Saturday, March 31, 2012

The kids are alright...

When I read this opinion piece in the New York Times by Joel Stein where he exhorts adults to put aside any literature that doesn't stretch their minds, in particular YA or children's books, I thought my head may explode off the top of my neck. Some suggested the piece was intended as satire but unfortunately this kind of inflammatory self-congratulation only serves to reinforce the perpetual perception of YA and Children's writing as inferior to adult writing. I wasn't amused, or amazed by Mr Stein's wit, because his words were too busy bricking up the wall between adult literature and children's literature. And for those commentors who suggested its alright to read YA or Children's lit just for a bit of light relief or entertainment, that's not entirely helpful either (although readers of any literature should be able to escape within the pages of a good book no matter who it's written for). To suggest that only adult literature can educate, expand or clarify our thinking is myopic. It is arrogant to assume adults can only benefit intellectually from adult literature.  Have you read Bernard Beckett's "Genesis", or perhaps Mo Willems "We Are In A Book"? What about Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series, Meg Rosoff's, "How I live Now" or Wolf Erlbruch's "Duck, Death and the Tulip".  It is arrogant to assume that only adult thinking is sophisticated. It is frustrating for those who write for younger audiences to have their work dismissed as lacking subtlety, characterisation, or any intellectual, psychological, and/or emotional depth. Sometimes the most impressive aspect of a great children's book is how a difficult or sophisticated concept is presented in a simpler or more accessible form without any loss of meaning. It is fair to say not all books for children and young adults have emotional, psychological or intellectual depth but then neither do all books for adults. Denigrating a whole section of literature because of its potential audience ( a category or designation applied by adults looking to maximise profits not necessarily benefit the reader) suggests a certain ignorance which no amount of book reading may fix. Its divisive. And damaging. You know Mr Stein, the kids are alright, but I think you need to read some more children's books.

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

Oh Melinda!! Reading Mr Stein's article just left a bad taste in my mouth and I've not had breakfast yet!
Oh dear. What was his point??!! I read the article twice and he seems to be ranting on about people reading!?!? Like it's wrong? What is he the reading-books fascist police?!?!

LOL!!! Now off I go to continue reading your fab Half Life...!! Take care