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Friday, June 6, 2014

Nonsense

You've seen it, haven't you?

That article telling adults they should be ashamed of themselves for reading kid-lit?

Of course you've seen it, it blew up your Twitter feed. I don't need to link to it here, even if I wanted to. 

So I wanted to briefly (in my traditional, long-winded style) address some of my complaints about said article. After ranting on Facebook, I figured I might as well take it to the streets. Step-Up style!

This is my main beef with that article: the idea that anyone "should" feel "shame" about anything they like doing. 

For example, I think competitive sports and video games are also primarily for children. Personally, I do not find them to be that enjoyable as an adult.

That doesn't mean I think adults who join Ultimate Frisbee leagues or play Red Dead Redemption should be ashamed of themselves. ("You idiots could be DEBATING THE STATE OF THE REPUBLIC or SAVING THE PLANET like GROWNUPS, why are you throwing that tiny plastic circle around for your petty enjoyment!?!")

The author followed up on Twitter by saying that she didn't think there was anything wrong with guilty pleasures, so long as there WAS guilt. But why should people feel guilty or ashamed about something they like? Are we that Puritanical? By the by, when a Mormon is telling you you're being too Puritanical, you've crossed a line. Again, perhaps we should all go throw eggs at the ComicCon attendees, just so they feel the appropriate amount of shame at doing something they love?


Furthermore, I just think the article is demeaning to young people and children. The premise is that adults should be ashamed of reading children's lit (primarily children's lit AIMED AT GIRLS, not that we're going to acknowledge the implicit sexism of the article) because it is less intellectual than adult literature. But it's okay for kids (mainly girls) to read it instead of adult lit because ...why? Kids (cough: teen girls) are dumb? That a 16 year old is incapable of the intellectual achievements of a 20 year old? Follow the argument to the logical conclusion and NO ONE should read books for kids, not even kids. They should go straight from Dick and Jane to The Iliad -- which, in fact, is how kids historically learned to read, and didn't we live in a fantastically intellectual society in the 1930s? (Spoiler alert: No, we did not. There were a lot more Joads than Ftizgeralds, if you know what I mean. Which if you read YA, you're an idiot and you don't, because no one ever has enjoyed both The Grapes of Wrath and Anna and the French Kiss. EVER.)


Then there's the fact that her argument applies to genre fiction as well. She doesn't come right out and say it, but under her standard, shouldn't people who like Elmore Leonard and George RR Martin and Stephen King also be "ashamed" of themselves? It's not literary fiction, after all. In fact, maybe we should pull out the old "approved reading" list from high school, just so we make sure no one crosses the line from high to low brow. (Is Jonathan Tropper approved or not? Well, he makes you laugh, so better not read him ... just in case. Laughter is for the simple-minded.)

But my biggest beef is that this is Slate, the publication that features a series called "You're Doing It Wrong," designed solely to tell people they suck at doing things like eating watermelon.
 

The whole point of Slate is to condescend and take the contrary position. And yet somehow they managed to get us all fired up anyway.

So don't go read that article! It's just click bait.

Instead, read one of these:
Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Holly Black)
Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)
Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger)
My Life After Now (Jessica Verdi)
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (E. Lockhart)
To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Lola and the Boy Next Door (Stephanie Perkins)
Hemlock Grove (Brian McGreevy)
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Carrie Ryan)
Looking for Alaska (John Green) 

They may be about kids and written for kids, but I promise, they're at least as good as The Da'Vinci Code.

3 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry. I googled it anyway, as it didn't blow up my twitter feed (apparently I'm following all of the wrong people).

    This, in particular, is nuts: "[C]rucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults."

    If I'm reading any book, for any age group, that instead of attempting to accurately sell the authenticity of the characters, spends a bunch of time moralistically explaining why the point of view of the characters is wrong or youthful or stupid, I'm going to be annoyed. Adults aren't asked to shelve their perspective at the door. If a young adult is portrayed in a genuine way, other young adults will connect with and understand that character from a different angle than an adult reader, who may conclude (without the hand-holding of the author [after all, I'm a grown-up reader, dammit, I can draw my own conclusions]) that the character's outlook is hamstrung by youth and lack of experience.

    One of the points of literature is to be able to understand and empathize with people who aren't like you, the reader. It's why I read books about men, books about women in other parts of the world, books from the perspective of those with disabilities, books about elderly people, etc. etc. When you're a grown-up, one of those groups of people are those that are younger than you. The reader is allowed to read it from the vantage point of their own perspective, but there's also nothing wrong with (and maybe a lot right with) immersing yourself in the character's vantage point. Part of it is nostalgia (so what?) but plenty of it can be just reacquainting yourself with a perspective that has been left behind, so you understand other people better. And then you can move on to criticizing, if that's what you feel like you need to do.

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    1. Thank you! That is such an excellent point -- that the author criticizes YA for being ... too realistic? And I love your point about reading about diverse groups of people as well.

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  2. I haven't read the article, but what about adults who deign to WRITE children's lit? I mean, they must be pretty dumb if their writing can be read at such a low reading level.

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