Sunday, June 5, 2011

Way to Fail, Wall Street Journal

I don't usually post pics like this, but it's way too appropriate.

I wasn't going to blog today because I was going to bury myself in Imajica (which I've been doing), but there's an article that I read this morning that has bothered me all day and I wanted to talk about my reaction to it. I'm sure most of you know the article I'm talking about: "Darkenss Too Visible," which was featured on the Wall Street Journal's website. In it, Meghan Cox Gurdon, rails against the "hyper-violent" nature of YA literature, citing novels such as The Hunger Games (written by Suzanne Collins) and Jackie Morse Kessler's Rage.

In addition to being full of wrong assumptions and misinformation, Gurdon clearly seems to have a vendetta against anything published in the last, I don't know, 25 years. I've mentioned several times on this blog that I'm not a fan of the YA genre, but it's because I find many of them to be repetitive, boring, poorly-written, and because I have a hard time relating to their (mostly) female protagonists (although there are lots of exceptions that I've found over the years). Never in my life have I once thought, "Oh, these are too violent; people shouldn't read these."  Part of this is because I don't mind reading about sex and violence; part of it, and this is most important, is because I've been a teenager and I know the struggles that people face. I can see how YA novels could be a comfort to disaffected youth who, rightly, feel misunderstood, lost, and alone.

There are issues, I think, that aren't even worth complaining about--breakups and broken hearts, petty friend-related drama, popularity, bad grades, etc. These, however, are not the problems that most teenagers obsess over, no matter what their parents like to think. Weight problems, divorces, abuse (mental, physical, verbal, and/or sexual), health issues, overwhelming expectations that they feel they'll never meet--here is where the real battlefield is; the place where teens collapse under pressure; the place where eating disorders, self-mutilation, abusive relationships, and other forms of self-hate form. Societal norms battle with teenage goals and aspirations at a time when males and females are developing into who they are meant to be, both physically and mentally. Is it no wonder that with hormones raging and pressure mounting that some teenagers need an escape?

YA lit can help them to flee from the things that haunt them, letting them know that they aren't alone and that there are other people out there who have suffered the things they have. Gurdon complains about books that talk about sex, violence, cutting, incest, etc. What she can't seem to comprehend is that these things don't just exist in books. Drug use, suicide, rape--all of these things are very real and affect thousands upon thousands of teenagers in the States and countless more across the globe. Where does she get off complaining that there are writers out there who are willing to write about the inequalities, injustices, and horrors that permeate our society? And how can she fail to overlook that it is imperative to discuss these themes if we ever have a hope of fixing the deeply rooted problems in the world?

I can't even agree with the idea that there should be an age limit. I was never censored by my family in terms of what I read. They never saw a book as being "too old" or "too young" for me. They instilled in me a love of the written word and left me to discover what I liked to read best. I read adult romance novels at the age of 10 and still delve into kids books at the age of 25. I never discriminated between books based on intended age, gender, race, etc. I just read whatever I could get my hands on. This indiscrimination made me a stronger, smarter, more discerning person. It gave me critical thinking skills and it educated me about issues, identities, cultures, and institutions that I might not have been educated about otherwise. My vocabulary grew so much that people in high school often told me that they felt like they should have a dictionary handy when I was speaking to them. This isn't bragging; it's the truth and it's a truth that people like Gurdon appear to want to shield children from.

Kids and teens aren't stupid. If they don't experience horrors on a personal level, they at least see them on the news or hear about them from friends. Books, especially YA novels, have a way of drawing people into these issues, informing them, or helping them to cope. For example, a girl who has an eating disorder may find comfort and hope reading a book like Kessler's Hunger; her friend, who knows nothing about eating disorders; may finally come to an understanding and figure out a way to help her troubled friend by reading the same book. Similarly, teen girls (or guys) who have been raped or sexually assaulted may take solace in Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, while her worried sister may read the book and finally see what it is that her sister's been hiding from her.

