Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Salon: Random thoughts about Audio book month, book banning and darkness in Young Adult Fiction

The Sunday Salon.com



Since June is audio book month, I decided to try listening to some audio books. I'm not really an audio book person. I have a tendency to tune them out if I can't see the words because I get busy doing something and my brain tunes them out, unless I'm in the car where I can't do anything else except listen. The recommendation from those who love audio books was to listen to a book already read to get used to listening to stories. It takes a few according to those in the know.

I chose In The Garden trilogy by Nora Roberts. As I listened to the story in the car, the desire is to actually read the book. So after a few days of listening, what happened. Yep, picked up Blue Dahlia and rereading it. Now starting Black Rose. With all those unread books in the pile, you'd think I be picking on of those. Something heady and intellectual after all my urban fantasy binge. Nope - Nora is calling my name. Plus she is such a fantastic writer, getting those creative writing juices flowing again.

Speaking of creative juices, for my last class, I had to read "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"  which was one of the most challenged books in the past due to the subject matter and the use of the 'n' word.   The class discussions were interesting because we were  1)  given the task of pretending we were a teacher trying to convince the school board not to remove the book from school curriculum and 2) responding to the other students as a parent who wanted the book banned. 

It was an interesting exercise because it made me look at both sides of the issue - the pros and cons.   It also confirmed my belief that books should not be banned.  However, what should be done is make sure books are age appropriate. There are just some books I think should be reserved for college age and adults, rather than middle age or high school students, because of their maturity levels. 

When I was in high school, 11th grade, two  of the books we were assigned for an English class was "The Clockwork Orange" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."   My parents were totally against me reading either book and when the school refused to substitute another book, they had me transferred into another class.    This was during the time period when Go Ask Alice came out about a teenage girl who was a drug addict.  That was considered one of the more controversial books during the 70's.   I did read Go Ask Alice at some point.  However, never had the desire to read Clockwork or Cuckoo's Nest.

I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal  entitled "Darkness Too Visible" about the darkness prevalent today in young adult books.  Many young adult fiction authors took to their blogs upset by the article, in defense of their books.   There are several links so take your time, check them out and come on back, let me know what you think.

Go ahead. I'll wait.  (examining finger nails.)  You back! Good.

To be honest, there are quite a few young adult novels with themes I won't read because of their content. But the same goes for adult novels as well.     There are always going to be books that some will consider too dark, where another person will think of it as the best book they ever read in the whole wide world.  It all depends on your perspective.  Is it any reason to ban a book, remove it from the shelves?  No.  It just means as a parent, we have to be diligent in paying attention to what our children are reading and open and willing to discuss whatever comes up.   You also have to know your child and what he/she can handle.  Sometimes I think homeschool parents have a better handle on that since we are with our kids practically 24/7. 

The science fiction/fantasy section is the only section I frequented in the bookstore or library when I was a teen.  Still have all the books I bought back then in boxes in the bottom of my closet. Periodically go through them and still just as good as they were then. Yes, some are really dark - no more so than what's out there today. I think if you just changed some of the covers on the ya books and stuck them in the sci fi section, minds would change. For some reason some sci fi is expected to be dark. 

Compared to Clockwork Orange or the other books of the early decades, are they more dark or just as dark?

4 comments:

  1. Ban the book banners!

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  2. I don't believe that any books should be banned, regardless of language or topic. When you let people start banning books, things get out of control very quickly, and soon everything is on the slush pile. People have the right to educate themselves, and I agree that certain books should be given to certain age groups, but to take a book out of circulation, or to refuse to sell it smacks of a type of control that I don't ever want exercised over me or my family.

    I also don't think that the YA if today has a problem with darkness. The books that are being written today for the YA set seem to be perfectly in tune to the kinds of problems and issues that they are facing on a daily basis. For too long, teenagers have been shoved into a corner and not had their growing maturity respected. The YA books out there now are giving them back some of that maturity and talking to them like the semi-formed adults that we all know that they are.

    In my mind, these two subjects go hand in hand.

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  3. I loved both Clockwork Orange and Cuckoo's Nest (the books). I was fortunate that my parents didn't filter our books. When I was young there were no YA books. You went from kids books straight to adult books so I'm sure how YA books have changed or if they are too dark. Teens think about deep and serious issues and books help them work through some of those issues.

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  4. Audio books are a hit or miss with me. The last one I listened to was Patrick Swayze's bio and he read it so that one really resonated with me. As for Nora...I love her! I do agree with you that some books really need to be in the right library. I do have Twain's books in the shelves of the middle school but I really try to steer my readers away from them only because I feel that they are too difficult/mature for that age, but I do have Great Illustrated Classics of the stories and that is usually what they end up checking out. I don't believe in censorship whatsoever, but age appropriateness isn't a bad thing. I do think some of the YA has been on a dark bent, but it has been coming for a while and soon I think you may see something different being the hot topic...but I still embrace them as I know students who struggle with those same issues and reading someone else story lets them know that they are not alone.

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