Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Censorship is (Anti-)Gay! [a paper on book challenges]

This post is a paper that I wrote for a children's literature class at my university.  I figured, since I received a good grade, that I would share it with you here, on my blog, in case you're interested.  Feel free to leave comments and responses, as usual.

Censorship is (Anti-)Gay:
Exploring a Selection of Challenged Children’s Books Containing Same-Sex Couples

There are many children’s texts that are beginning to explore gender variance and queerness within individual identities and family structures. A number of these texts are quite helpful for children and adults to attempt a familiarization of non-heteronormative family structures. A book such as And Tango Makes Three (Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson) can be incredibly useful when providing information for a child who questions whether or not homosexuality is natural, while a text such as King and King (Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland) can help children explore alternative forms of marriage that are not problematized or stigmatized. Other books, however, can be less helpful due to stereotyping or else the message can be diluted because of cultural and institutional pressures. Heather Has Two Mommies (Lesléa Newman)and Daddy’s Roommate (Michael Willhoite)have been frequently challenged as presenting unrealistic family situations and having children play mouthpiece to a supposed homosexual agenda. Of course, timing is at play in situations like the latter two, as they were published in a time when homosexuality was an even more taboo topic than it is today.

And Tango Makes Three

The plot of And Tango Makes Three is a simple one, following two male penguins (Roy and Silo) as they meet, build a nest together, and eventually hatch an egg together. This heart-warming tale of sexual diversity was written by Richardson and Parnell in an attempt to bring forward the topic of same-sex couples to children in an accessible and (with the help of Henry Cole) adorable way. Richardson is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia and Cornell Universities, and is, therefore, able to approach this topic with a critical eye that is backed up by a history of psychiatric training. The authors also provide a note at the back of the book which authenticates the realities reproduced within the pages of the book. The history of the penguin couple is present as is the historical information surrounding their meeting and role in the upbringing of Tango, their baby. This is a wonderful example of what B. J. Kass classifies as “social diversity or even, perhaps, ‘tender topics’” in children’s literature. 

There has been terrific backlash surrounding the book, however, and it is because of this that certain aspects of the story must be considered. The first of these involves the illustrations and the anthropomorphizing of the penguins through expression and emotional attribution. Roy and Silo, while illustrated with all the realistic characteristics of a chinstrap penguin, also embody very human emotional responses. Henry Cole has created lovable creatures that show happiness, confusion, and sadness through facial expressions that actual penguins cannot perform. When the two penguins realize that the male-female couples are hatching babies, they are illustrated in a way that provokes a feeling of sadness and uncertainty, with the corners of their beaks suddenly forming into frowns while the other penguins have a smile on their faces. 

This is one of the difficulties of any story that contains anthropomorphized animals, but in this case it is complicated by the fact that the story is actually true and the real animals have no way of expressing these emotions. With this in mind, it is understandable that children could become confused and have much more emotional investment in the illustrated penguins than in the real thing. Because of this, many groups have expressed outrage at the story for portraying same-sex relationships as sympathetic and have since attempted to get the book removed from libraries and classrooms across North America (American Library Association).

King and King 

Linda de Hann and Stern Nijland’s King and King is a typical story of finding the right person to marry, but is atypical in that the bride and groom are both young men. The first young prince is supposed to be looking for a wife, and so his mother sends out invitations all over the land to get princesses to come visit. After meeting a number of these princesses and feeling nothing for any of them, the prince begins to lose hope. But at the last minute, one last princess arrives, along with her brother, another young prince. The two young men see each other and fall in love immediately. They eventually get married and the kingdom is happy. 

The book has come under fire from its North American debut in the early years of the 21st century.  Within the book, there are a number of instances in which homosexuality is presented as normalized within the fictional world: “At last, the prince felt a stir in his heart. It was love at first sight” (19-20). The normalization of same-sex attraction is contrary to the heteronormative social expectations and also goes against the general consensus regarding same-sex marriage in the United States. When the two princes get married, there is no opposition within the text, conveying to children the idea that same-sex attraction is not something abnormal: “The wedding was very special. The queen even shed a tear or two… The two princes were known as King and King” (23, 27). The negative reactions of conservative groups have made the reception of King & King very tumultuous. 

