Monday, June 09, 2014

An Attack On Readers, Not A Genre

As I may have said here at some point in the past, I don't respond to articles dissing children's or YA literature. These things appear nearly annually at a couple of well-known Internet publications as well as the New York Times. I believe their purpose is to generate controversy and publicity for the organization doing the publishing. Children's literature was experiencing a big ground swell of popularity during and after the Harry Potter years and YA is wildly popular now. Articles criticizing them are guaranteed to get a rise out of fans. The controversy ends up being covered on blogs and other Internet sites, sometimes in print publications. It's all great publicity for the writers and publishers of the original bash piece. They don't need to get any more from me.

Against YA, the most recent case in point, is a little different from the run-of-the-mill Look! Look! I'm-Saying-Nasty-Things-About-YA-And-What-Are-You-Going-To-Do-About-It? article. Usually these things come in the form of a review of a new book. The reviewer doesn't work in YA or child lit, has little knowledge of it, and says a lot of ignorant things that a whole bunch of people object to. Against YA is simply book shaming. Its author belittles readers for their choice of reading material.

As I was reading it, I was reminded of attitudes toward science fiction and some forms of women's fiction. A writer at io9 picked up on the same vibe. In Really? Are We Still Genre Shaming People For The Books They Like? Lauren Davis says, "This song-and-dance — saying that we should be ashamed of what we like to read — is a familiar one for fans of genre fiction." She continues, "This argument is a familiar one to anyone who has ever heard that serious literature can't contain spaceships or aliens or, god forbid, dragons... But as science fiction and fantasy are being taken more seriously, it seems that we need to find more targets for our elitist sniffing."

Personally, I don't believe the target in Against YA is the genre. It's readers. That's why it's particularly distasteful.


Ms. Yingling said...

And I spend all of my time telling students that they can read whatever makes them happy. I find that I just enjoy middle grade books more, so I'm going to take my own advice and not worry about it. You're right about not giving any attention to the naysayers!

Anonymous said...

I really liked DuPrau's The City of Ember and the Westerfeld's Uglies series. So what if they had young lead characters? I'm a 60 year old civil engineer and am not ashamed to say I like YA.

Gail Gauthier said...

It's hard to tell just what the author of the Slate piece is complaining about. I think it's basically, "I don't like the books you like, so your books must be bad."

I think you could argue that that is a very traditional way of thinking in our society. "I like Coke/my blue jeans/my politics. That means Pepsi/your blue jeans/your politics stink." I don't know what kind of logic that is, but a lot of people accept it.