Monday, June 13, 2011

I'M IN A RAGE

There are a few things that get me this mad. This post will discuss one: BOOK BANNING. Also, an article in the Wall Street-fucking-Journal that I can't believe was published.

Read it and weep. The author states that YA (young adult) fiction is becoming far too dark for kids "12 to 18." Here are some of the other things she says:

"How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear" --> This sets up the maddenly condescending tone of the rest of the piece.

"A careless young reader [...] will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality, and losses of the most horrendous kinds." --> What "horrendous kinds" are we talking about here? Maybe if you want kids to find themselves surrounded by joy and beauty, you should stop trying to ban books and start trying to legalize marijuanna.

"No happy ending to this one, either." --> And this is objectionable how? Where are all the people who complain that happy endings to fairy tales and Disney movies give kids dangerous illusions about the world? Most teens can smell morality tales and contrived life lessons a mile off. They're no longer naive enough to believe that happy endings are the only kind out there.

"Alas, literary culture is not sympathetic to adults who object either to the words or storylines in young adult books." --> Condescending again. Young adults hate condescension. Perhaps that's why they read books that don't talk down to them--books that prove they are capable of dealing with tough subjects and tough language. What this author is saying is, "Don't touch that book, Jimmy, it's too grown-up." To which the young adult replies, "It's James, and I am grown up."

"In the book trade, this is known as 'banning.' In the parenting trade, however, we call it 'judgement' or 'taste.'"  ....*barf* *headdesk* *eye twitch* Can I move to Canada?

"Every year the American Library Association delights in releasing a list of the most frequently challenged books" (those free-thinking hippies!) "[...] including Suzanne Collins's hyper-violent, best-selling 'Hunger Games' trilogy and Alexie Sherman's prize-winning 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.'" --> The Hunger Games? "Hyper-violent?" It has violence--but perhaps what she and the other challengers really object to is the idea of a dystopian world and The Government as the bad guy. As for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, it's a fantastic book and should, if anything, be read more widely instead of banned.

And finally, the last few sentences proclaim... "The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn't be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children's lives."

As if the article itself weren't enough, Mrs. Gurdon goes on to offer a list of acceptable YA books--divided into "Books for Young Men" and "Books for Young Women." Censorship and sexism, folks. This is this kind of thing "responsible parents" promote.

Can you understand why I'm "in a rage," to quote A Very Potter Sequel? (And while we're at it, why not ban the Harry Potter books as well, for dealing with murder, death, magic, and -- OMG -- puberty?) I could go on and on and on ranting about this article and the views that inspired it; however, there are better people out there on the Internet who have responded much more maturely than I have.

For instance, a New Yorker article about the #YAsaves hashtag received three very thoughtful, reasonable, curse-word-free comments. The article, sadly, isn't anywhere near as thoughtful or well-written as the comments from 3 random people on the Internet.

If you're as interested/irritated by this debate as I am, you will definitely want to read these rebuttals to Mrs. Gurdon's article. I'm sure you'll agree with all of them--but these responses are so eloquent, clever, emotional, or sarcastic that it's worth reading all of them anyway.

Why The Best Kids' Books Are Written in Blood by Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Maureen Johnson, YA author, responds in The Guardian: YA shows teens they aren't alone
A snarky letter by a former bookseller
Another YA author who suggests WSJ and Mrs. Gurdon go fuck yourselves ;)
A literary agent talks about art and taking teens--and YA--seriously


In other news, I want to be an English teacher just so I can assign banned books.

9 comments:

  1. I don't understand people who want to ban books. If you don't want your child to read certain things, read their books first so you can monitor them. Don't say that they are unfit to be read just because you are unfit to read them. And the part about legalizing marijuana made me laugh :)

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  2. Glad to make you laugh. :) Especially since this woman makes me want to barf.

    I can understand to a certain extent people who want to ban books from required school reading lists. That's government-controlled and I suppose kids shouldn't be made to read books their parents don't approve. :P Even then, a school can make exceptions for one or two kids without banning the book.

    But no one has any right to ban books from people's private lives. Regulating what's taught is one thing; regulating other people's parenting methods is just RUDE.

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  3. Do books ever really get banned? It seems so old school, like burning witches at the stake. I've never had a problem getting my mitts on a book except for a few rare titles that went out of print (due to lack of popularity or funding). I feel like it's harder to GET people to read than it is to take away a book. But if there was ever a way to promote a book, it's to ban it. People always want what they can't have.

    As for YA fiction being too "dark," well, I want to roll my eyes dramatically and blow these naysayers a big fat raspberry. This is another thing they've been saying for years and nothing's changed. If adults can handle a little darkness from time to time, then so can mature "kids." I think Mrs. Gurdon must come from the scorned and hated Capitol of the Hunger Games.

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  4. So true! In my mind, though, she looks exactly like Dolores Umbridge (notice I did the quotes in pink:P). What gets me most about this article is that she talks as though ALL young adult fiction is scary-scary-dark-dark. There is plenty of lighthearted, "normal" YA out there. And then she goes and suggests Farenheit 451--a famous novel about censorship and nuclear war--for some lighter reading.

    You are absolutely right; banning books only makes people curious. I think what's important is that teens are reading at all, no matter what they read...

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  5. My parents employ censorship with me unfortunately - more than I think is necessary. Although I do kind of see where the writer of this article was coming from. Still - your rant is quite valid as well.

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  6. I remember that my mom would "preview-read" each Harry Potter book when it came out before she allowed me to have it. With the fourth book, parents were making a fuss about how it has dark magic and the Voldemort-resurrection scene, so she only let me read it by reading it out loud to me. The thing is, I was nine at that time. That kind of parental censorship is appropriate for younger kids; by the time they're teenagers, they're capable of judging what is good/bad and what they do/don't like.

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  7. Yea. I'm 15, and still not allowed to read any of the Harry Potter series. D:

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  8. What?! Read them anyway!!! Steal them from the library! Haha :) They really aren't that bad at all; it's just hype.

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