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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Depravity part 2

The debate on depravity in teen lit is still raging.

Here’s an interesting article in Publisher’s Weekly that begs the question: where are all the non-violent teen books?

One big question: is YA saving — or damaging — teen lives? In a piece for New York magazine, Margaret Lyons wrote that Cox Gurdon is wrong when she said it’s “indeed likely” that today’s books subtly encourage and popularize self-harm. And tweeters on #YAsaves note that “dark” teen books that bring up homosexuality, cutting, suicide, and rape, among other tough topics, prevent rather than promote dangerous behavior.

Along those lines, David Levithan, editorial director at Scholastic and author of several YA novels himself, refers to Patricia McCormick’s Cut, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. “It’s about being a cutter but getting help and finding your way out of a bad place,” he said. “It sounds so clichéd to say, but we have had so many emails from kids and the adults in their life saying this book saved the kid from doing the thing portrayed in the book.”

Amy Alessio, a teen librarian in Schaumburg, Ill., still recommends quality books with dark content, such as the Hunger Games trilogy, to adolescents. “I don’t think it inspires teens to be more violent.” She herself loves reading mysteries but notes that they don’t inspire her to go out and solve crimes in real life.

I’m pleased to see that this topic is getting so much airtime in the international press but it concerns me that censorship stills seems to be seen as a possibility in dealing with violence in teen lit. At their heart, YA novels tackle issues that effect the daily lives of their readers. If you censor out any or all violent content, then you’re taking away yet another resource that could in fact help teens resolve the problems in their lives. YA should be a mirror of life, not a utopian ideal of what we want our kids to be. (Although that would make for an awesome story!)

Let’s hear some more voices on the side of non-censorship.

Read the original article here.

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    June 13th, 2011 @12:47 #
     
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    I don't understand the concept of trying to 'protect' teens from real life. Real life has already hit them in the face. As you say, the job of society is to help them learn to negotiate it. Hence the appeal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - yes?

    I wonder if people succumb to rose coloured glasses syndrome. Because I find it hard to believe there are so many adults who had their teenage years full of clouds and cotton candy. The baby boomers of the US were the teens who were sent off to Vietnam. Not pretty.

    I look back at my childhood and sure, there are a lot of lovely memories. But I buried friends too. Not anything as dramatic as gang warfare. Still, a loss is a loss and those losses hurt.

    Nor was life always cushy for my friends. In fact, in many ways it is worse for children and teens because the law gives the young so little power in order to defend themselves from life's unrelenting crap. I doubt I'll ever forget the time my friend phoned me looking for help while her sister's screams carried on in the background. Their father was beating the living daylights out of her.

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  • <a href="http://margieorford.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Margie</a>
    Margie
    June 13th, 2011 @14:30 #
     
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    I was normal until I had teenagers. Now I am utterly depraved....its them, not us!

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    June 13th, 2011 @14:34 #
     
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    I know what you mean. I've read such brilliant YA books recently (both old and new) that tackle real issues in such a profound way. Jean Ure's Bad Alice deals with sexual abuse in foster homes; Kevin Brooks' i-Boy deals with gangsterism and rape; Joanna Nadin's Wonderland is about dissociative disorders and teen pregnancy. These are topics that we have to address in fiction, and not in a censored, we-can't-offend-anyone way either.
    And of course its true that there will be some readers that don't necessarily want to read about such heavy-duty topics. That's the beauty of YA. It's all encompassing. Sometimes I like to curl up with a sci-fi or a fantasy for its escapist value. I LOVED the Twilight series for what it was. I'm just saying that we shouldn't not be allowed to write about something because its too violent. That's just ridiculous.

