I woke this morning as I do most Sunday's, slowly, with coffee and hand, checking Facebook to see if I can add my sarcastic wit to any of my friend's status updates.
Instead I found Laurie Halse Anderson's status directing all of us to a Wall Street Journal article, regarding the state of YA Lit on book shelves.
Titled; Darkness Too Visible, where the writer goes on at length on the state of YA Books and how everything seems to revolve around vampires, incest, self-mutilating and brutal beatings. It points the finger at how everything seems to gravitate to depravity and well, as the title suggests, darkness. It explains that YA seems to have moved into a realm that wasn't there 40 years ago...20 years ago. Well duh...we don't live 40 years ago, we live now.
As a book reviewer I have read some of these books, for review and for my own pleasure. I have to say that I quite enjoy them (except the ones about vampires, I'm kinda sick of vampires right now). I think they are well thought out books that reflect the state of society TODAY, not 40 years ago, and gives teens a place a refuge and solace, where they can escape the bullies and the beatings. I think society as a whole as become The Mothership of Censorship, brainwashing today's youth into becoming non-thinking oversensitive beings who cry at the drop of a hat and wouldn't know what a backbone is if it was inserted for them by an alien race.
When did we decide it was okay to decide everything for everyone else? When do we say, "ok, you don't get to think for yourself, I'll do all your thinking for you?"
Granted as someone who's not a parent, I can't really say how it feels to have to protect a child from the darkness creeping in from everywhere, (which is why I say I don't want kids). I give a high five to parents who can create good little people today. But we also must remember to give them the freedom of choice. If you don't think what their reading is appropriate, read it first, then sit with them and TALK about it. Opening the door to conversation is the key to helping your kids with what they are struggling with. Yes parents, parenting is hard, it takes time out of your day, but how else are they going to learn and know you support them no matter what they are going through? Censorship is not the answer. Don't you think that if they are sneaking around to read a certain book, that you are contributing to their belief that who they are is wrong according to society?
As a young girl I had it hard in school. I wasn't popular and the only place where I could be myself and learn about life was in books. I read VC Andrews (which has incest in it, but shockingly it didn't make me want to sleep with my uncles, ew!), RL Stine's Fear Street, Christopher Pike, and Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High. All were books that veered away from the cutesy "Judy Blume-esque" coming of age stories, and I ate them up....sometimes 4 a week. In them was something I could identify with, kids that were going through trauma of their own, and I found out that I wasn't alone. Yes, books about incest and brutal beatings are disheartening, but they are on the shelves so they can help kids realize that they aren't alone. Other kids are going through the same thing and there's help out there for them.
Forty years ago, the gay community in high schools didn't exist. Therefore, there were no books to talk about what it's like to be a young gay person in society, not only struggling with normal teen things like hormones and who to take to prom, but a gay person who IS getting beat up (and in some instances, killed) for being who they ARE.
Let's also remember that most of these books are works of...dare I say it, FICTION. Don't underestimate your kids. They are smarter than you think. Most can differentiate between real and not real. If a sexy vampire is sucking on some poor girl's neck draining her of her life force, don't you think they know that's not going to happen in the parking lot next to the Seven/Eleven they frequent after school?
Let's get real here people. Don't label a genre in a negative light if you haven't done your research. What this article lacks is just that. Where are the interviews with teens about how they feel? Or other parents, such as gay parents raising straight kids or vice versa, or people who have lived through self-mutilation, and any and all the forms of abuse out there? They might shed some light on the atrocities that actually exist in reality.
Life is moving fast, too fast. Let's make sure we aren't taking away the one place where people can get explanations and heal. Cause really, what's next ...book burning parties?
There's a community of teens on Twitter that have already come out against the article, #YASAVES, in hopes that their voices can be heard.