In contrast, some review journals, such as Booklist, have found the book to be a very positive literary example for children. Gillian Engberg, in Booklist, called the book “a winning Dutch import for parents looking for an original tale with a gay slant.” The book was also called "brief and lighthearted" and the illustrations "whimsical.” As well, "whimsical, textured collages mix beautiful papers, fabrics, and bright paint in scenes that show the bossy queen, the wildly imagined town, the eclectic princesses, the wedding, and finally, a kiss between the two starry-eyed princes. Adults will know what's coming early in the story, but many kids won't. They'll simply like the fun artwork and the final twist on conventions" (1856). Controversy has surrounded the book, but at least some sources understand what children will see in the book, namely colourful illustrations and a poetic story. Another controversial children’s picture book, however one without much in the way of artistic merit, is Leslea Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies.

Heather Has Two Mommies 

Heather is a young girl with two mothers. The text explores the childhood experiences of a young girl with same-sex parents. Newman’s book explores the experiences of Heather as she interacts with other children and her mothers, showing a normalized portrait of a family with same-sex parents. The text gives the history of Heather’s birth, her upbringing, and her time in school, comparing family structures with other kids in her classes. Adults and other conservative groups attacked this book right from the beginning, arguing that it promotes a homosexual lifestyle and undermines traditional family values. In “Queering the Picture Book,” Melynda Huskey asserts, “[h]ardly anyone tried to defend Heather on its literary or artistic merits: at thirty-six pages, it’s too densely textual for children the age of its protagonist (three) and its graceless black-and-white illustrations lack the energy or skill to engage the eye during the relatively long time required to read each page out loud” (66). Unlike King & King then, Heather has little to redeem it except that it is the first book of its kind. This should be taken into account as there was no book from which to learn certain lessons about portraying same-sex characters in a picture book. 

Linda Salem, in Children’s Literature Studies: Cases and Discussions, writes, “[o]bjections to Newman’s book include showing different kinds of families, negative reactions to the anatomical details depicted in the book, and the use of the words sperm, egg, breasts, and belly to describe pregnancy” (106). One of the other girls at school with Heather actually has two dads: “’I don’t have any mommies. I have two daddies,’ Stacy says proudly” (15). It is statements like this that caused controversy initially, the fact that Stacy is proud to have two dads. In the eyes of many conservative groups, heterosexual couplings are the type of relationship to be strived for, not homosexual. Much like Tango and King & King, “[b]oth Newman [author of Heather Has Two Mommies] and Willhoite [author of Daddy’s Roommate] have been accused of promoting sodomy, militancy, prostitution, bestiality, and incest. The books were removed from New York’s Rainbow Curriculum designed in 1992 to teach respect for all racial and ethnic groups” (Salem 107). Michael Willhoite’s Daddy’s Roommate is a particularly poignant example of a text attempting to normalize the existence of homosexual partnerships to young children. 

Daddy’s Roommate 

This book is about a young boy who lives in a home with two fathers. When the boy was young, his father left his mother for another man, Frank. The two men live together and the young boy gets to visit them. The young boy narrator makes a number of frank and non-heteronormative explications that have given rise to a number of instances of censorship and book banning.  The first of these starts near the beginning of the book: "Daddy and his roommate Frank live together, work together, eat together, sleep together, shave together, and sometimes even fight together" (3-8). The boy does not automatically associate this with the term gay until it is spelled out later by his mother: "Mommy says Daddy and Frank are gay” (24). 

