#YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

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#YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby Sommer Leigh » 04 Jun 2011, 20:56

About 40 minutes ago I was checking my Twitter feed when news came down of the Wall Street Journal article posted today called Darkness Too Visible Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?: http://on.wsj.com/lwuPNd

Authors Maureen Johnson and Libba Bray were the first people I saw responding and very quickly the Twitter hashtag #YASaves was brought to life.

The article is TERRIBLE and clearly written by someone who hasn't read the books she is commenting on. For those of us who write YA, it is particularly heartbreaking that this article was ever published. But this isn't a discussion about the article. It's a discussion about the hashtag. If you have Twitter, I highly recommend reading all the responses from people about what YA has done to change their lives. The thread of comments is gorgeous and heartbreaking and beautiful and awe inspiring. I can't tear my eyes away and the comments just keep flooding in.

I never forget why I write YA, but then the community does this and proves I am in it to the end. I'm so in love with the writing and reading community right now. I highly recommend going and seeing just how important books really are to the readers who love them.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby HillaryJ » 04 Jun 2011, 21:55

All I can think is that the WSJ wanted people to start talking about them. Maybe their page hits were down. Or, the journalist was late leaving town for vacation and tossed it out there faster than the speed of thoughtfulness.

The article is an accusatory fluff piece with very little research behind it and no balance within it. I had a hard time reading it, but not because of what a piece of drivel it is. I had a hard time reading it because of the side bar with recommended YA reads broken down by gender. BROKEN DOWN BY GENDER. Because the WSJ apparently believes that society needs to keep young girls and boys separate, needs to remind them that they are separate, and needs to enforce the gaps between genders. Because boys need to read Farenheit 451, but girls don't need to bother with thought-provoking stuff like that. Awesome. Any intelligent message that article might contain is undermined by that sidebar.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby hektorkarl » 05 Jun 2011, 08:51

My response explaining why there's no need to be heartbroken :) (adapted from a longer blog post)

These articles are perhaps harmful to those who waste time reading them, but they are great for book culture. Books are seen by too many as something thrust upon children by adults in some dreadful effort to force self-improvement and inculcate middle-class values. Reading, like school, is something we grow out of.

Rock music first thrived because the parents didn't understand. Literature needs some of this same energy. Youth need people like Gurdon to dismiss the art so that they can own it. Youth culture needs antagonists. Gurdon, with her criticism, has sold more books than I ever have with my praise. She helps return the magic to reading. Everyone I've sent this article to has expanded their reading list by at least one book.

The article includes a sidebar that recommends Fahrenheit 451 as a solid YA read. The irony of featuring this book in an article that praises censorship makes me wonder if it wasn't the work of a subversive editor. But maybe the WSJ is just that unaware.

The outpouring from the YA community -- writers and readers alike -- has been fascinating, but there's no need to fear this type of marginalization. Youth culture thrives on the margins. Art thrives on the margins. Friends are important, but we can also measure ourselves by our enemies.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby Sommer Leigh » 05 Jun 2011, 09:07

hektorkarl wrote:The outpouring from the YA community -- writers and readers alike -- has been fascinating, but there's no need to fear this type of marginalization. Youth culture thrives on the margins. Art thrives on the margins. Friends are important, but we can also measure ourselves by our enemies.


I'm not afraid that an article like this is going to bring down the YA industry or anything. These articles pop up from time to time all the time, and I don't think anyone fears that they'll bring the whole production to a halt. My husband and I talked about this last night because he didn't understand why I was so upset over an article written by someone who was clearly misinformed about everything. The reason articles like this upset me is that they are going to be read by a large group of people, parents, and at least some of these parents are going to believe the article. And so some of the parents out there are going to tighten their control on what their kids are reading due to a misinformed, poorly researched article telling them to censor their kids from the depravity of YA authors. And while I believe that most kids who want to read a book will find a way to get their hands on it, some won't. And it is for that small selection of kids who will be directly effected by this stupid article that I get upset and heartbroken.

And on a smaller scale, articles like this who make me out to be a depraved monster because I write this stuff make me a little nuts.

My interest though, in this whole event, is with the response from the YA community. I was up until well past 1am reading the #YASaves responses. They were awesome!
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby hektorkarl » 05 Jun 2011, 09:36

You make good points. I'm hoping that the increased interest will balance any censorship efforts.

At this point, far more people refrain from reading YA because they don't really know what's out there than refrain because they find too much of the content objectionable.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby HillaryJ » 05 Jun 2011, 16:14

Yes, the article raised good discussion, frank discussion, and necessary discussion. Sadly, the article could have begun that discussion rather than inciting it.

