Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Literature for Children

My comment on this is that it is important to note the reactions of authors or the over-reaction.  No longer is this simply the vain belief that only a poet can critique poetry.  This is an attempt to suggest that non-authors don't get "art" in this instance YA or Young Adult literature.  
Not only do I reject that notion, but I would go further to say that my life has at one time or another been changed by a book, a documentary, a portrait.  I would not be a wife and a mother today if not for Caravaggio, Mary Pride, and C.S. Lewis.  
Children are fed a diet of easy reads that range from gross to lurid by the time they reach adolescence.  Books that romanticize sex, date rape, anorexia, drug use, intoxication, and worse are being published under the auspices of being 'relevant,' 'real teen life,' etc.  It is not limited to YA lit., but also television, movies, and video games.  With 7 children of my own and two children who rip through a book every one to three days, I cannot keep up with their media choices.  That said, I am the one who bears the responsibility of their young lives.  It cannot be said enough, keep up with your child's reading habits.  Pay attention to their formation.  If  you don't, their are those that are more than willing to take on your child's formation for themselves.

From the Wall Street Journal Online:

My 'Reprehensible' Take on Teen Literature

Raise questions about self-mutilation and incest as a young-adult theme and all hell breaks loose.

Affordable Illustration Source/Images.com/Corbis
If the American Library Association were inclined to burn people in effigy, I might well have gone up in smoke these past few days. ALA members, mostly librarians and other book-industry folk, are concluding their annual conference today in New Orleans, and it's a fair bet that some of them are still fuming about an article of mine that appeared in these pages earlier this month.
The essay, titled "Darkness Too Visible," discussed the way in which young-adult literature invites teenagers to wallow in ugliness, barbarity, dysfunction and cruelty. By focusing on the dark currents in the genre, I was of course no more damning all young-adult literature than a person writing about reality TV is damning all television, but from the frenzied reaction you would have thought I had called for the torching of libraries.
Within hours of the essay's appearance it became a leading topic on Twitter. Indignant defenders of young-adult literature called me "idiotic," "narrow-minded," "brittle," "ignorant," "shrewish," "irresponsible" and "reprehensible." Authors Judy Blume and Libba Bray suggested that I was giving succor to book-banners. Author Lauren Myracle took the charge a stage further, accusing me of "formulating an argument not just against 'dark' YA [young-adult] books, but against the very act of reading itself." The ALA, in a letter to The Journal, saw "danger" in my argument, saying that it "encourages a culture of fear around YA literature."
The odd thing is that I wasn't tracking some rare, outlier tendency. As book reviewer Janice Harayda observed, commenting on my essay: "Anyone who writes about children's books regularly knows that [Mrs. Gurdon] hasn't made up this trend. . . . Books, like movies, keep getting more lurid."
Read the rest here


elizabeth said...

these are not easy times; thanks for the article.

Maria said...

Thanks for posting this article. It reminds me of the furor some twenty years ago over a novel by some young rising literary star about a serial killer/cannibal, with graphic descriptions of him killing, dissecting and so on. The literati were all in ecstasy about his daring in pushing the boundaries of literature. Other people had the guts to say it was voyeuristic trash. Dark experiences have been happening to teenagers since the beginning of time -- you could add slavery to the list in the article. But when did literature ever glorify this stuff? What is literature, after all? Isn't it writing that helps us transcend ourselves? Not just cheap entertainment (Twilight?), but a work that tells us something timeless about humanity. My guess is that most of this YA "literature" is trash that will be forgotten ten or at most twenty years from now. Literature is relevant for hundreds, even thousands, of years. I'm not saying I only let my children read books that rise to the standard of literature, but those that don't have to be books that do no harm to their young minds.