I am sickened that people would dismiss YA literature based on its content when adult (even classic) literature, contains a lot of the same. It may not be as graphic or it may be worse. Some of the comments on Gurdon's article were from parents complaining about YA lit and saying that they only let their kids read classics. First of all, way to keep your kids under a tight leash. How do you expect them to become adults if they're stuck having you control everything they read? I believe that reading is imperative to become a mature person and that having a choice in what you read is even more important. Secondly, how do you explain books like The Catcher in the Rye or Native Son? Both books contain themes that could be considered "inappropriate" and yet these are classics, books that are read in high school and college English classes. Third, when do you stop being a helicopter parent and let your kids grow up? When do they start feeling like they actually have some control over their lives? Is it after high school? After college? After you're dead?

We have been a nation that is obsessed with keeping kids safe and healthy, but we end up doing more harm than good. A parent afraid of kidnapping keeps their kid inside and the kid eventually decides that it's better to just sit around and play video games and he or she becomes obese. A parent who is afraid of their kids watching the news (and I have a friend whose mom was like that) is in danger of raising an ignorant kid who has no idea what's going on in the outside world. Parents scrub their counters and use anti-bacterial everything in the hopes that their kids will never get sick and yet what they don't realize is that they are endangering their child by contributing to the proliferation of resistant strains of bacteria and by inviting even the simplest of illnesses to cripple their children by not allowing anti-bodies to develop after exposure to diseases.

My point is that this article is not just about books. This article is about a prevailing mentality, a dangerous zeitgeist, that has been gripping our nation for far too long. It's important for kids to make decisions, to get sick, to make mistakes, to read things parents think they shouldn't, to take risks, to get dirty. It's important for teenagers to be able to think critically, to be educated about the dangers of the world so that they can be prepared in a risky situation. It's also important for them to know that they are not alone, that not everyone in the world is out to get them. They need to feel that their parents care enough to let them wander a little, to let them grow up to be something other than a clone of their mother or father.

I am appalled that there is such a large number of people out there who think that censoring reading is okay and, even, healthy for their child. It isn't. It's detrimental to maturation, to mental development, to socialization, to education, and to spiritual well-being. It stunts academic as well as personal growth and it creates adults who have no clue as to what they think, believe, want, or know.

Shame on you, Gurdon, and on all of those ignorant parents commenting on your ridiculous article.

YA saves!



  1. What a great post!!! I enjoyed reading every word of it and I totally agree with you.

  2. Ignorance, that's what it comes down to. They haven't read the books and rather than learn for themselves if this 'violence' and 'dark' material has a point they jump up and down and condemn everyone and everything. The comments section is upsetting to say the least.

  3. Still, I will say that I'd rather my child learn what violence, hurt, pain, joy, friendship...etc...from my mouth before anyone else's. Therefore, I will censor what my children do or do not read and watch. I'll even go as far as censoring the people that influence their lives. And there are going to be things I'm not going to let them watch, read or see. Mainly because they are my responsibility to raise and I know I will always give them the truth. However, I do believe there is a point of maturity that a person needs to distance themselves in a way of not always going and asking mom and dad. There is a point in a persons life that they will actually need to make decisions on there own. And I hope that through what ever trying I gave my child, that they make the right decisions. I don't have time to reread what I just wrote so I hope it makes sense :]

  4. Anne: Thanks! I get really passionate (and angry) over things like this, especially where the media is concerned. Their sole function is to disinform and to make us dumber, which is sad. It used to be that the news actually made you more knowledgeable; now it just makes you a sheep.

    Kayleigh: Agreed. One of the comments said that it seemed like Gurdon hadn't even read these books and I think that's exactly what it is. The examples that I used in this post are books that I've actually read (Kessler's novels and Speak). I would never write about something that I hadn't experienced for myself in one way or another. This woman isn't a journalist; she's a glorified high-school-essay-writer.

    Nonners: You made complete sense. That is your prerogative as a parent and, in the end, I need to respect your personal choices. From what I know of you, however, you'll be the kind of parent who *does* talk about these things with your kids. There are other parents who never have discussions about issues, whether they be personal, political, religious, moral, historical, etc. Knowing the kind of books that your mother encourages you to read, I have a feeling that you'll do the same. Your kids may not watch the news, but they'll be informed.

