Monday, June 6, 2011

YA Saves!

I know there are probably already a million blog posts out there about this, but I HAVE to write it, friends. By now, I'm sure you've seen the article in the Wall Street Journal, Darkness Too Visible. Tears ran down my cheeks as I read it. But read it I did because I felt it only fair to do so if I was to comment on it. 


This isn't the first time an inflammatory article about YA has been posted by WSJ. Remember not that long ago this one appeared as well. I can't help but wonder if the WSJ received so many hits from the controversy associated with this article that they purposely proceeded to incite a reaction with the inflammatory nature of their latest. If that is the case, it is very sad that "journalism" can have deteriorated to this extent. 


I could comment here on quotes from the article. Things like "40 years ago, no one had to contend with young-adult literature because there was no such thing." CONTEND? Interesting word choice. And "In the book trade, this is known as "banning." In the parenting trade, however, we call this "judgment" or "taste."" NOT in this parent's opinion. I call it "closed-minded" and "paranoid".


But what's REALLY worth commenting on is the amazing response from our little community and beyond. The hashtag #YAsaves that appeared on Twitter took off like a firestorm. By Sunday morning it was the third highest trending topic in the US.


Books like those of Ellen Hopkins(read her post on this here), and Laurie Halse Anderson (whose excellent blog on this very subject should also be read) have literally saved the lives of the teens who found in their pages knowledge and self-empowerment. The understanding that they are not alone, that others have the same feelings and issues, and that there are consequences for their actions. 


The article mentions Suzanne Collins' HUNGER GAMES, one of my favorite books. It's referred to as "Hyper-violent". Never once in that book was the violence glorified, or glossed over. I'm proud to say I've not only given this book to my own child to enjoy, but I've now passed it to several others (with parental knowledge of course). Do I expect my son to go out and start shooting people with arrows? No. I expect him to think about standing up for his rights and those of others. About doing the right thing in the face of insurmountable odds. About the price of freedom. And so many other lessons available for anyone willing to look between the words. 


What YA author out there doesn't pay attention to the theme of her book? To character arc? Realistic teen voice and feelings? Trying to censor the material, and talking down to or hiding truth from teens only alienates them. Besides they deserve better than that. 


I am proud to write AND read YA. And I will continue to do so, and to recommend these authors and others to friends for both them and their children. 
photo credit

28 comments:

  1. Lovely post, Lisa. Yes, a lot of people are blogging about it (including me), but everyone has a unique take and I love that! Your point here that your son won't use a bow and arrow, but he might feel empowered to stand up for himself, is so well-put. It's great to see the community of writers and readers articulating all the reasons why that article was so misguided.

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  2. Complete and utter applause!! I agree and was not aware of this article, so thanks for this post. I was, however, aware of the hashtag on Twitter. I basically am in shock. Whether a serous topic or not, there is much good that is communicated through YA literature. This saddens me yet tells me there was a need for a stir among us YA writers...and apparently, we've answered the call to stand up for what we believe in. Bravo.

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  3. Say it loud Lisa,
    I love the varied responses to this article, showing the massive diversity of opinion and passions of those who love books. It's been entertaining and enlightening.

    But what it comes down to is personal choice and being able to pick a book that suits you for your situation. I don't want some 'well meaning' person making that choice for me.

    I want to choose for myself. Sometimes I'll make a mistake. Sometimes I'll read a book that's no good for me - or, a book I simply can't identify with - in which case I'll move on to the next one. But it's my choice, isn't it? And I think this is what rankles the most about the WSJ article - there's something insanely irritating in some well-meaning-do-gooder taking away choices.

    Oh dear. I thought I was done ranting about this but you set me off again.

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  4. And, there are plenty of YA books out there that aren't dark, even in bookstores. So there is plenty of different styles to go around. If kids don't want to read dark stuff - they won't. Or they'll know they aren't alone.

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  5. Until this morning, I didn't know about this article. We don't get that newspaper in Canada (unless you go buy it at a specialty store) and I don't do Twitter on the weekends.

    Just as well. Otherwise I would have spent my weekend being pissed at the idiot who wrote it.

    There's one follower of the QT blog who comments whenever YA is mentioned in the post. He must be related to the "journalist". Or at the very least, he has the article framed on the wall. Idiots. Obviously they don't see the value of YA books. How they've helped so many teens struggling with their own sad realities.

    I let my 11 yo (he was 10 at the time) read The Hunger Games trilogy. It didn't turn him into a violent person. Instead, he asked me questions, which is a good thing.

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  6. Right on!

    The Hunger Games books are the ONLY ones that my middle grader has been excited to read in the last two years or so. After reading them, we got into amazing family conversations about morals, values, and societal beliefs of fair laws, justice, and even ideas about beauty (those interesting folks in the Capital provided that).

    My 16-year-old was into Ellen Hopkins for awhile. She made a decision on her own that they were a little too gritty for her, but she still thinks Ellen is an awesome author who's not afraid to write about tough subjects (I agree!).

    I am very thankful to Suzanne Collins, Ellen Hopkins, and YA writers out there. Great post.