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    June 13th, 2011 @14:35 #
     
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    LOL @Margie

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  • <a href="http://fromthelibraryfloor.blogspot.com" rel="nofollow">floorlibrarian</a>
    floorlibrarian
    June 13th, 2011 @17:00 #
     
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    Okay this is a dialogue that's been doing the rounds since like forever.
    Every couple of years, some know-it-all from somewhere has an opinion that anything that's not saccharine sweet and wholesome is bad for YA and kids in general. Insert words like moral fibre and rectitude somewhere and you could be talking about the 1940's US, when Frederic Wertheim convinced the US Congress that kids and teens reading comics would fall into a life of crime and sexual depravity.
    Numerous books got tarred with the same brush in the end and Americans had more fuel for the fire.
    Ms Judy Blume wrote a book called Forever, a frank and open book about YA and sex.
    It got burnt, banned and got the depraved label by an American Moral Society that had a whole body spasm of rectitudeness. To this day, it is still banned in libraries in the US and Australia.
    So, now the depraved band wagon has come again, and I say let them have it.
    If a bunch of Americans want to jump up and down about so-called depravity in YA books, let them have it.

    We're a continent and a ocean away, and we have bigger fish to fry. We have like gigantic, whale sized fish to fry:
    A literacy rate amongst teens that is scary.
    Social issues that would make the poorest of the poor in the U.S. feel like the luckiest people on the earth, and a society so entrenched in abuse (emotional, physical, spiritual ), the whole of South African needs prozac and a good lie down.

    The violence that YA' s see everyday, at school, towards themselves, against parents and friend, is mirrored in their behavior, their language and how they relate to the world and I WISH, I sincerely and with every fiber of my being, wish that they would pick up a 'depraved' 'violent' book so that they don't have to deal with what's real and waiting for them.

    I like labels made by stupid people in other privileged countries, it gives me a sliver of a chance to hook their attention. It allows me to make something good out of anothers idiocy.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    June 13th, 2011 @17:39 #
     
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    'Social issues that would make the poorest of the poor in the U.S. feel like the luckiest people on the earth.'

    In all honesty, we're just better at hiding the poorest of the poor and pretending they do not exist - then making sure the rest of the world believes it. And the USA has a rather appalling literacy rate for a first world country too.

    Think Sally's subject does have a very good point in SA. What books are are on the kids syllabus and do they connect with the kids who should be reading them? Whose moral code decides if a book gets on the reading list? Isn't it censorship if a head doesn't order a book because it deals with HIV or homosexuality? Because SA literacy rate is a big fish to fry and perhaps one of the very many reasons kids are not reading is the books they are being taught to read, made to read, are either boring and / or have no relevance to their world.

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    June 14th, 2011 @10:40 #
     
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    Sadly no matter how thrilling/relevant/amazing you make a book its not going to solve illiteracy. That's a whole other kettle of fish right there. It's been a challenge reaching my specific target market. I'm pretty active on social media sites which has been brilliant in generating reviews, but as soon as I speak at a school I'm greeted by a room of blank faces. The only way to solve this is to visit more schools. Recently, I've started submitting youth fiction to the Yoza mobi initiative which allows young people to read right on their phones. I think its a brilliant way to access a target market that don't use Twitter, and who can't afford to buy new books. It's actually quite amazing how hungry this market is for literature. Busy on a third mobile novel now.

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  • <a href="http://fromthelibraryfloor.blogspot.com" rel="nofollow">floorlibrarian</a>
    floorlibrarian
    June 14th, 2011 @12:49 #
     
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    Look I think this debate in our context is irrelevant. YA Lit won't be irreparably harmed, the economics back up the trends, and publishing in the states has always been market driven. So unless the bottom line is called into question, this dialogue for SA YA readers means nothing. Nothing to me and my borrowers at any rate.
    Mom's are just happy that their kids are reading. And unless I say something, or my colleague draws attention to a particular aspect to a book that might not be age appropriate, the parent will read it first.
    The bottom line is the American YA Publishing Industry won't collapse if some editorialist decides to make a sweeping generalization about YA books.
    So why give a crap when there is BIGGER issues.

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  • <a href="http://www.sapartridge.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sally</a>
    Sally
    June 14th, 2011 @16:31 #
     
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    Still..interesting.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    June 14th, 2011 @19:51 #
     
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    Sally, it is interesting.

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