To which I thought: OH NOES! It's like Fayetteville all over again!
But then I read the article and discovered that it was apparently a slow news day at Ye Old Tulsa World, as there'd been 45 complaints since 2008, and the article was just a round-up of some of the reasons behind the challenges.
Relatedly: The hilariously-named Lancaster Online (Okay, not so much their name: But their icon reads LOL!) has an article about Manheim Township High School's decision to release a annotated list of all of their required reading. The annotations will include an explanation as to why the book is on the syllabus, whether or not it meets AP and national curriculum standards and a note if the book has been challenged locally or nationally.
It seems like a decent compromise — they aren't providing ratings, reasons for book challenges or any sort of other subjective information on the list, and this way parents concerned about content will have a litmus test ahead of time.
Of course, just because a reasonable compromise happens doesn't mean that everyone is finished worrying about what everyone else's kids are reading:
"We were happy with the solution, so long as it's kept in front of people," she said, expressing a concern that parents may glance at the book list and then discard it.
So what? You have your list! Use it and let everyone else use theirs as they see fit. Yeesh.
Translating this one to a visual format seems borderline impossible to me -- figuring out the bit about the apple is such an OH WOW moment that I can't imagine how they'd film it without giving it away right at the beginning.
...there's this article, which argues that Go the Bleep to Sleep isn't funny because there are children in the world who live in profanity-filled, abusive and neglectful environments.
At moments, actually, the author seems to be channelling Gurdon, except she seems to be suggesting that adults shouldn't read about hard things, either. Or maybe it's only funny things that make light of hard things that are problematic? Or funny things that don't overthink every single iteration of every single possible interpretation? I'm not sure.
Obviously it isn't funny that there are children who live in environments like that.
But, you know... there's this thing called satire. If she doesn't think it's funny*, that's fine. There are still people who think Jonathan Swift was for real.
*I say this as someone who is fully on the Haven't-We-Had-Enough-Of-This-Book bandwagon. Slow news day, CNN?
The comments get very political. And Jesus-y. Neither of which makes sense, and neither of which is surprising. Because, you know. The last thing that newspaper comments sections seem to be about, usually, is making any sort of sense.
I do think that a lot of people — on both sides, and very certainly including Gurdon — have forgotten to stick to critiquing the message, rather than the messenger. Which brings the debate to an ugly place, and makes everyone involved look bad.
But, you know. It's easy to do. Tempers flare and so on.
Gurdon writes that in her original essay she was "no more damning all young-adult literature than a person writing about reality TV is damning all television".
I disagree. Generally, if someone is going to slam reality television, they'll actually say "reality television". She didn't say "dark-themed YA fiction". She said "contemporary fiction for teens". That's a whole lot more broad, and not at all the same thing or the same argument. It's possible that that's what she meant, but a reader unfamiliar with the YA market wouldn't know that. Which is what it comes down to, as that's who her essay was aimed at.
Towards the end of her new essay, she says, "It is surely worth our taking into account whether we do young people a disservice by seeming to endorse the worst that life has to offer."
I don't buy that, either. Sure, there are novels that promote certain beliefs and novels that set out to prove points: Ayn Rand and Beatrice Sparks come to mind. But the idea that a book that deals with rape somehow endorses it, that a book about anorexia endorses it, that a book about self-harm endorses it, that a book about teen pregnancy endorses it?
No. Compassion is not endorsement. Trying to understand is not endorsement. Exploring our world, giving voices to the silent, trying to gain perspective: None of those things are endorsement. Neither is turning a light on in a dark room.
I thought it was unfortunate that Gurdon dismissed the passion of adolescence as "...feel[ing] more dramatic at the time than it will in retrospect". Because, while in some cases that might be true — it was, at least, for me — it also minimizes what is, at the very least, an extremely emotionally turbulent time. It's exactly the sort of "Oh, you'll laugh about this when you're older" attitude that always made the teenaged — and again, extremely sheltered — version of me want to punch adults in the face.
Meghan Cox Gurdon is totally entitled to her opinion.
And she should certainly go on voicing it.
She can go on writing and writing and writing about how YA fiction — and the librarians and parents who recommend it — somehow "endorses" the horrors of our world. There will always be people who make arguments like this, the same way that there will always be people who believe that assigned reading in high school English classes shouldn't include any profanity because that's an endorsement of profanity.
She'll keep doing what she does, and that's not a bad thing: For one thing, again, she's perfectly entitled to her opinion, and for another, it was her essay that prompted this outpouring of love and very, very vocal support for books. FOR YA BOOKS.
I certainly believe that the new essay was designed, in part, to get people riled up all over again. Pageviews, after all, are much-beloved.
The more Gurdon (or any other detractor) writes, the more attention the books get. And while I certainly think her first essay will inspire book challenges — whether or not that was her intent — as long as those challenges are reported and publicized, again: That results in more attention for the books. Attention and debate and discussion and passion. (It also results in a whole lot of stress for the school/library, but that comes with the territory.)
Don't get me wrong: I believe that a lot of what she said in both essays was flat-out wrong. Not in terms of opinion, but in terms of fact. I've gone over that.
Regardless, Gurdon will continue doing what she does. It's her job.
And we'll continue doing what we do, whether it's because it's our job or our passion or combination of the two: Read and recommend and discuss and debate.
There will always be wildly different opinions and beliefs when it comes to books — that's part of the reason we're so passionate about them — and, again, that's not a bad thing.
According to them, Roy: "...is from the word rey or roi, meaning a king or chief, and in medieval times was used as a nickname either for one who behaved in a regal fashion, or who had earned the title in some contest of skill, or more likely had been elected "king for the day" in a local festival."
I already knew the 'king' part, of course, but I love the idea that the name could have been passed down simply because I had an ancestor who acted like Vanity Smurf.