And just to make sure that no one accuses me of picking on one particular country or culture, I am featuring one US example, and one Malaysian example. If I had the time, I am sure I could extend that to Australia, UK and Botswana…or any other country you care to name.
But these two will do:
From the Wall Street Journal
This article describes the distress of a mother who is looking for young adult (YA) books that don’t deal with “vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark, stuff” — and couldn’t find any. The reviewer agrees that it’s tough to find good YA books, saying that the kind of books the mother was talking about reflect back “distorted portrayals of what life is”.
Apparently, according to the above article, we need sweetness and light and positiveness in the books young people read. (For God’s sake, don’t let the kids read The Bible, whatever you do. There’s some real heavy stuff within its pages, particularly grim stories about a vengeful unforgiving God destroying whole cities, sending plagues, people being turning into pillars of salt for the crime of looking over their shoulder as their whole city is wiped out — really, really nasty, upsetting stuff like that.)
Apparently, if your life sucks, and you’re fourteen, there’s not a shred of good in reading about people just like you, even if in the end they manage to cope. Much, much better, the writer of the article says, if we censor hell out of libraries so that our little darlings never read anything too bleak for them.
To me, this blinkered view of what life is like for a 13 or 14 year old is just plain weird. If a kid’s life really is bad and he or she comes across a story that reflects their own, then they will learn something about coping, and they will learn that they are not alone — surely one of the most valuable life-changing moments there is.
If said kid lives in a great neighbourhood with fabulous parents, then they are going to realise – as they will have to sooner or later — that not everyone is so lucky.
The most remarkable thing about the article, though, is this: that reading a work of fiction can change a young adult for the worse. For example, that reading fiction about self-mutilation will make some kids do it. Er…nope. Because kids will have heard about it long before they read a work of fiction about it, believe me. Take my word for it. They hear about it from TV, the internet and their friends.
Fiction doesn’t make a kid do bad things; real life does. Fiction hands them ways of coping with the bad things that happen to them so they DON’T do stupid stuff like self-mutilate.
The other thing fiction can do is offer a form of entertainment that makes real life bearable. Within the pages of a book (or to a lesser degree in a game or a TV show), a kid in trouble can escape, and in the escape gain the calm needed to deal with real life.
And of course, the article implies that all this is new. Books for young people used to be lovely…
When I was in primary school I had a lot of my mother’s books from when she was a kid. She was born in 1903. Boy, what a miserable lot of books a kid had to read in those days. All about kids who died – Little Nell (Old Curiosity Shop – yes, kids did have Dickens read to them in those days – my mother said she cried and cried over that one), Beth March (Little Women), the little match girl (Andersen — and loads of other similar fairy tales by him and brothers Grimm); Judy Woolcot (Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner) – geez. Their message seemed to be, “Never mind, if you are particularly good, you will die young and go to heaven all the sooner.” Lucky you, kiddo!!
I reckon today’s books offer more hope than those books. They empower kids, instead of throwing their entire fate into the arms of a capricious god.
And from The Star newspaper of Malaysia
This article is about some extraordinarily ignorant women sounding off about something they know NOTHING about (abused women and abusive men), and deciding that of course it’s ALL the fault of WOMEN who don’t know how to OBEY their potentially abusive husbands. And I gather that they think ALL MEN will be abusive given disobedient wives to manage. Wow, hard to get one’s head around this bit of ignorant garbage.
women have the answer. They are starting up a thing called “The Obedient Wives Club”. Basically, as far as I can make out, it is a club for cult-bait. You know, the kind of people (in this case only women) who are so infantile and puerile that they need to hand over their money, bodies, independent thought, maturity, or any sense of self, to the tyrant cult leader in their family (who will make use of them, their bodies, their money but whom they must never challenge on anything, no matter how ignorant or stupid or cruel he is).
Hmm. Come to think of it, can I join as an honorary man? Sounds like a good deal for a impecunious writer. I can write and not worry about income while all my slaves can obey my every command…
In today’s The Star there’s more about this moranic club. Their vice-president is a woman doctor who — according to the paper – has stated that men won’t stray if wives are good in bed (Geez, lady, what planet are you from?) but … “if their husbands still abused or cheated on them despite being ‘kept happy’ in the bedroom” then a woman just has to be a good wife (read: doormat) to the end. If they don’t obey their husbands, she says, they won’t get to heaven.
What a lovely lady she is. Here’s the message, loud and clear: if your husband is a drunken cheater who beats you within an inch of your life every other night, continue to be sweet and obliging, stay with him (with your children even if he beats them too?), and get your reward in heaven when he finally tortures you to death.
Lady, you stink.