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  7. Well said Lisa.

    As a father, this is what I do: read the books my children read. It's that simple. That way, if they have questions, or were bothered by something, we can discuss it, like intelligent people.

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  8. Wow you guys. I have tears in my eyes again, but this time they are the good kind. I want to respond to each and every one of these comments, but I'm afraid I'll end up with a novel-blog. Just know that I read every single word and smiled with each one. I love that we stand together. I love that feel the same. As Matthew put it: "like intelligent people." It's just so scary that these people are out there. The ones that think they know best and should impose their own ideals on the rest of us for our own good.

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  9. Well stated. Certain types of literature has had, and will continue to have, opponents. And just like politics, literature can divide. Opinions are just that - opinions. And if we take someone else's opinion as our own without investigating it ourselves, therein lies the biggest problem of all.

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  10. Well said! I wish more "dark" novels had been around when I was an adolescent. They would have helped me feel less alone. I haven't read the original article yet. "Contend?" Really? Yikes.

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  11. Whoa, Dude. I've been under a rock because I'm just hearing about this uh, article. It never amazes me how someone can write an article and with only a sample reading of a few YA books. It's pretty obvious that this author has only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to YA genre.

    It never amazes me how people who don't like to read YA are always bashing it. Dudes! Don't read it already!

    And seriously? What kind of environment do they think that the teens of today grow up in? In a pink plush bubble or something? There are some things that teens have experienced that would make the author of this article scream. UGH!

    **off my rant stump**

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  12. Brilliant post! I'm glad you said it out loud. The reason YA is so popular is because it resonates with its readers. At its very core YA deals with emotions and issues that people tend to ignore as they grow older. YA is more for emotionally intelligent or just plain intelligent people. If you don't get YA, you probably need to live it up more.
    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  13. Very well said my friend. You brought tears to my eyes over this, again. I'm appalled at the WSJ for their narrow-mindedness but am touched by the outcry of our wonderful community.

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  14. Thanks for that from me and from Shea (my niece that I blogged about), and all the kids like her who wouldn't be reading at all if it weren't for YA literature.

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  15. Again - I am so touched that all of you not only stand up for YA, but that you put your thoughts so eloquently, even in the comments!! :D Maybe I needed more good cries.

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  16. The article was totally misplaced. It had good intentions though - someone genuinely worried about the effect it can have on today's youth. That said, I found it strange that not once was 'today's youth' quoted in the article. Ah well. :)

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  17. Bethany - that's because today's youth would have had more sense. :D If you don't like it, don't read it! Read what is right for you. Right?

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  18. There's no such thing as too many posts about that narrow-minded, mean-spirited WSJ article. Bravo on your stand, LIsa.

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  19. Go, Lisa, go! Stuff like this just makes readers curious, and they rush to read the books. No worries. This too shall pass.

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  20. A lot of truths are dark, and must not be hidden. The only way to remove the darkness is to bring it into the light, where awareness can actually change it. Gratuitous actions/events used to sensationalize are no good in any writing, including YA. But honest, thoughtful writing about dark truths most definitely has its place, and an important place it is!

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  21. I was out of touch from Twitter and blogging until late last afternoon, so I didn't know about the #YAsaves. But I had read the article and was floored. Such a one-sided view! Good grief! Way to pick on a few books and make the whole genre sound dark and violent! In reality, I am continually surprised at how little swearing and violence I find in YA books, and when it does show up, how well it is handled. I've SWITCHED OVER TO READING MOSTLY YA for this very reason. So glad you voiced your opinion and my only regret it I missed out on the first swelling wave of #YAsaves.

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  22. It sickens me that someone would use their position with WSJ to write such a narrow-minded, inflammatory & poorly researched 'opinion piece'. When you have an audience like WSJ, it behooves a person to NOT offer content that is dangerously bias to any one group of people. And I do see it that way--a dangerous bias has occurred here. Why? When you state that YA lit is a proponent for teen cutting, suicide, rape, violence and the rest, it devalues the plight of real teens facing these situations. How must they feel, the ones experiencing these traumas, to be devalued by someone speaking against books that have offered them respite through the knowledge that out there someone understands and is willing to talk about it?

    Shame on you, WSJ.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  23. Okay - seriously, it's like three days since the article, and I'm still moved to tears by your words. :D Thank you friends.

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  24. My daughters have all read YA titles and I wouldn't even begin to think about not letting them do so. Sounds like someone is feeling threatened, which can only mean that the YA authors and books they write are striking a cord with their readers. Keep up the good work!

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  25. *applauds* Great post! I 100% agree with you. I feel like the author of this article hasn't even read some of these books. If she'd really read Hunger Games, she'd see that the heart of the story is about a girl NOT wanting to fight or be part of that terrible system anymore. But of course you know that. I'm also so proud of how everyone in the yalit community stood up to say, NO - YA SAVES. :)

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  26. Lisa, I have missed so much of this discussion because of work swamping me the last 3 days, but your post did a great job of catching me up. Your points are so strong and passionate. Thank you for sharing your voice with others!

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