Saturday, June 04, 2011

My Thoughts on YA in General, The Wall Street Journal in Particular

This weekend, the Internet exploded as bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, and many other kinds of "ers" read and responded to this article posted by The Wall Street Journal. If you're not interested in reading the full article, I'll recap - the journalist states her concern that many of the young adult fiction novels currently on the market contain elements that are too dark for young adults to be reading, and she cites some examples of those that concerned her the most. The aforementioned bloggers, Tweeters, et al have posted their views about her views, feeling that she is blowing things way out of proportion. Both sides feel strongly. Both sides have done some mud-slinging. And it would be very un-Tristi-like of me if I didn't weigh in.

So, what do I think?

I think they're both right.

And I think they're both wrong.

Every person ever born has the right to form their own opinions. It's part of being human, and it's part of the task we were given by God - to decide for ourselves what we think and what we believe. When the lady who wrote the article for The Wall Street Journal penned down her thoughts, she was expressing her beliefs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I agree with many of her points. I applaud her for taking a stand that she knew would be unpopular, but she did it anyway because she truly, genuinely believes what she said, and that takes courage.

The people standing up to oppose her have the right to do that very thing. They have had different experiences from hers. Their perspectives are different. They should have an arena to share their ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. In this way, I feel that the people on both sides of the equation are right. They are sharing their gut feelings. They are sharing with the world what they hold to be true.

And I believe that both sides are wrong. It's unfortunate when people feel they need to become vitriolic to make their point, when mud is slung or names are called. When people feel they are being attacked, they stop listening and start building walls. You can't understand someone else's point of view if you're too busy defending your own.

So, what is to be done?

We all continue to make choices according to what we personally believe, and we allow others the same right. It's that simple. As we make those choices, we are a living example of what we believe, and as others see us, they know where we stand. If they like what they see, they'll gravitate toward wanting to learn more about why we feel the way we feel. The power of influence cannot be measured, and it's the real way in which minds are changed. No amount of arguing can do it. It comes quietly, as others have experiences of their own that shape their perceptions.

Now you're wondering which camp I'm personally in. I think you can guess, if you've been reading my blog longer than thirty-seven seconds.

I am not in favor of censorship. You can read my thoughts about it here. I believe that books with every level of content should be made available to those who want to read them, but I believe they should be properly advertised so the consumer knows what they are getting. It frustrates me to think I'm getting one thing and to end up with something else, and I think a lot of consumers feel that way. Those who want a clean read should be able to find them easily. Those readers who want grittier content should be able to find them easily. It all goes back to freedom of choice. I believe in freedom of choice, and I believe in freedom of speech. You can read about that here.

As for me, I'm in the clean reads camp. I have read books with darker content if I've felt the need to understand more about a certain theme or concept or historical event, because I want to be educated, but I prefer, as a general rule, to spend my time reading books without dark content. That is my personal choice. That is my personal stand. I state it outright and without apology. But if I have a friend who wants to make their personal stand that they like to read something else, I will respect that in them as being their choice, and I will not attack them for it, call them names, or sling mud at them. I would certainly hope that they would do me the same courtesy.

It does not make a person narrow-minded to seek out books without dark content. It does not make a person evil if they seek out books with dark content. Why do we think we should get to judge others and their choices? At the end of the day, we control ourselves and no one else, and if we are doing what we feel is right for us, then the rest doesn't matter.


Cindy M Hogan author of Watched said...

Well said, Tristi. I agree.

Caledonia Lass said...

I'm all for choice, yes, but I do believe that some of the harder, darker, grittier stuff you mentioned needs limits in YA. As parents we're supposed to be a little more in the know of what our kids are reading, doing, hanging out with... Seems to me more and more parents are fine with handing their kids whatever they ask for so that the kids will leave them alone. This allows children to get into things they normally wouldn't and it also means more desensitizing stuff. I make the choice to read the darker stuff, but my kids don't need it until a certain age. But then at that point, who decides? Me or the kids?
Good post, Tristi. :D

Tristi Pinkston said...

YA doesn't necessarily mean that the audience will be young adults - it means that the main characters will be of a young adult age themselves. YA is read by persons of all ages.

But putting that to the side, there are definitely books I wouldn't encourage my kids to read right now, and I hope that as they get older, they are savvy with their reading choices. I want them to choose books that will mold and shape them into caring, responsible adults, and that they can take lessons from the things they read and apply them to help them along their path. They might find these lessons in different ways than I would personally choose for them, but it all harks back to free agency. If I can teach them how to filter the input they receive, and give them a strong foundation, they'll have something to rely on when it comes time to making their own choices.

That said, I'm just glad that right now, they're still young enough that I get to have a say in many of their choices. :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

To add a little more to my reply, as parents, each of us can sense when our children are ready for different kinds of input, and I do believe that it's part of our job to help make sure that they're not being introduced to things before they're mentally mature enough for them. It's not something you can put an age on - children mature at faster rates, and we need to take it one kid at a time and not just assume that they're ready for a PG-13 movie when they're a certain age or for "the talk" at another or for books about gang violence at another. Each child will have their own sensitivities and we as parents can help them find reading material that reaches where they are now, without introducing topics they aren't ready for. I certainly wouldn't hand a book on the concentration camps to my six-year-old, even though he'll need that knowledge eventually. He's not ready for it now. And then there are types of knowledge that I don't consider part of necessary education, and I'll leave those up to my children's own choice when they're older. Much older. :)

Kaylee Baldwin said...

Thanks for sharing this. I hadn't heard about this article and I find it very interesting. I am also not in favor of censorship. I think that we need to have the fortitude to read only what will make us comfortable and not have "the gatekeeper" mandate what that is or isn't. And for every gritty novel out there, you can find a more lighthearted or softer novel instead, if that is your thing. Options are good.

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