Sunday, June 5, 2011

{Blogger Babble} A Response:

On June 4th The Wall Street Journal, specifically Meghan Cox Gurden wrote an article that has sent the YA world, authors and bloggers alike, in a frenzy.

I would like to utilize the wonderment that is the internet and my blog and do a response to her article. Don’t worry if you haven’t rad her article yet, which can be found here, I will be copy and pasting parts of it into my response, and then responding to each accusation. I promise to use my normal snark and openness to tell you how I feel.

WSJ: Amy Freeman, a 46-year-old mother of three, stood recently in the young-adult section of her local Barnes & Noble, in Bethesda, Md., feeling thwarted and disheartened.

She had popped into the bookstore to pick up a welcome-home gift for her 13-year-old, who had been away. Hundreds of lurid and dramatic covers stood on the racks before her, and there was, she felt, "nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." She left the store empty-handed.

MMSAI: Dear Mother for 13 year old. You’re daughter is obviously not an avid reader otherwise the state of YA literature wouldn't be such a shock to you. Being that I’m willing to bet a package of Magnum Ice Cream Bars on the fact this simple fact, going to buy her a book for a gift I, well I’ll be honest – you’re the worst present buyer in the world.

Last –  I applaud you at your ability to make this seem more dramatic by putting the small handful of really dark books in your piece.Nice tactic. Maybe you could have used “How to Pole Dance” and “Bomb Making 101” to really drive it home. That will help scare parents out of letting kids read all together. Super!

WSJ: How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.

MMSAI: Certainly don’t disagree – YA has changed drastically since the days before fire which must be from when this uptight journalist and mother of a 13 year old are from. It’s changed since I was a kid when I read Sweet Valley High (which, I’m sorry was not all innocent either, they just kept it in the book then on the covers) and The Baby Sitters Club.

This change in YA, didn’t come from nowhere,have you been living under a rock? You’re picking on books?! – go after the department stores that promote showing skin in the catalogues for young kids, or the music industry, go afther the movies…. you will find that dozens of movies have been made from these recent books and NONE have parental warning on them, nothing more then a PG-13 rather. But again – way to go on your research!

 

WSJ: Now, whether you care if adolescents spend their time immersed in ugliness probably depends on your philosophical outlook. Reading about homicide doesn't turn a man into a murderer; reading about cheating on exams won't make a kid break the honor code. But the calculus that many parents make is less crude than that: It has to do with a child's happiness, moral development and tenderness of heart. Entertainment does not merely gratify taste, after all, but creates it.

If you think it matters what is inside a young person's mind, surely it is of consequence what he reads. This is an old dialectic—purity vs. despoliation, virtue vs. smut—but for families with teenagers, it is also everlastingly new. Adolescence is brief; it comes to each of us only once, so whether the debate has raged for eons doesn't, on a personal level, really signify

MMSAI: I’m looking back over the teenagers I know, the ones that spend their time NOT reading, but mostly on facebook, you tube and listening to the suggestive music that’s on the radio today – usually are the ones that end up with bad grades, attitude issues and family problems…

Then again the readers I know, the avid ones – wouldn't you know they tend to have amazing grades, they have respect, I haven’t heard of ANY one shooting up a school because of a book? In fact I’m willing to now double my earlier bet of a pack of Magnum Ice Cream Bars that if you start interviewing the people in juvenile hall you will find they were not readers before they went in.

 

Okay, cutting and pasting that drivel onto my blog is making me hurt physically. So I’m done, he’s what I have to say at the end of this:

Yes YA has changed. Everything has. Books. Movies. Music. Everything. You want to do something about it that will help you out? Adapt. Because you can’t stop it. I’m a YA book blogger but don’t think that I’m not keeping track, noting what I’ll be ok with my kids reading as they get older. 'I’m not stupid, and just because I read it doesn’t mean I feel it will be ok for my kid at 13. But I have a brain in my head, and I choose to use it also. My kids will have boundaries, not a free reign over the mall with an American Express. I will know what my kids listen to and read – just as I do now.

Reading is like everything else -- something parents should spend more time noticing about their kids. If you want to complain that your child is reading garbage, then do a better job of educating yourself about what's out there. Set limitations, BE A PARENT. Don’t blame the industry for your lack of child rearing skills. There are blogs out there dedicated to finding non-dark books for kids to read, sites that help YOU understand the series they are reading with out having to read it yourself. It’s called research, try it.

Above all else I am SICK TO DEATH of parents who put all this effort into fighting the world about things like this when they could have spent half that energy and just got to know their kid and their reading habits. You’re all lazy idiots. The WORLD is not responsible to raise your kids, YOU are supposed to protect them, and understand them and pay attention – and if they wind up with a book about suicide, or a gun or pregnant at 14 because they didn’t know any better the only person they have to blame – IS YOU. So don’t show up in  a book store, or a department store or a movie theater and act like you are shocked at the content with in – all your saying is you have been to self absorbed to notice the world around you andyour children.

I am done now. Irritated I had to spend my morning coffee reading such trash when I could have been buried in one of my YA novels. (oh yea, that last one was intentional)

5 comments:

  1. i agree with your frustration over parents who blame the industry. to discredit anything - movies, books, tv, etc - as a whole is dangerous and most assuredly the easy way out. also, a sign of lazy parenting.

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  2. Everything you said is so true. Especially about parents raising their children, not the world. So many people forget about that. What really makes me mad is I KNOW that I heard about much worse things than what is in YA novels in middle school.

    Why cripple your 13 year old? I bet if you asked her about some of these things she'd tell you more than even you knew. I mean seriously?

    I just love how reputable magazines and journals are holding The Most Unqualified To Write This Article searches and then having THEM write "important" pieces on stuff they don't understand. If you want to talk about YA, go to the people who write it or at least understand it.

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  3. I'm only just learning of this now - I can't believe that article!

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  4. Well put! I like your interview-style play-by-play, too. That would have been a good way to tackle the weaknesses in her argument (but there were so many).

    It wasn’t just a bad argument (or unsound, I suppose) – but one of the most obviously one-sided “articles” I’ve ever read on the subject.

    I had to respond with my take on the issue as well. I’m more of a literature/classics reader, but I did become a strong supporter for YA and its benefits – “Darkness and Light in Young Adult Books” has my thoughts about the whole thing. :)

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  5. Great response style! I definitely think the key thing is kids who read about stuff and kids who do it. The two generally aren't the same. Readers can explore different worlds, different risks without doing them. And they get educated about the consequences, even if it's not a preachy book. Non-readers have to discover it on their own.

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