Sunday, June 5, 2011

#YASaves ... or why the Wall Street Journal needs better editors

Well, the Wall Street Journal has gone an done it again. They've found some out-of-touch "journalist" who wants nothing more than to distill the entirety of YA literature into one, demonic theme. This time it's about how YA literature is ripe with "violence and depravity."

Um... ok....

The YA literature community is losing their collective minds over this, and rightly so. Meghan Cox Gurdon, who wrote the column, is basically saying that YA authors are ruining the children of this country by pumping them full of literature containing taboo subjects, thus encouraging these readers in the direction of said depravity.

Um ... what?

So yeah, one read on this and you'll recognize how batshit crazy it. Tons and tons and TONS of blog posts have gone up on the subject of just how wrong Ms. Gurdon is, and you should spend some time reading them. You should also browse through the #YAsaves hashtag and see some of the incredible 140 character messages of hope that a getting passed around.

So let's look at Ms. Gurdon's argument, which editors at the Wall Street Journal saw fit to print. And what better place to start than the beginning? Gurdon begins with this:
Amy Freeman, a 46-year-old mother of three, stood recently in the young-adult section of her local Barnes & Noble, in Bethesda, Md., feeling thwarted and disheartened. 
She had popped into the bookstore to pick up a welcome-home gift for her 13-year-old, who had been away. Hundreds of lurid and dramatic covers stood on the racks before her, and there was, she felt, "nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." She left the store empty-handed.
One wonders if Ms. Gurdon has heard the phrase "judging a book by its cover." Sure, walk into your local Barnes & Noble and visit the YA section, and you'll see lots and lots of black book covers. That doesn't, however, mean that all those books contain violence and depravity. Or maybe they do. But until you pick them all up and crack their spines, you'll never know.Ms. Gurdon sites a handful of books by name, but four or five books does not a genre define. Gurdon also goes on to say:

Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them

Damn right these books help normalize pathologies! THAT'S. THE. POINT. Just go peruse the #YASaves hashtag and you'll see the result of this normalization, and it has nothing to do with spreading "their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures." What she's saying is the teens are such a bumbling class of idiots that by reading a book about cutting (that emphasizes the horror and pain it causes) will send a teenager to the nearest razor blade. Again, I say ...

Um... what?

It's clear the problem here is that not only does Gurdon lack respect for teen literature, but she lacks respect for teenagers in general.

My final irritation with Gurdon's article is her complete and total misunderstanding of book banning.

By f—ing gatekeepers (the letter-writing editor spelled it out), she meant those who think it's appropriate to guide what young people read. In the book trade, this is known as "banning." In the parenting trade, however, we call this "judgment" or "taste." It is a dereliction of duty not to make distinctions in every other aspect of a young person's life between more and less desirable options. Yet let a gatekeeper object to a book and the industry pulls up its petticoats and shrieks "censorship!"
Do you see the hole in the logic? Book banning is when a book is removed from a library or book store because someone objects to the content. What Gurdon is describing is parents telling their children they can't read a certain book, a practice which the YA lit community in fact encourages. That's the system we embrace. If you don't like something, you can decide within the bonds of your own family what is appropriate and what isn't. But making decisions for EVERYONE based on your own set of morals and virtues? I don't care what themes the book contains, that's banning and it's ALWAYS WRONG.

If you're interested, you should definitely share your story or blog post via the #YASaves hashtag. Keep it trending, so maybe we can teach the Wall Street Journal the difference between parenting and censorship. And while we're at it, let's get them to stop using such horrible cliches, mmmkay?

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