Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

In defense of the genre…

It’s fitting that the title of this post is also the name of the album I’m listening to as I write it.

I signed into Facebook earlier today, as per usual. Lalala I read through my newsfeed. K has little baby kittens, M went swimming last night, S ate a bug, and my mom is still playing that game. Then I come to a post from a friend and fellow writer. She had written a new blog, and since her blogs are clever and funny and relatable I try to read them. Today the blog she wrote concerned this article by The Washington Post. You might want to give it a gander just so you get a general idea about why I’m kinda pissed, and also genuinely confused.

After you have read that you can, if you like, read Zoe’s rebuttal here. Just for some background, I don’t know if I’ve said but I’m a writer. A Young Adult writer in particular, as is Zoe (check out some of her stuff, it’s great), and while I’m currently unpublished I have a vested interest in the genre both as a writer and an avid reader. So I feel like I badly need to address this article.

Now Zoe has already addressed a lot of what was wrong with that article. It is a blatant attack on YA as a genre and also on anyone who writes YA. Because apparently it’s bad for authors to write books for a target audience and write them about topics that said audience can relate to. Let’s see, violence, rape, eating disorders, cutting, drug abuse, etc.

But I’ll leave that bit alone. I won’t even get into the fact that these are issues every young person is going to encounter at some point, and that some of those encounters will leave them scarred and broken. That reading about these things might make it easier to cope, might make these scarred teens feel a little less alone. Let’s instead just focus on the books, the reading, and the bookselling aspect.

The article opens up with a woman who goes into a BN to find a book for her 13 year old daughter. Looking through the teen section all she saw was “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” Here’s my first question, why didn’t she ask a bookseller for help? I’ve had concerned parents ask me for recommendations of books that didn’t deal with those very subjects. They usually purchased several of the books I recommended and left happily. Some of the books I recommended? Harry Potter, Eragon, Tamora Pierce, Jessica Day George, Nobody’s Princess, Sarah Dessen, Anne Brashares, 13 Blue Envelopes, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Prom Dates From Hell, the list goes on.

Of course there are “dark” books out there for teens. Teens are at a dark point in their lives. They are at a point where everything is changing, and everyone is changing. They are at an age where they are expected to act and think like adults but still be treated like children. You write what your audience wants to read. Or more aptly publishers publish what their audiences want to read, and booksellers sell what their customers want to read. It’s really simple economics here. They demand, we supply. Were there not a demand for these sorts of books we wouldn’t sell them.

What really cheeses me off about this article is the fact that all of the books in the entire genre are being judged based on the contents of a few. If you walk into my room you will find hundreds, maybe a thousand books. Most of them written for YA. Maybe one or two deal with any of those “dark” subject matters. If you are that worried about what your teens might be reading, do some research. Read some of it yourself. Ask a professional for their opinion.

Or ideally, let your teen be their own person and make their own choices. Let them read what they want to read, and if what they choose concerns you talk to them about it! Maybe there are things going on in their life that you don’t know about. Maybe they do need help, not because the books they are reading affected their psyche but because their psyches were affected by something else and brought them to choose those books. I know a young lady who reads a lot of realistic books about abuse, rape, suicide, etc. Why? Because she has been abused, raped, and has attempted suicide. And no one in her life understood or got her help. By finding these books she found that she was not alone, and this she told me, makes her want to go to college to be a counselor for young people. Because they shouldn’t feel alone.

To me what this all really boils down to here is an age superiority complex. Teens don’t feel, they don’t suffer, their thoughts and ideas don’t matter because we as adults have already been there and come out on the other side. We as adults have forgotten what it was to feel young, and alone, and afraid. We have forgotten what it was to imagine, to create, to live each day like it’s brand new bogged down as we are in our oh so important day to day. The world doesn’t begin and end at your mortgage payment and your white picket fences. Well, I haven’t forgotten and I hope I never do. If you take a nice close look at the album cover I posted above you will see that on the one side you have an army of the old and on the other an army of the young. The never-ending battle of youth versus age, that is all this is.

All I’m saying here is, leave my genre alone man. There are books in it for every age, for every taste. They are not all the same.

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth-Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

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Filed under Bookselling, Young Adult, Young Readers

Reading From My Hat: A new literary project

Hello my freaky darlings! As I have probably pestered you all about, I’m starting a new reading project which I’m going to blog about here since I’d like to share it with you and (mostly) because I feel like blogging about it will make me be more honest about the whole project. I know I will feel guilty if I try to cheat and fib to my readers and friends.

So what is this project you ask? Well I’ll get to that momentarily. First let me tell you guys a little about me, give you some background info so that when you read about the project in a moment you will understand why I want to do this and why I will need your help to make it an enlightening and horizon-broadening experience.

 

I’m a bookseller by profession. Pretty much it’s the most perfect job for me, because I’m also a voracious (and probably addicted) reader. I literally can’t not have something to read, as I will go insane and become a homicidal manic foaming at the mouth with crazy googley eyes and all. Finances prevent me from being in college right now, but I don’t see that as a reason to allow myself to become uneducated, I will simply have to try to educate myself. To do this, and also to keep myself sane and to keep the general public safe, I read all the time. “What do you like to read?” You might ask. Well, I would normally answer “Everything.” However, lately I’ve noticed that more and more often I avoid reading certain types of things, while tending to read things that fall under the same genres over and over again. I like to read Teen, Young Readers, Fantasy, Mystery, Travel Writing, Fiction, and certain kinds of biographies, histories, and spiritual writings. I don’t like to read anything apocalyptic, anything about zombies, romance, current affairs, certain kinds of bio’s and histories, sci-fi, or anything that will make me cry.

My 5 favorite books are (in order):

American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

My 5 least favorite books are(in no particular order):

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Nectar in a Sieve by Kamal Markandaya, anything by Ayn Rand, and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

So this brings me to my project and the reasons for starting it. Being a bookseller I get a lot of book recommendations. I’m also always surrounded by books that look really good or interesting or intriguing, while also being surrounded by books that make me feel guilty, like I should be reading them even though I really have no desire to. That’s 3 distinct categories of books and I bet you all know which one usually dictates what I read. I’ve known for a while that something about this needed to change, I needed something to make me read those recommendations and those books that I feel like I need to read even though they don’t particularly interest me. It took me a while to figure out a good way to do this though, a way that would be fair to all 3 categories while also being easy for me to follow. *Thomas Edison’s invention shines brightly above me, casting a halo around my head while heavenly angels sing a mono-syllabic note* It came to me, that I could write the title of each book or an author’s name down on a little scrap of paper each time I see something I want to read, or get a recommendation, or see something I think I should read. Then when I get home I can put all of those little scraps into my fedora, and draw them out one at a time and read whichever one gets pulled out of the hat. I further decided that if someone recommends something to me, no matter how much I don’t want to read it, it goes into the hat.

This is where you all, and my blog, come in! I have probably 100 books in my hat, I’m adding about 50 more today. I need recommendations people! Comment me with your favorite books, books that you think everyone needs to read, books that changed your life, whatever. The one stipulation I’m making is this, I’m not reading any Christian fiction or Christian inspiration. Well, only the stuff I put in anyway. If there is something in that category that you think is really, truly exceptional, state your case when you recommend it and I will take it into consideration.

Thanks everyone! I hope this will be fun, and I hope you guys will like reading the trials and tribulations!

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Filed under Literary Projects, Reading Projects, Uncategorized