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28 June 2011


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Basically, her response was less a response to the arguments than "I'm right because I'm right." The opinion piece didn't address what people said, except to dismiss it. And yet again, didn't offer a... point. Assuming her argument that YA fiction is too dark, what is it she wants to change? Publishers stop publishing it? Libraries/bookstores stop buying it? Knowledgeable children's literature experts - including authors, editors, and librarians - to stop supporting it? Or is it for parents to challenge it? She doesn't specifically put out a call for action, which is pretty weak.

I've looked at this whole thing as the Sarah Palin of YA literature, and I don't want to give her attention that she doesn't deserve. Yet I see how, like Palin, she influences the discussion - especially among the less educated in the topic area - and it is indeed hard to hold back.


I'm reminded of some comments I read about a book that had pedophilia (and a whole lot of other horrors) in it. In no way was the rape presented in a prurient way. In fact, I don't think a description of the actual act was ever included in the book. The rapists died horribly, and there was never a sense that what they'd done had been good. It wasn't until I read a few Amazon.com "reviews" that I realized that, even the presence of pedophilia, no matter how it and its results were presented, was seen as endorsing it.

Okay, breathing in, and out, and moving on.


This is my whole problem with her: "leaving aside the saddest cases—"

Not just her assumption that those "saddest cases" are in the "vast" minority, but that it's okay to complete erase all those people. Because, absolutely the right thing to do is ignore the poor, the abused, the pregnant, the drug addicted, the depressed in favor of the well-to-do, stable, "good" kids. Give me a break.

(Okay. In addition to all the other things that make me crazy about those two articles,I will eat my own arm if you can find a recent YA book that's darker than either the Chocolate War or the Goats.

I also think it's interesting that, judging just from the first search page of articles authored by her that she seems to review more books for middle-grade, early YA. Maybe her ear is off?)

Electric Landlady

So very much agree:

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 learned from my local morning radio show today that the Summerworks theatre festival didn't get federal arts funding this year. The host reminded us that last year the festival put on a play called Homegrown, which was accused of being too sympathetic to terrorists and using taxpayers' money to do it. (I didn't see it and have no idea if it was any good, too sympathetic to terrorists, etc. On the other hand, neither had the columnist who complained.)

I think many people have this weird assumption that if you mention something, you are endorsing it, and if you don't mention it, it will go away. They probably don't read enough. ;)


My beef, again, is that she doesn't seek out any advice. She doesn't ask a YA librarian, a teacher, or a book store employee for suggestions of contemporary YA literature that suits her needs. Nor does she say that concerned parents should ask for help from these professionals! ARGH. Instead she reposts the story of the Maryland mom standing at the YA book section in horror all alone and helpless in her desire to give her daughter something to read. No mention that book stores are a business that sell books whereas a library offers a much broader selection of teen literature. She goes for the shocking statements, again, and completely neglects the opportunity to help families find books for their teens. Scare tactics. Again. Although this time she made that fun comparison of librarians as gatekeepers to kiddie porn on tax payers dollars. Gee thanks. The teen librarian as teen lit expert she decided not to print.


@Joanna - Ah, but if YA librarians, teachers, and book store employees are all so very wrong about YA fiction (as evidenced by the response to her original article), then why should she tell people to seek their advice? Obviously, they will only point concerned parents to more Dark Horror.


Ooh, that bit about turning on the light, Leila, is end-of-email quote-worthy. Woot.

I didn't like the brouhaha the FIRST time around; I'm definitely all eye-roll-y and sighing the second (third?) time around. If this is how she rolls, fine. She definitely has the right to her opinion, but I have better things to do than watch the traffic pileup


@LG Right. Right. and @Tanita, yes - let's all move along. Nothing new to see here.

Maureen E

She largely misses the point again, as everyone else here has said. But I actually thought she had the beginnings of a good point here: "For families, the calculus is less crude than some notion of fictional inputs determining factual outputs; of monkey read, monkey do. It has more to do with a child's happiness and tenderness of heart, with what furnishes the young mind." My parents were very concerned with that, and she's right that it was less crude than "If she reads about cutting, she'll do it," which is how she presented that kind of concern before. On the other hand, I was reading all kinds of books without their knowledge which they would have been horrified by (Piers Anthony, for instance) and I think I turned out okay. And of course there's the fact that no librarian I know would have a problem with that kind of concern. It seems like from her point of view, YA is full of librarians and booksellers and authors who are just FORCING darkness onto our children, woe is us. Right.


I'm trying decide if I should even read this article. It will simply fill me with rage and I don't want to give her page views.

Ashley Pérez

Brilliant post. You inspired me to think through my own reaction to Gurdon in this post: Why Gurdon (Still) Doesn't Get It: Parent-Vision, Teen-Vision, and Audience.


More from me at www.ashleyperez.com.


I just can't post about this because it annoys me to no end so THANK YOU for dealing with it. On top of so many other things mentioned here I am still bothered by the unnamed Maryland woman who couldn't find a book for her daughter. Every time I go to B&N I see plenty of entirely pleasant non objectionable titles in YA - but of course I know what I'm looking at. I have to wonder if this woman even bothered to ask anyone for help - which is what the normal person would do in this case if they had not taken the time to check before they hit the store.

It's sort of like standing in the middle of Nordstrom's and saying there are no clothes in your size - you have to ask for assistance. That's why they have all those customer service folks running around in the first place.

And this is why I suspect the actual existence of the Maryland woman.


this makes me so sad/angry/miffed: "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."

because you know as an adult that those things are trivial, but at the time, they are overwhelming and new and bring on a whole range of emotions you don't know how to deal with. which is EXACTLY why books that talk about these things and caring people in the lives of teenagers to listen to them about things is so important. people who don't get teenagers and try to force Adult Experiences on them grind my gears.


I appreciate your reasoned take on this, Leila. I'm getting tired of all the yelling from some quarters.


Gina: I always find yelling tiresome, regardless of whether or not I agree with the message.

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