In this book, Willhoite shows that homosexual relationships are as perfectly acceptable and equal to heterosexual couples: "Being gay is just one more kind of love" and “love is the best kind of happiness" (26-27). In this case, the most worrying part for some is the fact that a heterosexual marriage was broken up for the sake of a homosexual relationship between Frank and his daddy. Controversy surrounds such lines as the one above about the two men sleeping together and illustrations of the two men touching, holding hands, and rubbing suntan lotion on each other. Many instances of censorship have mentioned these issues as being too explicitly sexual for a children’s book. The book does at least spend time exploring an alternative way of seeing same-sex parents that shows the origins of the relationship and the ways that heterosexual relationships and homosexual relationships are both valuable. 

Conclusions and Discussion 

Having explored the main points of each book and a few reasons for the censorship and controversy surrounding them, it is time to discuss the concept of censorship and the difficulties surrounding the act. The exploration of these topics is not something that should be limited or kept from children, especially in schools and libraries. A number of scholars have written articles on and explored censorship and the implications that censoring books have toward children. 

Perry Nodelman and Mavis Reimer, in The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, speak to the act of parents keeping books from their children for fear of destroying their innocence. “In trying to protect children, however, these adults may well be doing more harm than good…. It also deprives adults of the opportunity to discuss these matters with children, and to share their own attitudes with them. Without such discussions, adults might actually diminish their control over children rather than increase it” (102, 103). Nodelman and Reimer continue, asserting that censorious practices by parents and others only serves to prevent children from learning: 
[Children] have special need of knowledge as a resource to make sense of new things. Those who are deprived of knowledge of certain attitudes or forms of behavior and, therefore, prevented from thinking about why they might be harmful, are the ones most likely to take such attitudes or commit such acts. To deprive children of the opportunity to read about confusing or painful matters like those that they might actually be experiencing will either make literature irrelevant to them or else leave them feeling they are alone in their thoughts or experiences. (102-3) 
Nodelman and Reimer aren’t the only ones who feel this way either. The act of censorship keeps children from learning valuable life lessons. But the act of publishing also says something about the progress of society as well. 

The very act of creating children’s books with gay and lesbian content proves that there has been a certain amount of progress in society over the last few decades: “These books speak to changing societal attitudes. Although homophobia remains with us, and same-sex marriage has become a political issue, these books show that in some ways society has made progress toward acceptance of homosexuality” (Cole 124). All the books discussed in this paper—Heather Has Two Mommies, Daddy’s Roommate, And Tango Makes Three, King & King—reveal a certain amount of progress by the very act of their existence. Each author is making a statement by writing about different family structures for child audiences. The books are all far from perfect, some containing stereotypes, some containing didactic text, and others guilty of being just plain unappealing to the eye, but each is also a step forward in sharing knowledge and teaching about diversity. 

Though adults are not always open to diversity, as can be seen through the initial and ongoing reactions to each book. And this leads to issues of censorship; Censorious people want “children to be as pure and as devoid of knowledge as they believe children are supposed to be” (Nodelman and Reimer 104). Assumptions abound surrounding censorship, about what adults believe children can and cannot handle. In every family the expectations may be very different as to what parents will allow their child to be exposed to, but in school and library situations, where there is greater access and more incentive to teach about issues of diversity, it can be difficult to know what should be taught to all students, and what should be left for parents to decide. However, according to the works of Nodelman and Reimer, and Cole, it would seem that to deny children is to the detriment of their ability to learn about diversity and different family structures. In any case, there are available children’s books with gay and lesbian content and they should be, if not explicitly taught, at least be made available to all children, and not be hidden through acts of censorship.

