Ruth Graham & YA literature

The nice thing about blogging and ‘feature writing’ is that you really don’t need to know anything about your subject – you just have to have an opinion.  Ruth Graham is a case in point.

In her article, which I understand has gone viral on facebook, she suggests that while you should be free to read whatever you want, you should “be embarrassed when what you are reading was written for children”.  My opinion, worth something only to me, is that Ms Graham should be embarrassed that she wrote the article.

I think she has something against one or two books in particular and so has decided to paint the entire YA group of literature as somehow not worthy of an adult’s time.  She endorses a statement made by Jen Doll, “YA aims to be pleasurable”, by saying that “YA endings are uniformly satisfying .. .emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA. fiction.”  (Is she for real?)

She also feels that  “if they (adults) are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something. ”

Books in the ‘maudlin teen drama’ genre must include The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath,  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou,  The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Twain, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman, The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson, The Call of the Wild by Jack London…  and I think I have missed a few!

“Uniformly satisfying”?  YA literature deals with war, racism, hunger, slavery, disease, rape, incest, greed, religious prejudice.  At the end of some you cry, at the end of others you are angry,  and yes, at the end of some you are smiling.  Maybe if they were all simple ‘romance’ and books filled with blue skies and birds singing, YA literature wouldn’t contain the highest percentage of banned books.

I’d like to let Ms. Graham know that there are some pretty maudlin adult fiction books out there and it is really wrong, a wrong that any writer should by horrified by, to tar an entire genre of literature just because she doesn’t feel a couple of popular books at the moment are great literature.

I’m an adult, in fact I’m older than Ms. Graham, and my statement is that “If you haven’t looked on the shelves at the library in the junior and young adult sections you should be ashamed because you are missing some great books.





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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Since I am fortunate enough to teach children’s literature, I know how many outstanding books are written for children and Young Adults. There are excellent novelists that adults are missing because of our unfortunate tendency of categorizing by age. When Bob was teaching To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, he remarked how he loved reteaching it because every time he did, he found something new in it. I said, “That is how I feel teaching Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White each time I do.” People who haven’t read Paul Fleischman, Sharon Creech or Karen Hesse among others are missing a lot.

    • My granddaughter has just given two thumbs up for The book without pictures!

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