There was an article recently in the Wall Street Journal under their Bookshelf column called:
Darkness to Visible,
Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?
The link is here for anyone who hasn’t read it yet: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303657404576357622592697038
After reading the article I was so disheartened that I wanted to speak out but the small keys on my handheld weren’t big enough to help express how angry the article made me. I had to wait to break out the big keyboard. BAM! HERE I AM!
The article opens with a mother of 3 who goes to a bookstore to purchase a book for her 13 year old. She is so overwhelmed by the darkness on the Young Adult shelves that she leaves the store with nothing. That right there tells me she didn’t look hard enough. Anyway the article continues by attacking a few Young Adult books currently on my shelf for their dark or graphic approaches.
I wish my young adult life was full of rainbows and ponies but it wasn’t. My teen years consisted of living in teen shelter’s (2 stints at 30days a piece), baby shelter’s when my time at the teen shelter’s was exhausted and then finally a couple foster homes until I was 18. This happened because the child care system was trying to “help/protect me”. Protection is scary. I’ve seen life’s many faces and I will tell you, it’s dark and can get really graphic really fast.
Today I am a wife, a mother of two beautiful wee ones, an insurance agent by day (again seeing some not so pretty things) and a writer.
As a mother I talk to my children every day and encourage them to talk to me. I remind them regularly that they can speak to me about anything and right now they do. I hope to keep this open communication active as they grow older into their teen years and beyond. The funny thing about teens/young adults is that they will only approach you if you are approachable. How do I know this? I was a teen. Yes, I said it. I was a teen. I swear it! I even have papers to prove it!
One of the worst feelings I remember from my teen years was the isolation of dark situations. Is every home like mine? What if I’m the reason everything is so bad? Is there something wrong with me? What if someone finds out, will everyone hate me? Am I a freak?
YA books deal with everyday situations and help our children understand that they are not alone in their darkness and that there can be light at the end of their tunnels. It also teaches compassion and understanding for those who are faced with overwhelming circumstances.
Young Adult books can open the lines of communication and makes topics more approachable with their peers and at home, but only if you are willing to listen. If you condemn these real life everyday topics you will isolate the real everyday children dealing with them. They may not be your children but it could be one of their cousin’s, friends or classmates that chose your child as the person to confide in. Knowing that you are closed off to such topics do you think your child will bring the situation to you for help? Probably not. And then what? You yell and scream that these things should not be discussed, so should someone dealing with one of these problems be ashamed or even quiet? No!
If you go through life with blinders on you’re bound to hit something, HARD! Don’t force these blinders on your children because you won’t always be there to keep them in place. Instead support and listen to your children and stop condemning those who are not affraid to approach and shine a light on such real and difficult topics.
One of the books attacked was by Jackie Morse Kessler the brilliant author of Rage. Follow the link to see her fantastic response http://tinyurl.com/3pfjfo9