Works Cited

Cart, Michael, and Christine A. Jenkins. The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969-2004. Toronto: Scarecrow, 2006. Print.
Chick, Kay. “Fostering an Appreciation for all Kinds of Families: Picturebooks with Gay and Lesbian Themes.” Bookbird 46.1 (2008): 15-22. Print.
Cole, Pam B. Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century. New York: McGraw Hill, 2009. Print.
de Hann, Linda, and Stern Nijland. King & King. Toronto: Tricycle, 2000. Print.
Engberg, Gillian. "King & King (Book)." Booklist 98.21 (2002): 1856. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 15 Mar. 2011.
“Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century.” American Library Association, n.d. Web. 16 March 2011.
Newman, Lesléa. Heather Has Two Mommies. Illus. Diana Souza. Boston, MA: Alyson, 1989. Print.
Nodelman, Perry, and Mavis Reimer. The Pleasures of Children’s Literature. Toronto, ON: Allyn & Bacon, 2002. Print.
Richardson, Justin and Peter Parnell. And Tango Makes Three. Illus. Henry Cole. Toronto: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.
Salem, Linda C. Children’s Literature Studies: Cases and Discussions. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006. Print.
Wiles, Heather. Controversy, Censorship, and Children’s Literature. 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <>
Willhoite, Michael. Daddy's Roommate. Boston, MA: Alyson, 1991.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Watch out for Manga at the Border!

According to an article by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), a young man was recently taken aside at the US/Canada Border for possessing what the border guard claimed was child pornography, but which was actually a collection of manga on his computer.  According to the CBLDF, he "is facing a minimum sentence of year in a Canadian prison and being forced to register as a sex offender. Just for having comics on his laptop."

The legal costs for the young man are estimated to be around $150,000, which the CBLDF has agreed to help pay for.  "The CBLDF will also provide access to experts and assistance on legal strategy. The CBLDF’s efforts are joined by the recently re-formed Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund, a Canadian organization that will contribute to the fundraising effort."

This is truly a sad phenomenon from a country who tends to be known as being more liberal on many fronts (equal rights for LGBT people and gay marriage, for instance.)  To me it is an embarrassment that there could be so much fear-mongering regarding comic books, graphic novels, and manga.  The article by the CBLDF goes on to warn international travelers who like to read comic books:
This isn’t the only case of comics being targeted by customs officials. Last spring cartoonists Tom Neely and Dylan Williams were on the way to a convention when they were stopped at the border and art comics in their possession were seized. In fact, Canada Customs routinely seizes comics of all kinds, as you can see here. If you or someone you know is traveling internationally, please read our Advisory on traveling with comics before getting on the plane.
Come on Canada, and get your act together.  Comics are not what is going to ruin the lives of Canadian Citizens, at least not in any way I can figure out.  Be vigilant and keep tabs on what's going on at our border.  And if you want to help out with the defense of this young man, there is a link in the article that will allow you to donate.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Without a reading, book banned in Richland [Washington]

I was extremely disappointed to see this headline in my inbox this morning.  The article in the Tri-City Herald was extremely short and contained the following information:
RICHLAND, Wash. The Richland school district is banning a book, even though the committee in charge of the decision did not read the book. 
The Tri-City Herald reports that the district's Instructional Materials Committee has decided to ban Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" because of profanity and sex scenes. 
However, members of the committee made the decision based on student and teacher feedback. They conceded that they had not read the book
The board voted 3-2 this past week to ban the book for all students, rejecting ideas to let older high school students read it.
I put one sentence in the above article in italics and bold-face to emphasize the disturbing nature of this decision.  The fact that a board was willing to make a decision to remove a book, not only from the curriculum, but from the entire school district, without having read the book!  How does this make any sense?  An academic can't write a critical paper without reading a book.  A critic can't write an article about a book without reading it (unless they want the backlash that Mrs. Gurdon got a short while ago.)  So how can a school board vote to ban a book without actually reading it?!  Sure, they based a decision on some feedback, but how do they know the feedback was valid if they can't compare it against what was ACTUALLY IN THE TEXT!?

Sorry, but this sort of thing makes me incredibly angry.  I am all for allowing a debate about a book, or even having a panel or committee make decisions about a book if they have taken the time to read it, look at the overall themes, and gauge the content in a hopefully unbiased setting.  But this is obviously biased as the decision was based on nothing but hearsay.