    I'm angry, mostly, at the parents who keep their kids in a box, both inside the home and out; the ones who are ignorant and don't pay attention to what goes on around them. I'm not talking about the parents who make choices for their children with their best interest in mind WHILE they are actually taking the time to raise their own children. You are also not a (so-called) journalist, therefore your choices are your own. Gurdon is writing for a nationally syndicated newspaper and is, in essence, pushing her own agenda on others. Journalism is supposed to be unbiased and is supposed to report the news, not what one individual believes to be true. You are respectful of other people to the point that, while you may not agree with what they do, you don't overly push your own ideas on them. You have discussions with them, but you don't just shove leaflets in their hands and say "Believe!"

    I didn't read this over either, so I'm sorry if *I* don't make sense. :)

  5. Well, here are a few points that I thought about when reading you response.

    First, I'm may not be a journalist, but I am a influential writer. Everyone who reads my blogs (I have four) are influenced by me. That is not to say that instantly agree with me, but they hear what I say (read what I write...whatever) and have to process it in their mind and then come to a conclusion about it in their own minds. But over all, I did in fact influence their decision, whether they agree with me or not.

    Second, this article was found in the books and ideas section...isn't this the place where you write about books and ideas...and ideas are always 100% someone else's opinion are they not?? And book reviews? No?

    Third, if you want to get mad a a type of journaling go after those who practice yellow journalism. Bunch of nit wits. (In my opinion :] No pun intended)

    fourth, I need to number thins or it won't look nice...and I just can't do messy (when writing anyway. It bothers me).

    Fifth, I'm sure of my self when I say, I don't think there will be a time where I won't want to explain something to my child. But I do feel it necessary to keep them in the dark, I will. There are some things in this world tat ruin innocents. And if it was my will, my child's innocents would never be marked. Do you understand what I'm saying? I'm trying really hard here to portray exactly what I'm thinking. If there is something that I see or have myself experienced in the world that I know killed part of my pureness at heart, in body, in mind or my innocents...I will do my best to warn my child against it and I will only give enough information to them to warn them against it. Does that make sense? Have you ever heard the, "Because I Said So." phrase? It's sort of like that. "You don't need to know because as your parent I know that any information about that subject will just peak your interest and you'll be after it. Therefore, trust and know that I will forever make ever effort to give you the best protection and I will always have your interest at heart."
    wheew...that was a mouth full.

    And lastly, sixth, what you have just explained to me is not what I got from your post, which is why I posted a comment in the first place...

    You said, "I am appalled that there is such a large number of people out there who think that censoring reading is okay and, even, healthy for their child. It isn't. It's detrimental to maturation, to mental development, to socialization, to education, and to spiritual well-being. It stunts academic as well as personal growth and it creates adults who have no clue as to what they think, believe, want, or know." and I pretty much explained to you in my last comment that, that is exactly what I will do. So now I'm a little confuzzled. :] Perhaps I'm just missing something. Which is likely the case, I haven't read you blog in a while...that could be an issue. :]

  6. When it comes to the big picture I'm against censorship. There are certain responsibilities on the part of a parent when it comes to what movies a child can watch or what books they can read - personally, I wouldn't let my kid read a horror novel that I know is going to cause them nightmares or keep them awake all night. As for the real life issues that are presented in books, I wouldn't stop my child from reading a book about rape, self-mutilation, drug use, sex... anything in that scope. However, I wouldn't just leave it to a book alone. I absolutely believe that parents need to be more open with their children and DISCUSS these issues with them.

  7. Oh My Word...look at all those spelling mistakes I made!! For shame upon my self :[

  8. See, I actually see the difference between horror and self-mutilation and rape in a different way. I think I'd actually encourage horror and not the others. Horrors such as classic horrors, Frankenstein, Dracula...along those lines. Where as for the others that you mentioned, I would never allow my child to read a book specifically about those things...if hey were implied or not the main focus I would...but not if they were actually about those things.

