the WSJ attacks YA

So the Wall Street Journal has published a really irresponsible article attacking young adult literature. I’m not even going to link to it, that’s how absurd the article/editorial is. It’s basic claim is that YA books are too intense and have too much trauma. Apparently, books discussing self-harm will spread the idea; books including “foul” language are somehow bad for kids; violence is obviously a no no, and etc. To which I say: balderdash. Or, to use a non YA safe term, bullfuckingshit.

The piece makes the assumption that teenagers only experience trauma through books. This is patently absurd. And even for teens who are basically happy, healthy and well adjusted, there is still trauma. Being a teenager is hard. It can be really, really hard, or it can be somewhat less hard, but it is always hard. Reading helps teens  much as it helps children: it articulates things they cannot yet put into words. Hell, books do the same thing for adults.

Are their YA books I hate? Sure. I cannot stand Twilight: I think it’s abstinence porn message is anti feminist and, unexamined, dangerous for young women. Are there books for teens–just as there are books for adults–that are tawdry and cheap? Of course. But I don’t buy the argument that books normalize behavior: I doubt that anyone who reads a book about self-harm suddenly think it is okay. Now, descriptive scenes about anything can be triggering, sure. But that’s no reason not to write them.

Books save. YA books hit kids at exactly the right moment, and they can really save. A great deal of my worldview comes from books, and especially YA books. To claim that books are bad and censorship is good is patently absurd. There are books I wouldn’t give to a second grader, for sure, but by the time they are high schoolers kids have learned enough to know what they can and cannot handle. We don’t trust children nearly enough: we feel that they can handle the pressures of insane school schedules or sports or whatever, but that they cannot handle READING about trauma.


Also, why are we even talking about this now? Surely Flowers in the Attic was more fucked up than anything teens read today.


4 responses

  1. “We don’t trust children nearly enough: we feel that they can handle the pressures of insane school schedules or sports or whatever, but that they cannot handle READING about trauma.”

    Well said!

    June 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm

  2. I followed the link on your comment on Feministe, hi! Great post – I completely agree with you. Too many people completely underestimate teenagers’ intelligence & don’t trust them to make their own reading choices. Although I could argue that Twilight is no more damaging to critically thinking adolescents than the darker fiction the WSJ article is condemning (I don’t like the message implicit in the Twilight books either, I just think that the same teenagers who would never harm themselves just because a character in a book did would never let themselves be entirely defined & controlled by men & repress their sexuality just because Bella does).

    But yeah, Flowers in the Attic is pretty absurd. And actually, the WSJ would probably say that bullfuckingshit is a perfectly acceptable YA term! 🙂

    June 5, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    • yes, true about Twilight, and I actually read the books (which, ugh) so that I could point out their flaws with the youth I teach 🙂

      June 5, 2011 at 4:25 pm

  3. Pingback: YA Saves Lives… « Novella Vialli's Blog

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