I won't continue as I'll end up repeating myself and only succeeding in getting more upset.  I hope that there is some protest regarding this sort of behaviour from a school board as it is the first step on an incredibly slippery slope as has been the case for a number of schools in the last year.  If you happen to live in the area and read this blog, please let me know what you think.  Am I off the mark?  Am I making something out of nothing?  I want to hear your opinions.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Choices Likely to be School Board Election Topic [Washington]

An article was brought to my attention this morning from the Tri-City Herald.  The article, by Jacques Von Lunen, highlights the role that classroom book selections are about to play when electing new members of the Richland School Board: 
Long-standing controversies about which novels should be offered to Richland students are bound to spill into this fall's school board elections. 
At least one incumbent on the board has drawn a challenger who has promised to change the criteria used to select literature used in English classes. Another challenger is a member of the district's book selection committee.
While not everyone running for the positions is concerned about the books being chosen for inclusion in Advanced English courses in the district, two candidates have said that the subject played a role in their decision to run.  The man with the most investment in this issue is Dave Serell:
[T]he district still does not use enough caution in its book choices, said Dave Serell, who is running for the seat held by Rick Donahoe. 
Serell targeted Donahoe specifically because of the books Donahoe voted in favor of while on the school board, Serell said. 
"The main issue for me is that some of the books (the board members) have approved seem inappropriate for students," Serell said. "I have a different view than what they decided in the last two years." 
Books used in school should "instill positive values" rather than "drag people down," he said.
While I do not have a problem with book selection being a factor in the decision to run for a school board position, what I do have a problem with is unsubstantiated arguments against certain books.  The last statement of Serell's shows that he subscribes to the writings of people such as the lovely Mrs. Gurdon, of recent WSJ article fame.  Serell's assumptions regarding what will instill positive values are not entirely clear, but his follow-up about books that "drag people down" seems to be very much connected to Gurdon's ideas about dark books being somehow detrimental to adolescent and young adult development.  What arguments like this forget is that dark themes are not without hope (at least not all the time.)  Novels and texts with darker elements are often full of positive themes that arise from engagement with the edgier material.

I could be wrong, I have been known to be, but I think that Serell is going to be a strain on the already delicate nature of certain texts in classrooms.  Back in February of this year, there was a challenge to Snow Falling on Cedars, which was covered in another article in the Tri-City Herald.  The author of the article, Phyllis Strickler, of the school board, warns against the use of the term censorship when speaking of taking a book out of the curriculum.  I agree, to say a book is banned because it is not allowed to be taught, is a bit harsh.  But the principles behind the removal of a text can still be ridiculous, and removing a book still constitutes a challenge to the book, the basis of which can be criticized.  Strickler writes,
Several members of the Instructional Materials Committee, which makes recommendations to the school board for approval of materials, have suggested that some type of standard would be helpful in determining the appropriateness of language arts materials as many novels contain vulgar language and graphic sexual descriptions that are offensive to many
A community standard of being able to read aloud the book, without offense to self or others, might be one such standard. Another might be whether it would be acceptable language/descriptions to print in the local newspaper.
Strickler uses a lot of phrases that are incredibly subjective and would be impossible to utilize as standards for looking at books in the school curriculum.  The first issue with these "standards" is the first statement that I have highlighted in bold text: Who is going to decide what is too vulgar and too graphic?  One person might feel that teens in bed kissing is too graphic and "damn" is far too vulgar, while another person might feel that anything aside from penetrative sex is acceptable, and "f***" is fine, as long as it's not used too many times.  Also, who are we wondering about it being offensive to?  Are we talking about the students or their parents?  The students are the ones reading the books, so personally, I think it should be their standards that are taken into account.  The parents might not like the books, but we've seen how bad it can get when the parents try to decide what's right for the classroom.  Can we say chaos?

The second problem with Strickler's standard is the idea of being able to read a book aloud without offense to self or others.  Talk about walking a tightrope!  If this is the standard, no books will make it into the curriculum every since there's bound to always be someone who will be offended by a given text.  I get the feeling that Strickler didn't think this one through before she vomited her opinion onto the page.