The problem with censorship is that it, by its very nature, can't be balanced. Teens reading that article and going out and buying books is a good thing. Parents or teachers or other adults reading that article and the responses and having conversations with teens is a good thing. Small communities or pockets within communities using that article as ammunition in a campaign (the WSJ says these books are bad) to censor YA bookshelves is a bad thing. Not every kid can reach a different community to buy books there that he or she can't find in his or her hometown. Not every kid has access to or can afford to buy these books online and circumvent local censorship.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby maybegenius » 05 Jun 2011, 18:18

While I'm 100% agree that this article, or any of the similar articles that follow it, will never halt or stop valuable YA books from being written, published, and read, it's still always a severe blow to my heart to read about people who share these attitudes. Because they do exist, people like the article's author and the bulk of her commenters. There are people out there who think teenagers are fragile little butterflies who can't reason for themselves or find value in content their parents deem inappropriate. Who think, like this woman, that reading about self-injury will inspire teens who had never considered it before to try it out because it's "in vogue." Which just goes to show her complete disconnect with what self-injury is and how it's used, but whatever, I guess.

But I am glad this opinion is brought up so that it can be challenged. The article's author makes a number of gross implications, like it's impossible to find "light-hearted" YA anymore (completely untrue), like joy and beauty are mutually exclusive from "dark" topics (how nice to imply a novel featuring rape cannot also contain moments of beauty and joy), like YA authors somehow enjoy "immersing teens in ugliness" (we clearly get our jollies finding ways to corrupt delicate minds), those of us who are younger are desensitized because we grew up playing violent video games (seriously, be a bigger condescending jerk, please), etc.

I also couldn't help but heartily roll my eyes at her implication that people crying "censorship!!111!1!!1!!" were being sensationalistic. Look. It is 100% within any parent's right to monitor their OWN children's entertainment, books included. No one has or will ever stop a parent from not allowing certain books in their home or carefully watching what their children read. In fact, that's awesome. It shows involvement. But if anyone ever tries to prevent a child other than their own from reading a certain book, it 100% is censorship. End of story.

Article irked me, obviously. However, the outpouring of teenagers and adults alike who have been sharing the way YA has touched their lives has been incredible to read, and I'm glad the WSJ is at least pretending to listen. Even if they aren't really, it still puts me at ease to see how powerful YA has become and that it *is* appreciated.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby Nathan Bransford » 05 Jun 2011, 19:44

I thought the #YASaves hashtag was great. I have to say that whenever someone publishes an obviously incendiary article I kind of cringe not only because of the views themselves, because also because the vitriol it spawns is so predictable. Someone says something controversial, people get up in arms... later rinse repeat. In the Internet era it can get a little exhausting. So it was great to see the reaction turn into something positive instead.

And like HilaryJ, I too was appalled by the sidebar with books broken down by gender.

Sarah LaPolla also has a good post about the article and the reaction: http://bigglasscases.blogspot.com/2011/ ... arren.html
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby Cookie » 06 Jun 2011, 07:35

hektorkarl wrote:You make good points. I'm hoping that the increased interest will balance any censorship efforts.

At this point, far more people refrain from reading YA because they don't really know what's out there than refrain because they find too much of the content objectionable.


That is a very good point.

Honestly, I wish these books were out when I was a teenager. My late teen years were terrible. Terrible. And it would have been empowering to see people going through similar/worse situations persevere. I might have handled things differently. I still turned out alright, but it would have nice to know I wasn't alone. There were unfortunately not a lot of people I could relate to.

I was also annoyed with the smug tone and the assumption that all YA is dark and deprave. Clearly, she did not spend a significant amount of time in the YA aisle, or actually reading the dust jackets to any of them. It sounds like she picked up a couple, read the descriptions, saw the covers, and made the impatient assumption that all of them were unfit to read. Also didn't like how they lumped the *suggested* reads by gender. I found some of the suggestions weird and contradictory to the article. The girls suggestions were all sweet and innocent, while the boys were darker in nature. I don't like what that implies.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby Margo » 06 Jun 2011, 10:22

HillaryJ wrote:Yes, the article raised good discussion, frank discussion, and necessary discussion. Sadly, the article could have begun that discussion rather than inciting it.


Which is why the author should really be embarassed about it.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby sierramcconnell » 07 Jun 2011, 08:44

Hey, this actually gives me hope. If that's the kind of stuff that's out there, then my books actually have real chance of not needing to be toned down! :D

Seriously, though, how old is this lady and in what world did she grow up? Shelterville? I mean, I grew up in a closet, but damn, even I know that there are much more terrible things people can be doing but reading a "dark book". If they're reading a "dark book" they're not out there doing "dark things".