  9. Nonners: I think where the disconnect is in terms of my post and my response to your comment is this: I have a friend who was sheltered so much in high school to the point that she really did not know what was going on. Anything. At all. We would talk about something and she'd be like, "What do you mean X happened?" Her mother was very overbearing in that she wouldn't a) let her daughter watch the news and b) would never have discussions with her about anything that was going on. (Obviously, there were other things she did that drove me up the wall, but these are the most relevant points.) What I said to you was that you would actually be involved in the raising of your children, whereas she never was. I have a feeling that, barring things you think will scar your child, you would talk to them about things like the War on Terror or presidential elections or things of that nature. Her mother just sort of floundered around, never talking to her about what was important in life (news, history, faith, etc.). I don't mean to say that it's inherently wrong to want to care for your child's mental health and to not want to upset them but there's a difference between controlling every aspect of their life and NOT talking to them and controlling of aspect of their life and taking the time to actually discuss things with them.

    That being said, I will respect (although not agree) with the choices that you make for your children, but I can do that and still rail against parents who leave their children completely uninformed and in a bubble. I don't see you as being the kind of person who wouldn't allow your kids to play outside, get dirty, or know that there are evils in the world. Parents who try to shield their kids from EVERYTHING are the issue, not the ones who try to shield their kids from some things.

    I could have you completely pegged wrong, and for that I'm sorry. Regardless, I think that journalists do have a responsibility to tread the line between bias and objectivity. Yes, it was in the ideas section and, yes, book reviews and things are that nature are opinions, but the way she was writing this article, it didn't seem like an opinion or an idea. Her wording of the article made it sound like she was presenting facts, things that are immutable. I'm sorry to say that I don't find ANYTHING to be immutable, especially not some journalist's article.

  10. (My original post was too long so I had to cut it in two.)

    I was not trying to insult you when I said that you weren't a journalist. What I meant was that this woman has more of a chance for her words to be read than you or I do. Yes, you have influenced people who read your blogs. Hell, I wouldn't have started reading C.S. Lewis if it hadn't been for your reviews. The issue is not about journalists versus bloggers; the issue is about journalists being respectful. The WSJ is a bigger newspaper than most and it's going to be read more often than any book blog you can name of the top of your head. This article was, in a way, a shot heard round the world. It started as an article and ended up as an internet phenomenon, spread from Twitter account to Twitter account, blog to blog.

    Also, the real issue here is censorship on a global level. It isn't just about the housewife in San Antonio or the doting dad in Seattle. This is about how books have constantly come under fire--Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Harry Potter, the list goes on and on. When people believe that something should be censored, most of them mean in their own household. Many, however, think that it should be for everyone, which is what leads to book burnings and library pickets.

    I could literally go on and on about this, but in the end it all comes down to this: people can choose what they want to do in their own homes, but when it beings to affect other people who don't have the same beliefs, it becomes a problem. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough in my post or my initial reply to you, but this whole issue just makes me so angry that I might not have a 100% handle on what I'm typing. At heart, my belief is that it should be to each their own. Stop worrying what I do in my house and I'll stop worrying about what you're doing in your house. But that's not how it works very often. Instead, people keep pushing and pushing until Harry Potter ends up in a barbecue pit or Huckleberry Finn gets taken off of reading lists. I don't like it when people who WANT to read something are prevented from doing so by people who don't like. It's wrong to think that people can press their own agendas on others.

    Perhaps my post pressed my own agenda on people, but I don't think it did. I simply presented my side of the story, my beliefs, in response to what someone else was already trying to peddle. Gurdon started it and, believe me, my post was tame compared to what some people's responses were.

    I barely noticed the typos, to be honest. It didn't keep me from understanding what you were trying to convey.

  11. Hannah: Agreed. Discussion is such a huge part of being a parent, especially when a lot of schools beat around the bush when it comes to certain issues. Horror is one thing, although there is some merit in getting scared from time to time, but there are horror books that are "age appropriate".