So what am I trying to say in this post?  I'm not against curriculum and book review committees.  I'm not against challenges to books.  It's what happens in societies with freedom of speech.  What I have a problem with is impossible standards that simply dilute the learning process and put innocence on a pedestal as if teens are going to be terribly corrupted by an instance of sex or coarse language in a novel. Teens are smarter than we think.  Let them read a good book for a class and let them decide if it's too much for them!  Granted I'm talking about Middle School and High School, but these articles are regarding Advanced English classes.  One would hope if the kid is intelligent enough to be in such a class, they're able to read a book without falling apart or running to their parents at the first mention of sexy times.

*head shake*  I think I went a bit off topic.  Whoops!

Questions, rants, hate-mail?  That's what the comments section is for :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Voice of Youth Advocates - Intellectual Freedom Issue

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) magazine recently released the Intellectual Freedom Issue.  If you don't subscribe to the magazine, I suggest you take the time to at least read the online version of this issue (by clicking on the link above.)  There are articles on a whole range of interesting topics.  Here's an example:
  • Groundbreakers: Books that Made a Difference (Pam Spencer Holley)
  • Nine YA Authors Speak About Intellectual Freedom (Joel Shoemaker)
  • I'm With the Banned (Lauren Myracle)
  • Using Controversial Literature with Young Adults (Daniel Kellerman)
Each author takes a look at a different area of interest regarding freedom of information, freedom to read, and the role of libraries and librarians when it comes to children and reading choices.  There are also articles on topics that I don't think need to be controversial, but seem to be, such as GLBT resources in libraries and classrooms as well as other, more classic book selections.

VOYA is a great magazine and this issue takes up a lot of topics that are very relevant in contemporary society when looking at books, freedom, censorship, and other related areas of interest.  The articles by, and which contain interviews with, authors known for their censored books and other literary endeavours are particularly interesting, at least to me.  Chris Crutcher, sometimes seen as being controversial for controversy's sake has a great piece on the "Challenge of Protecting Free Speech."  Whether or not you agree with his fictional writing, this article is worth a look.

The Intellectual Freedom issue has a good variety of perspectives from authors, educators, academics, and publishers that all deserve to be read and discussed.  If you haven't read any of these pieces, you can find them on the digital edition of the magazine through this link or go to and click on the Digital VOYA section.

And no, they're not paying me to advertise.  I just really like this issue of the magazine.

That is all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

YA Under Fire

WARNING: This post may make some people angry or frustrated, but that's not my fault. Also, there is some coarse language in some of the quotations contained herein. Deal with it.
Let's start by me reminding you that I am all for free speech and just because I think the article I am speaking about here is absolute bull does NOT mean I think it should never have been printed, but simply that I disagree with pretty much all of the opinions of the author.  So to start, I'm going to take you through a few bits and pieces of the article in question.

"Darkness Too Visible" (Meghan Cox Gurdon, Wall Street Journal)

Mrs Gurdon has taken it upon herself to open up an argument regarding the merits of darkness in YA fiction, but she does so with little fact and a lot of opinion and bias:
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.
Darker than when you were a child?  Who exactly is she talking to?  Is she really of the opinion that works of fiction were somehow less dark and disturbing way back when?  Perhaps these books were not marketed to teens, but I assure you, books have had questionable, dark content for a long time.

To make things even more fun, Gurdon made a list of books that she feels she can recommend to teens, including Fahrenheit 451... uh, excuse me?  Really?  She wants kids to read about censorship and the detriment of taking away the freedom to read as one wishes, while writing an article decrying the literature that teens are reading?  Yeah, I'm confused too...

