Friday, June 10, 2011

Book News: YA Controversy Takes Over Twitter and That's Really All I Can Write About

Photo from blog The Tales Compendium
I am interrupting regularly scheduled Book News to bring you some highlights from the recent controversy over young adult, or YA, literature. The maelstrom erupted with a Wall Street Journal article that was published last Saturday. The Twitterverse immediately retaliated with a hashtag attack as #YASaves trended to the top.

(For those of you who don't use Twitter, that means lots of Twitter users posted comments about YA lit with "#YASaves" attached, which "trended" the topic. Trending occurs when large numbers of users are writing the same word or phrase, thus pushing that word or phrase to the forefront. Twitter keeps up with repeated words or phrases like #YASaves or a celebrity name or top news story and posts them as "trending topics" for users to see and click on, which allows users to then see all comments posted that include the phrase.)

Most upsetting to many people was not the idea of an opinion piece attacking themes in YA literature. It was the fact that the author of the article is WJS children's book reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon, a person who seemingly would be a proponent of YA rather than an opponent. While for the most part, I am going to link to other (more succinct and intelligent) responses to the article, I will say that I find two things most interesting about the article, and both appear in the sidebar.

The sidebar offers some more appropriate books for YA readers, according to Gurdon (or the WSJ, as I'm not sure who compiled the list or wrote the sidebar). First, the list is divided into "Books for Young Men" and "Books for Young Women," headings antiquated both by the terms used to label the genders and also by the idea that "young men" and "young women" could never possible enjoy the same pieces of literature. As their minds are so dramatically different, I suppose it only makes sense that boys and girls have separate reading recommendations. Perhaps soon we will also separate their learning environments so that we can teach them more appropriate lessons -- you know, lessons that apply to males and lessons that apply to females, since those must also (obviously) be very different. (And here I have to take a deep, deep breath before going on, so that this does not degenerate into a feminist rant of a very different sort.)

Second (laughably, proprosteriously, ridiculously), included in the list for "young men" is Ray Bradbury's Fahreinheit 451. Which, if I am not mistaken, is a novel-length rant against censorship. An idea that is overwhelmingly proposed in the article itself. My eyes are crossing with the ludicrousness of the entire thing. Even the WSJ describes the book this way: "[I]n a society where rampant political correctness has resulted in the outlawing of books, Guy Montag works as a 'fireman' tasked with destroying intellectual contraband. . . . When Guy accidentally reads a line from a book, he finds himself strangely stirred—and impelled to an act of recklessness that will change his life forever." Yes. Fighting against censorship and banning books.

Now, some writers take on the topic in a less-adverb-heavy (i.e., more well-written) manner:

To read all Twitter users' responses and comments using the #YASaves hashtag, click here.

As you are reading this post, I am heading to the beach! (I may possibly have mentioned this yesterday...) Gulf of Mexico, here I come. I have with me that fabulous, towering stack of books.  More on my vacation reading coming up next week!

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