  12. Nonners: I'm having a hard time trying to think of books that are solely about those topics. Most of them have a deeper meaning, like acceptance, strength, coping, hope. Books like Speak tell young girls who have been raped that they are not the only ones and that, while it hurts, you can rise above your attacker. Books like Rage and Hunger tell people who engaging in self-harm of any sort that there is help out there for them and that sometimes that help can come from the most unlikely of places. They are created in order to help people deal with what they are feeling and thinking and have saved countless numbers of teenagers from committing suicide. I'd say that that's more important than censorship.

    Many teens don't tell their parents when something bad has happened so when it does and their parents forbid them from reading books about characters that have faced the same issues, it becomes harder for them to cope. I would much rather my child find comfort from a book if he or she doesn't feel comfortable telling me about it than wallowing in the pain and suffering with their own thoughts, all the while thinking that they're alone.

  13. Here's a thought, maybe (because it was an opinion themed article) the journalist of that article was simply expressing their views on the subject, just like you are here. It is their job to express what they think about the subject. Also, let's just think about this for a second. You have how many followers??? 81?? What if you wrote a review about C.S. Lewis that said he was absolutely stupid and couldn't write worth a lick? You just told 81 people you dislike C.S. Lewis' books and that they shouldn't read really is the same thing. Even if it is on a smaller scale...

    You said, "Also, the real issue here is censorship on a global level. It isn't just about the housewife in San Antonio or the doting dad in Seattle". What if my child becomes the president? What if my child has a child whose child will be the president, king, someone who makes big divisions? What if my son becomes some great leader? Does it then not reach a global scale? I think it does. So please don't say that my decisions don't effect everyone around me and therefore everyone around them and everyone around those people. Because they do. Maybe I'm still not getting it? What do you think?

  14. @ Nonners: In the books I've read and books I haven't read but friends have that had rape, self-mutilation, etc they've had an act at the center, but they also tend to deal with the feelings of the individual. That gives the kid reading them a chance to understand an aspect of life and humanity in a way that you may not be able to teach them. That's primarily why I don't agree with you on that front.

    As to horror novels; I would encourage my child to read classics - horror or other types. After all, classics are classics for a reason. However, as a parent, you know (or should know) your child's maturity level, what they can or cannot handle. I would not let my child read a horror novel if I knew that they could not handle it.

    @ Gabriel: Lets be honest, some schools beat around the bush, some avoid entirely. This is one of the huge reasons I think that parents need to discuss controversial topics with their children. They need to be honest. They need to expose them to sources that can educate their children when they don't have the knowledge or resources to do it themselves.

    I don't disagree that a good scare can be just the thing - hell, I seek out books that will give me a chill every so often - but as I mentioned before, I believe in being mindful of what a kid is and isn't ready for. Even if it might be considered age appropriate by an outside source, some children are simply above the 'average maturity' (or whatever else you might want to call it) and some just are not there yet.

    Hopefully all that makes sense...

  15. Again, my children will never read those books. Not unless my husband tells me to let it go. Otherwise, they won't touch them until their my age. Also, if you have a) a rebellious nature or b)a love of book reviews (meaning for example, I almost always look for the bad reviews so I can read those books to make a decision on my own) you won't listen to what other people say anyway. So I don't think those books are now in danger of being read. If anything they just got a lot of free publicity.

  16. I think maybe you're just taking it personally. And yes, when I say I dislike something, I'm telling a whole bunch of people that I dislike it. But that doesn't mean that they shouldn't read it. I've read bad reviews of books that I loved and I've read good reviews of books that I've hated. The point is that I read them. What this woman was essentially doing was telling people not to read based on her opinion. If I don't like a book that doesn't mean that I'm going to ban people from reading it. It just means that if they ask my opinion I'll say "Eh, it just wasn't my thing."

