6/5/11

Is the Wall Street Journal Genre Profiling?

It's kind of an exaggerated question but it does make me grimace.  In case you didn’t hear the big explosion in YA this weekend, Wall Street Journal pissed a lot of YA writers and readers off: Darkness Too Visible.  In short, the article complains there is nothing on the shelf that isn’t “dark” and depressing in the YA section.   I have to say I wasn't angry at the woman in the article's intro who wanted a wholesome book for her child.  I was annoyed how the article generalized the YA industry "dark" as a whole. 

I like what Natalie Whipple said on twitter: “The @wsj in a grocery store: *walks past produce section with eyes closed* "What the? THIS STORE ONLY SELLS MEAT! Heathens!" #YAsaves”

Bookstores face front the books that sell the most, these books happen to be "dark" content because that is what is popular right now.  But that doesn't mean those are the only books out there.  With a little more research, or maybe inquiring with one of the clerks at the store, the woman would have been able to find a slue of quality of content and age appropriate books.  (I find the bookstore clerks put my reading habits to shame.) More importantly, I think some of these dark books offer  more insight than the 250 back page synopsis offers.  

Take Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games, it is filled with murder but I think the bigger picture she is painting is overlooked.  War, politics but I also feel she is exaggerating what reality TV shows could become and is screaming to the general population that “Wake up world,  this crap is sucking the morality out of our future generations!”  I’m not talking about the American Idols or Dancing with the Stars reality shows, I’m talking about the devouring brain cell shows, you know which ones I'm talking about without naming them.  I was guilty of it too, though they can be absolutely astounding/interesting that people really act that stupid in real life in front of a camera no less, the reality is, I will never get back those wasted hours of TV, or wasted brain cells.

Yes I digress off the path a bit but my point is whether crappy reality TV or dark books or the satanic rock bands of the 80s (such a joke) teens are smart enough to see the crap for what it is and ultimately make the right choices.  I did. And I attribute that to parents who did not censor or shelter me growing up.  They showed me the right path and let me take the wrong one so I could figure life out for myself.  They trusted me (though as fearful as it may have been) to screw up just enough that I’d learn from my own mistakes.  For that, I am think I turned out great, if I say so myself.

Veronica Roth wrote an excellent post about the This WSJ Thing. She gives us a look on the other side of the coin.  She talks about being a sensitive teen and is grateful her parent's censorship.  The thing she hit with is the generalization the article makes.  Here is her quote:
My major problem with the WSJ article is that it makes general something that should be specific. You want to say, I want to protect my children from this kind of content? Then I say, I am happy for your kids, that they have a parent who is that worried about them. But when you say, these books are garbage and they're damaging the minds of children? I say, the world is damaging the minds of children. Be more shocked by the world than by the books.
I agree with her statement, wholeheartedly.  

You have the right and should inact that right to protect your teen, if you so see fit.  But I have to caution parents, being one myself, sometimes over filtering can backfire.  The bigger the filter, the larger censorship label or the more we institute the don’t-talk-about-it-and-it-won’t-exist mentality you might as well be highlighting the path with giant neon arrows for teens.  They know what lies beyond (or at the very least know where OR WHO to go to to find out) and rest assured, most will venture into that beyond, whether parents like it or not.  To what degree is hard to say.  We’ve all screwed up here and there but those moments were the strongest lessons learned, more than my parent’s warnings.  

The advice I'd give, research and READ the books you buy for your child, so there are no surprises.  And please don't impose your beliefs and practices onto others or generalize in blanket statements, no matter which side of the coin you are on.  There is no one way to parent, contrary to some opinions.

Other good articles on the subject:
Kristin Rae's "Great Posts about the WSJ Thing..."

P.S. Here’s another WSJ article from March, along the same lines that irked me.  Sex? Violence? An Author Tests the Boundaries of YA Fiction  Does anyone else see the irony of the author saying I wrote a dark book without actually writing about the dark stuff?  I was like, “Huh? Then you didn’t write a dark book….?"


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