Sunday, May 27, 2012

A little respect for writing for children...

My research topic for my university paper this year involves a discussion about how the literary community sees fiction for young adults and children. When anything related to this appears online and/or in the media it is invariably a criticism by the literary folk that writing for children and teens can be nothing other than inferior to literary fiction. I have been mulling this whole debate over and as a writer of children's fiction I must admit I am immediately on the defensive. I have wondered whether, because I write children's fiction, I have a chip on my shoulder. Maybe I should just give in and admit they're right: that literary fiction is superior and an intelligent, considerate adult reader can learn little about the world or the art of words by reading a children's book. The only problem with giving in to this argument is that I would then have to agree that I believed the literary community to be correct in their assessment and I just can't bring myself to do it. It isn't a chip or an innate groundless defensiveness.   I have a degree in English Lit and have read my way through Joyce, Forster, Hardy, Atwood, Rhys, Walker, Kundera, Frame, Fitzgerald, Malory, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Mr and Mrs Shelley, Hemingway, James, short stories by Updike, Cheever, Wharton, Baldwin, Faulkner, O'Connor and poetry from Keats, Yeats, Tennyson, TS Eliot, Tuwhare, Baxter, and Mason. And many, many more. I enjoyed a lot of it. Some bored me senseless and was self-indulgent twaddle. Some was so dense with words they became like bricks I felt I was bashing my head against with no chance of breaking through to a meaning, if there was one, beneath. And sometimes I think a particular aspect of the human condition just shouldn't be examined. I am not ignorant of 'literary' writing both modern and historical. I am also not ignorant of children's writing both historical and modern. I also read other stuff like Crime, Thrillers, Historical, and (cover your eyes, you sensitive souls) Romance. And enjoyed a lot of it, and thought some of it, with representatives from all the categories, was rubbish. But I think the most important thing was that I was afraid of none of it. So maybe I'm not the defensive one.

I don't get why it is us and them. I don't get why we must compete. We are not selling to the same audience. And if there is concern that the funding pie might not be shared equally around I can confirm it isn't and as far as I can tell it is not the literary writers who are missing out. Sure there is lightweight children's fiction out there. Some of it is downright embarrassing. But there are also remarkable books that bleed into your soul and transform you. Some have writing that had magic as its mother. And we never grow and develop in our understanding of the world more, then we do as children and teens. If we don't sell the art of writing to the youngsters they are less likely to care about it as adults. All I'm asking for is a little respect for children's and teens writing. Or at least, keep an open mind...

UPDATE: for more discussion on this topic go check out this post.

1 comment:

Old Kitty said...

That's why I love the fact that JK Rowling's Harry Potter series will be part of a BA Degree in Education at Durham University here! Total respect!

Take care