    Words have meaning and they have power and not giving people, especially teens, the chance to pick and choose the words they prefer to gain power from is, in my mind, wrong. I don't think that a teenager who reads books with sex and violence in them is going to grow up to be a horrible person, nor do I think that those books will affect that person's decision making if they become president. In fact, I would much rather have a president whose parents didn't censor him and who allowed him to gather differing viewpoints rather than being told what to think and believe. A lot of parents DO create clones of themselves and sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes it's not. The parents who understand that their children are different people than they are and who give their children the freedom to find out about the world for themselves are, in my mind, preferable to the ones who shove things down their kid's throats. That's the way I feel and I won't apologize for that. I've seen the products of parenting in an authoritarian way and it's not pretty. I have a friend from college who won't listen to anything anyone has to say if it goes against what his father said. He's a really smart guy but he can be so uninformed and ignorant.

    I wasn't at all saying that what you or I say doesn't affect people, all I was saying is that I don't ever expect that my reviews are going to make the rounds on Twitter. This woman's article did. That's all I was trying to say.

    And, no, I don't like what she said and that's not going to change. You and I will have to agree to disagree because I am in no way budging from my beliefs on this matter.

  17. Oh!! Okay I get what you are saying now Hannah. Before you had written,"As for the real life issues that are presented in books, I wouldn't stop my child from reading a book about rape, self-mutilation, drug use, sex... anything in that scope." You said that you wouldn't mind letting you child read a book *about* i.e. rape. Which lead me to believe it was a book about specifically rape. I still won't let my children read those books that Gabriel was talking about until I thought they could handle it but otherwise I get what yo're saying now. And it sounds a whole lot less freakier than what I thought you were saying :] Sorry.

  18. And I'm not trying to make you budge. But I do think you are taking her article to personally. And I'm not trying to force my thoughts on to you, but I think there are a lot that you didn't take into consideration. And you've always been up for a debate in the past, but I see you're not really caring to right now. Sorry.

  19. Hannah: It absolutely makes sense. I will admit that my maturity level was already higher than the average kid my age by the time I started to read books of a more, shall we say, sensitive nature. Living in a one-parent home, I grew up early out of necessity and I honestly don't regret that. What I read when I was twelve may not be appropriate for someone else who is twelve, but I think that teens especially should have some say over what they choose to read. Kids, yes, are a different matter, but I think by the time puberty hits, it's time for parents to lay off a bit on the reading restrictions. While I'm not a parent (and I don't know if I ever want to be), I know how I would have felt if my mother or grandmother would have said, "You can't read that, you're too young." My grandmother herself was raised by a woman who was strict about what she read and grandma understood that sometimes parents just don't get that their children are more ready than they think they are.

    Horror is, of course, a different ball of wax. I don't like horror much and I'm 25. I enjoyed Goosebumps and Fear Street as a kid, but I was never tempted to pick up King or anything like that. I know there are kids who are, and that's fine, but there's a big difference between being careful about nightmares and trying to keep your child from being prepared for the world, which is, I think, the point you were trying to make as well.

    The fact that both parents and schools today prefer to keep their heads (and their children's heads) in the sand is ridiculous. It's doing no good whatsoever to pretend that there isn't war, murder, drugs, etc. out there. In fact, at my high school, the pregnancy rate skyrocketed after they had implemented an abstinence program...even with continued sex education. Sometimes we just go too far in trying to protect people and it backfires on us.

  20. @Nonners, of course a parent has the right to dictate what they feel their children can and can't handle in a book, but that isn't what all the fuss about this article is about. Ignoring all the gross hyperbole, one-sided arguments and general ignorance on the subject, ultimately the author is discussing books she obviously hasn't read and passed on her judgement that they're muck and detrimental to development to parents who also haven't read the books. The issue isn't that they're inappropriate for kids, perhaps they are, the issue is that they're condoning the censorship of books they have no knowledge about because of a central act or premise. Because they haven't read the books they do not know whether the books are unseemly or not and until they have read them they have to right to pass judgement on them. You wouldn't review a book you haven't read so she shouldn't either.

  21. that should be *no* right not to right

  22. Nonners: Sorry, it really isn't you. I've had a crap day and I'm sorry if it seems like I'm taking it out on you. I do understand what you're saying, even if I don't agree, and perhaps I am taking the article personally. But there's just so much that Gurdon wrote that I (and a ton of other bloggers) have taken offense to. I've seen post after post today from book bloggers and tweet after tweet from people who aren't even vaguely connected to the book blog community about how inherently wrong this article is. Certainly, there will be people who disagree with us, just as we disagree with the article. It's just that the overwhelming majority of things that I've read today about the article have been negative which means that there are a ton of people who are "taking it personally."