Gees Louisa. That's ridiculous. Someone get her a pillow.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby maybegenius » 28 Jun 2011, 10:00

Ms. Gurdon wrote a rebuttal to the reaction to her original piece. It pretty much says, "I'm still right."

New article: http://dft.ba/-AWY
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby sierramcconnell » 28 Jun 2011, 10:31

Wow. And I love the way she assumes this:

I also don't believe that the vast majority of American teenagers live in anything like hell. Adolescence can be a turbulent time, but it doesn't last forever and often—leaving aside the saddest cases—it feels more dramatic at the time than it will in retrospect.

Really? Who the hell are you (and if you're talking about a place, dear, you capitalize it, oops, grammar police) to judge that? You think that these 'precious, innocent children' are too pure to understand those issues and yet did you know they're actually dealing with them every day, too afraid to talk to smarmy jackhammers like you because of the exact same attitude you're pouring out? Gee, I'm sorry you had a perfectly sheltered life, but some of us were too busy trying to survive in a closet while you were off having tea parties with plastic cups.

God that's infuriating.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby Cookie » 28 Jun 2011, 12:43

sierramcconnell wrote:Wow. And I love the way she assumes this:

I also don't believe that the vast majority of American teenagers live in anything like hell. Adolescence can be a turbulent time, but it doesn't last forever and often—leaving aside the saddest cases—it feels more dramatic at the time than it will in retrospect.

Really? Who the hell are you (and if you're talking about a place, dear, you capitalize it, oops, grammar police) to judge that? You think that these 'precious, innocent children' are too pure to understand those issues and yet did you know they're actually dealing with them every day, too afraid to talk to smarmy jackhammers like you because of the exact same attitude you're pouring out? Gee, I'm sorry you had a perfectly sheltered life, but some of us were too busy trying to survive in a closet while you were off having tea parties with plastic cups.

God that's infuriating.


Hey, I drank out of plastic tea cups! My teen years were also terrible too...so...

Here are the things I didn't like about both her articles:

1. She assumes everyone grew up like she did.
2. She assumes that teens are these little innocent, delicate, and highly malleable flowers. Which, while thankfully few are, most are not. That is pretty much saying that teens are stupid and can't think for themselves.
3. She generalizes all YA as "dark", when it is not. Just because she noticed a few titles that are or may seem "dark", does not mean all of them are.
4. She would rather (or so the articles projects) have all bad things swept under the rug. Not talked about. If you haven't experienced it, how dare you be curious about it.
5. She assumes that talking about dark subjects glorifies them. As if reading a book is going to influence you to start cutting or turn you into a deprave psychopath who goes out on a rape and pillaging spree (exaggerated, I know. But my curiosity and love for Vikings did not make me want to be one). Please, give our teens some credit.

Adolescence can be a turbulent time, but it doesn't last forever and often—leaving aside the saddest cases—it feels more dramatic at the time than it will in retrospect.

Obviously. But have you ever tried telling a teen who is inconsolable with grief over whatever it is that they are crying about, that it is no big deal? They'll shoot eye daggers at you.
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Re: #YASaves, Twitter Response to WSJ Article

Postby sierramcconnell » 28 Jun 2011, 13:03

Cookie wrote:5. She assumes that talking about dark subjects glorifies them. As if reading a book is going to influence you to start cutting or turn you into a deprave psychopath who goes out on a rape and pillaging spree (exaggerated, I know. But my curiosity and love for Vikings did not make me want to be one). Please, give our teens some credit.


Seriously. Teens, as I'm learning, are not all just babies and children. Some are adults. Some were forced to grow up way way waaay too fast. When I started cutting, it wasn't because of a book. It was because I wanted to get attention because I got into a fight with my mom. And then when I did it, it felt good! And I realized, hey, I liked it, I wanted to keep doing it, and I didn't want people to see it. So I hid it.

It was a shameful thing to be doing something like that. I got put on medication for slicing up my wrist and hand. So to think there are books out there where a child\teen\whatever can go and read and find out that it's not shameful, it's something you're doing because you need something in your life, is a good thing. You're not sick. You're not depraved. You're not DARK or some kind of monster because you like to see that. It's because deep down, someone hurt you, or your trying to make the hurt go away by making it into something physical that you can heal. It's not unnatural. It's completely sane because you are trying to heal yourself. You're not covering it up like someone else is and screaming and pointing like others.

Dark things need to be brought out into the light, examined, and talked about. Not shushed and covered under a rug. Who knows? Maybe one of these kids who don't have problems might read a book and see that someone they know is doing something they see as 'dark' and reach out to help.
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