Monday, June 6, 2011

Dear WSJ - Suck It.

The article in the WSJ DARKNESS TOO VISIBLE has whipped the YA community into a frenzy this weekend.  Just go check out the awesomeness that is the Twitter hashtag #YASaves.  It's pretty amazing.

I only have two real beefs with this article.

The first is that it is an opinion piece masquerading as journalism.  I am a firm believer in the right of people to have their opinions and to state their opinions and to shout their opinions from the highest rooftops.  However, journalism is supposed to be neutral and unbiased, something this piece was not.  They should have interviewed some of the authors they damned so that they could get other side of this story. The author of the article should be ashamed of picking on a book like SCARS without even giving the author an opportunity to refute the charges.  Ms. Megan Cox Gurdon of the WSJ acted as judge and jury in this highly biased article.  In fact, she was little more than a bully, presenting her lopsided opinion as factual.

There are some who would agree that YA has grown darker.  It's probably a topic worth exploring.  I think I may have even talked about it here.  But it's not black and white.  There are no easy answers.  Certainly, there are enough differing opinions that Ms. Gurdon could have interviewed some YA authors or publishers or even some *gasp* kids.  Maybe Ms. Gurdon picked up SCARS or THE MARBURY LENS and couldn't imagine a teen reading one of them.  But I'm sure there are teens out there who have read them and are thankful they have them.

As a small aside, I wish there had been books like this when I was a kid; books that were more frank.  When I dealt with my coming out, I was a cutter and self-injurer.  I punched walls so often and so hard that I permanently damaged the knuckle of my hand.  My upper arms are still marred by scars.  And back then--the late 90's--there were no books to help me understand what I was going through.  I assumed I was alone.  That my behavior was an aberration.  Which only worked to increase my sense of isolation.  Books that deal with these issues can be lifelines, and I wish that the "article" had presented a more well-rounded view that could have included conversations with teens that these types of books have reached.

The second issue I have with this article is that it doesn't make the distinction between a parent monitoring what a child reads, and the censorship of all YA books.  I'm not going to delve too deeply into this.  I'm simply going to implore parents to be aware.  Read what your children are reading.  And don't immediately dismiss it.  If your child is reading something challenging, read it yourself.  Talk to them about it.  Maybe they have questions.  Maybe they're reading it because THEY have questions.  Pretending these issues and these books don't exist will only make your child want to read them MORE. And they would be better off reading books with difficult subject matter if they have someone to whom they can talk.

And, for the love of God, if you feel that a book isn't right for your child--something you have every right to do--please don't try to impose your morals on everyone else.  If you've raised Mary Sunshine who eats a steady diet of unicorns and poops sunshine and never ever has anything bad happen to her, then you have my applause.  But the world isn't like that, and it's unconscionable of you to deny these books to children they might help.

You don't have to approve them, you don't have to like them, but you should read them and make an informed decision.

Oh, and I have a third beef:  to the BN bookseller who couldn't identify ONE single book for this mother to read:  shame on you.  Hang up your badge, quit your job, go work for McDonalds.  That is all.

*It's Monday, I'm sleepy.  Any incoherence is mine.


  1. I need your email address, so I can reply to your comments. Mine is on my blogger profile.

    I'll read your post in a moment.

  2. Shaun. Thanks so much for sharing with us about the suffering you've endured. It takes a lot of courage, and I couldn't be more glad that you survived it.

    As to your other points, I couldn't agree more. This article was so full of ignorance it confounds the mind. I mean I didn't even know until this morning that the cover of SCARS featured a photo of the author's own arm, but I bet Ms. Gurdon is going to feel pretty stupid when she finds that out.

    Actually, she probably won't, since she has no soul.

  3. I tried to read through the entire "article" and I confess that I ended up skimming. You hit on it here big time, Shaun. What could have been a lively discussion about the merits (or lack thereof) of dark writing in YA literature was instead a long ranting about things the author didn't agree with. And it wasn't terribly persuasive, which is ironic since I'm a parent and probably am the intended audience.

    I can't say whether the assertion that YA literature is darker than ever before is true, mostly because that type of generalization makes a poor argument.

    I can say however, that as a parent, I am completely aware of what my sons read. The reason I know this to be true is because I ask them all the time. I actively discuss what they read and make sure that it falls into the categories that I find acceptable. I do not turn a blind eye to what is going on with my sons. In other words, I take full responsibility for the welfare and education of my boys and I'm an active participant in the process (even my almost 18 year old).

    For your sake Shaun, I am sorry you had to go through the troubles you experienced growing up. But if a book would have helped make it easier to deal, I say let the book exist. Good post today, Shaun.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.