"Young Adult Fiction: The Poison is the Antidote" (Rachel Krueger,

I don't have much to add as Krueger makes a lot of wonderful points on her own, so I will let her words speak for themselves:
Gurdon calls teen fiction “a hall of fun-house mirrors” that reflect “hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.” I don’t know what means this “hideously distorted.” Dark And Brooding YA is necessary and valuable and popular because this sort of shit happens in real life. (Okay, maybe not the werewolfy bits. But the sudden upheaval of becoming a werewolf [combined with unexpected growth of hair]? Triumph of analogy.) 
Let’s leave aside for the sake of brevity and of my poor, furious heart that the article discusses YA fiction as though it were a homogenous mass – as though Alyson Noel’s angsty Immortals are equivalent to John Green’s smart-talking, prank-pulling, good-hearted teens. Let’s also leave aside the inherent problems in the sidebar “Books We can Recommend for Young Adult Readers.” (Ship-Breaker is a book about a BOY and is therefore for BOYS and girls will be like, I don’t understand this dystopic business, where are the prom dresses? True Grit is about a girl but she is BADASS so it is ALSO for BOYS because girls should stick to books about “love-struck medieval girl[s] gone mad” [Lisa Klein’s Ophelia]. Who can breathe when they see this in print?) 
I feel like I am stating the obvious, like I am arguing that water is excellent for thirst or that apples and baby wolverines are, in fact, two different things. But here we are, having this conversation, and I am both boggled and saddened by the fact that some people still think YA will keeeel you (metaphorically, emotionally, ethically). Instead, it is those teenage years that will kill you. YA might be the only thing to save your ass.
And then there's Roger Sutton, who sums up my thoughts wonderfully in this beautiful statement from his article.

"Again?" (Roger Sutton, Read Roger)
If you're a teen who is running your reading choices by your parents, grow up. If you're a parent who feels compelled to approve your child's reading, shut up. The books and the kids are all right.
Please, people, for the love of all that is wonderful and literary, leave YA books be!!  Besides, it's easy to write about literature for teens from an adult perspective and make adults think that what you're saying is awesome and great, but have these people read the books from a teenage perspective?  I don't think so, because they're not teens!  Do they not remember their own childhoods where they disagreed with their own parents about what they could or couldn't do, read, or who they could and couldn't hang out with?  For crying out loud.  In the immortal words from The Simpsons, instead of thinking about your biased adult selves, would you "Please, think of the children!!!"

[End Rant]

Feel free to disagree, make comments, etc.  As usual, I welcome your thoughts.


Two brand new responses to the WSJ article have come across my desk today:

1) "Kid Lit World Responds to WSJ Attack on YA Fiction" (Rocco Staino, SLJ)
At 11 p.m. that same evening, author Maureen Johnson (left) suggested on Twitter that the defenders of YA literature express their views on the subject by using the hashtag #yasaves. Within 20 minutes there were thousands of tweets—and just like that, #yasaves became the third highest trending topic on Twitter in the United States that night.
2) "Has young adult fiction become too dark?" (Mary Elizabeth Williams,
It's our job as parents to protect our kids, even as they slowly move out into the world and further away from our dictates. But there's something almost comical about raising them with tales of big bad wolves and poisoned apples, and then deciding at a certain point that literature is too "dark" for them to handle. Kids are smarter than that. And a kid who is lucky enough to give a damn about the value of reading knows the transformative power of books.
3) "Young Adult Fiction is Not All Doom and Gloom" (Josie Leavitt, PW Blog)
Any bookseller or librarian worth his or her salt can recommend a list of books as long as your arm to counter the gloom that can be found in the YA section, that both parent and teen will be happy to read. The author spoke scathingly of Lauren Myracle’s Shine, a tough book to be sure about gay bashing, but hardly fitting for the 13-year-old whose mom wanted to get her a book. Why not get her Myracle’s other YA book, Peace, Love and Baby Ducks, instead? There is balance to everything, and it’s just so unfortunate that Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article had none.

Friday, June 3, 2011

I blame the plague!

My apologies for the lack of posts this week.  I've been terribly sick and my brain hasn't been all that functional the last few days.  I will try my best to be back up to two or more posts a week by next week!  Thanks to everyone who has been reading, commenting, and giving insight into the world of censorship over the lifespan of this blog!