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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Response: Wall St. Journal Bookshelf~YA Fiction "Darkness Too Visible"

On June 4, 2011, The Wall Street Journal~Bookshelf section published an article by Meghan Cox Gurdon entitled:

"Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity.  Why is this considered a good idea?"

I beg you to read the article by accessing the link provided here http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303657404576357622592697038.html

The following is my response to her article:

Dear Meghan,

How very brave you were to write this article and submit it, knowing full-well you would be standing against a storm of abuse to come. Just let me say that there are those of us who understand the real meaning of your words and the concern you are trying to express. We want kids to know they aren't alone in dealing with bullying and other horrors of growing up, and we want them to understand that there is hope.

If we take a moment to be honest with ourselves, we all strive for the highest good in ourselves and for our lives, and we'd like to have our children experience the same; that is, to overcome the ugliness of life...like the young girl mentioned above in her note about overcoming bulimia. We want to throw off the need to cut, to hurt, to strike out, to commit suicide.

Don't we want to have hope and peace, to be clean in mind and spirit, and have better things in our lives? Don't we want our parents to love and cherish us? And, don't even children want to know that no matter how dark and awful their lives are, how afraid and lonely they feel, that there are examples of kids who have overcome, who have survived to create better lives for themselves?

Much of that hope can come through reading YA fiction..some of it seemingly dark, but with an outcome for resolving the issues. I think there's a place for YA fiction that's not "milk toast," absolutely.

I think what recent publishers of YA fiction have done in some cases, is bring a shock-value category for YAs, to those who like to court the darkness. These books don't really speak to the issues that they may face in the real world but they are books that seek to actually distort,warp, and to plant the dark images that I think you, Meghan, intended to highlight, and they don't help kids in crisis. Adults who support and pander to this type of book don't help them, either. In fact, studies like Columbine show that these type of books do quite the opposite.

Those are books that pass the point of realism, go into the physically grotesque, demonology, angelic in-dwellings, perversions of all sorts, sexual mutilation and explicity that Adult Fiction would table as X-rated. Let's be honest! Those who choose to publish such books for the YA audience, it seems to me, are stepping over some serious boundaries of morality and social values.

And there is another blooming category: A very recent book that is getting some high regard, having to do with the soft peddling of sibling incest is an example of what I think is morally corrupt in YA fiction. No matter how well a writer can tell a story. No matter how beautiful the words and the message, and no matter how gorgeous the wrapping--incest is still incest and it's still harmful to absolutely everyone involved and everyone who comes into its circle of influence.

A book for young adult readers that seeks to convince them that incest is even a point for consideration under a stressful, even excruciating family situation is just horrific at best. A book that draws an incestuous relationship as a loving and beautiful one to be struggled over is truly psychologically off-kilter. And a publisher who would send that book out to older children/young adults for reading must want to question themselves....must want to second guess themselves. Surely, they must.

Why do we so arrogantly look down our noses at the Penn State coaches?

Why do we throw stones at unfaithful Presidential candidates?

Why are some publishers of our country not taking moral responsibility for what they offer as books for young adults/teenagers?

How often do they have to serve up a dish of dung with whipped cream and a cherry on top packaged in silk wrappings before we get the message that its DUNG???

Why are we afraid to stand up for what's right for our nation's children??

Maybe we need to reread "The Emperor's New Clothes."

*Note: In addition to my comment above, and for my post here, I just want to say that we need not read every book in its entirety to understand that the material is unsuitable. Most of us can read a jacket cover or a summary or review of a book and know quite a bit about a novel without having read it through. And, it doesn't take a genius to figure out when there's something despicable in the way, you need to step over it instead of in it.





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