    And usually I am up for a debate, but for some reason tonight, I'm just in a really bad mood. :(

  23. Kayleigh: Spoken much better than I could have done. This is exactly the issue, among others. It's not about attacking people for their beliefs, it's about journalistic integrity and calling for something out of ignorance. It's like parents who banned Harry Potter without even reading it. It's the reason why I read the first Twilight book so when people who heard me complain about it asked if I'd read it, I could say "Yes."

  24. I only wrote a short response to this subject on my blog as most people have covered things better than I could have said. My point being, before YA came along, us teens read ANYTHING and those classics that are taught in schools contain lots of nasty themes. But that's OK, cause they're classics ;)

  25. I saw your post and I completely agree with everything you said. One of the comments mentioned how violent the Bible was and it reminded me of something that happened in eighth grade:

    I really disliked my English teacher that year because he was a pompous wanker, but he told the greatest parent story I have ever heard. Years before I was in his class a mother came in for a parent-teacher conference and started ranting and raving about how the books he was having them read for class were too violent. At the time, they were reading White Fang by Jack London. When my teacher asked this woman what she would prefer her son read instead, she replied, "The Bible!" He looked at her incredulously and said, "Ma'am, have you actually read the Bible? White Fang is far less violent than the Bible."

    I think one of the problems is that people who don't read classics want to sound smarter than they are so they go "Oh, yeah, the classics, they're awesome. Way better than this crap you get today," when really classics are often just as "bad." For me, literature is only "bad" if it's poorly written. Content in no way hinders my reading of a book, no matter how dark, violent, or sexual it is. If it's a good book it's a good book and I don't care how much cocaine a character shoots up or how many "f-bombs" are dropped.

  26. The classics thing was one thing that annoyed me most in the comments section, especially one who said his (?) recommendation was to only read things from no more recent than 100 years and that no quality novels have been written since then. WTF! I love classics, but I wholeheartedly consider myself a contemporary fiction gal and to unless you have physically read every book that has been released in the last 100 years how could you possibly know there has been no quality works?!

  27. Also, I lol'd a little at how many whiny failed YA writers were commenting on the article, "now I know why those 18 publishers refused to publish my manuscript, it had no swearing, blood or vampires." It couldn't be that your manuscript is a little bit rubbish could it?!

  28. Kayleigh: I saw that, too. I was like, "Excuse me, but that means that you're calling Vonnegut and Lee and Nabokov and Orwell and a whole score of other contemporary authors rubbish!"

    Some "authors" don't want to admit that what they write is shite and therefore won't get published. I don't tap dance because I know that I'm crap at it; I'm not going to blame the tap shoes or the dance studios or the choreographers. Just admit that you can't write and get over yourselves already.

  29. I got a kick out of the story Meghan Cox Gurdon started her article with: a mother who can't find anything in the YA section for her daughter to read. My response is "Go to a section that has something you like."

    I don't understand the whole YA marketing thing. Like everybody else, I read "adult books" as a child and now that I'm an adult, I occasionally read "children's books". At the risk of sounding simplistic, for me it's all about the story - no matter who it's marketed towards.

    This outcry against YA is just the latest example of hand-wringing over the decline of civilisation. Every few years, somebody gets a bee in their bonnet and launches a campaign against something they perceive as evil. I remember the religious community's outrage against Harry Potter for promoting witchcraft. I had to laugh when the same people later urged us to go see "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" because it was such wholesome family fare. Apparently, not all witches are created equal.

  30. You're as eloquent as ever. :) Great post, I totally agree! Children are far too sheltered these days, and as you and I have both seen while working in libraries, they don't know what to do with themselves if a parent isn't there guiding the way. This isn't fair to them. How are the kids and teens supposed to support us in the future if they can't support themselves? Quite simply, they can't. Independent thought, dammit!