murder mysteries, thrillers, and true crime stories since the age of 12 and not once have I toyed with the idea of shooting, stabbing, or dismembering anyone. Neither have my children, who grew up with the dark YA novel denigrated in the article, not to mention reality TV and video games. Neither have the children of anyone I know. And, trust me, I know a heckuva lot of people.

I've heard many, many YA authors say, and I've said it myself, that we write the kind of stories we wish had been available to us as teens. We "older" authors understand that completely. Younger authors are fortunate to have been able to experience these new and challenging stories from the get-go. For the rest of us, there's still a passion for the newer, grittier, identifiable literature that stems from our being deprived it while growing up.

And by the way, you younger authors--how are you faring after being so inconsiderately exposed to all that "damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds"? From what I've seen, you seem to be doing just fine--and writing brilliantly. :)

As Laurie Halse Anderson reminds us: "YA literature saves lives. Every. Single. Day."

Never forget it.

ETA: I mistakenly named Lauren Myracle as the author of SCARS instead of Cheryl Rainfield, which amazes me after I made a point to read Rainfield's response to the WSJ article (and BLOGGED about her, no less). Thanks to those of you who pointed out the error.

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