Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Books - powerful and vulnerable, all at the same time...

Recently at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival I was asked about my stance on whether we should censor the content of children's and young adult's literature in terms of contentious themes or the inclusion of sex, violence or profanity. I answered, saying what I believe to be true about whether readers need protecting or not. I think children are self limiting. Either they will decide it isn't for them and stop reading or it will be inaccessible to them as a result of their level of maturity (it will go over their heads). Or they will be ready for it, and frankly, a book is a much better way to come across such material where it is presented in context and provides a springboard for understanding and/or discussion. Sometimes it is material that provides wider understanding of an issue and makes them more empathetic. Humanity could definitely do with being more empathetic. Sometimes it is reflecting their own experience and helps them to feel less alone. The most excellent and wise author Judy Blume spoke to the same question here. Or you can hear the mellifluous Benedict Cumberbatch reading out Kurt Vonnegut's impassioned letter to a school district regarding the censorship of his books here. Children and young adults are far more likely to be harmed by the people they know than by the books they read.

And the intramaweb has been aglow with talk of the stoush between Hachette and Amazon. I don't know all the ins and outs. But I think Chuck Wendig's run down on the issue is useful and kinda reflects my own opinions if you want to take a closer look. I'm still looking to be the cork on the ocean.

And a few years back I had a meltdown over Joel Stein's New York Times editorial suggesting adults should not demean themselves by reading young adult or children's books. Obviously as far as Mr Stein was concerned, children's and YA books would never deal with issues or themes that could be of interest or value to adults. He mentioned The Hunger Games, which he had never read. Perhaps he should have come down off his high horse and read the trilogy. This week, this appeared. While the books are a work of fiction, the issues they contain represent real social concerns and author Suzanne Collins has spoken about the different real life events and real world problems that informed her work. And while Guardian journalist Jonathan Jones says the trilogy (and associated movie franchise) is not a manual for changing the world, the themes and concerns present in the books (and movies) have resonated with people and use of the symbolic gesture in the books have provided a platform for drawing wider attention to their fight.

1 comment:

Yvette Carol said...

A very reasoned argument, good on you Melinda! p.s. any excuse to listen to Benedict Cumberbatch read something is welcome :-)