Yesterday a few of my tweeps were upset by an opinion piece which states “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” It goes on to say “These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame.” and “That will sound harsh to these characters’ legions of ardent fans. But even the myriad defenders of YA fiction admit that the enjoyment of reading this stuff has to do with escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia…But the very ways that YA is pleasurable are at odds with the way that adult fiction is pleasurable.” and “if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.”
I don’t subscribe to this opinion. I own what I like and I refuse to be embarrassed because of someone else’s opinion of the quality or difficulty [or whatever] of it.
I thought the saddest sentence in the piece was this one “But I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks;” as if titles were something to be earned on merit. Then the rest of the sentence becomes thought provoking “I wouldn’t have wanted to live in a world where all the adults were camped out in mine.” Where does this leave our teenagers if everywhere they go, there are adults colonising their space? (My thoughts 1. I feel uncomfortable when I’m in the teen section at my public library because I feel this is THEIR space so I’m in and out pretty quickly; 2. My niece likes to discuss the books she’s reading with me. She’s 16. I’m an adult she’s inviting into her space. 3. I enjoy the books written for teenagers in a different way to how teenagers enjoy them. I have no evidence for this, but given I’m not a teenager anymore, I feel I can state this fairly confidently. )
The article also put me in mind of the request from some students in the USA that their professors put Trigger Warnings on assigned reading. I’ve read two very different responses. One was from a group of academics which used very dry language to essentially say ‘We are not qualified, or prepared to deal with the potential consequences of this’. (My Google Fu is failing me and I can’t actually find their response so if anyone has a link please add it. It surely can’t be as bad as I remember it being. Luckily I’d read this first – Trigger warnings and being responsible for your students by JF Mason which describes the difference between content warnings and trigger warnings. It’s belatedly occurred to me that libraries habit of separating out titles by general age range acts like content warnings. This content is generally suitable for children. This content is generally suitable for teenagers. This content is generally suitable for adults. It doesn’t limit the age of the reader, it provides a guideline.
Heoi anō, my advice to you is to celebrate what you love, read what you like, and NEVER be embarrassed by it.*
*YES, EVEN FIFTY SHADES.