megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
[personal profile] megwrites
1. Writer Nalo Hopkinson talks about being a writer with a non-verbal learning disability. But really, this is about her telling us why it's a learning ability, and why her brain is a good brain to have for a writer. If you've ever read her work, you'll know she has a fantastic brain for a writer, or for anyone! I recommend watching it ASAP. It's amazing.

2. Claudia Kishi, my Asian-American female role model of the 90's - Not just a nostalgic look back at a series of books that were awesome, and kind of important because hey, it was about girls. Lots of girls. And things girls do and not making them look frivolous or silly. This is why books like this matter. In case anyone wonders why having characters that are LIKE YOU matter, especially to young girls and young women of color. Warning: image heavy.

3. If the Internet wrote your summer reading. Yeah, yeah, it's collegehumor. I'm not their biggest fan either, but this article actually is somewhat funny. Also, anything that strips away the mystique and elevated status we give to Old Dead White Western Dude Literature is good by me.

4. How to Fold Fitted Sheets. Image heavy, but definitely will help you solve that fitted sheet problem if you have one. Or: yes, thank you! I, too, have always wanted to do this.

5. magic vs science, the fucking singularity, and anti-intellectualism by RequiresHate. Amazing post about some issues with U.S./Western white-dominated SF/F and how it's actually quite anti-intellectual.

6. Duty of Care by Justine Larbalestier. I have some strong and not happy feelings about this post, especially when it comes to this quote:

To be totally honest I mostly write for the teenager I was and the adult I am. I write stories that interest and engage me. That those stories fall into the publishing niche that is YA is a happy accident. And that some teenagers find them entertaining/useful/inspiring/whatever is an even happier accident.

I am sorry that we YA writers are not portraying the kind of world you think is suitable for your teenagers. But I have a solution. Why not write your own books?

I don't have an organized response to this, but I do have some basic gut reactions.

a) I don't care for someone letting a label intended to mean, "Hey, kids! These books were written specifically for you" and then admitting that no, this label is a lie. Oh sure, they use this label to describe their work, their genre, and themselves (a YA author), but these books are really just about her writing for herself.

a.2) Writing for oneself isn't necessarily bad or wrong. It's often very powerful writing, but I think it requires an honesty about the fact that you're doing it.

a.3) Don't like she's talking like the decision to use that label is a "happy accident" and totally out of her hands or something. Writers don't always have the power to change things that happen to their works, but sometimes they do. And at some point when she pitches her books to agents, editors, whoever, I imagine she herself uses the term "YA". So that's not an accident, that's pretty much on purpose.

a.4) I really don't like it because I feel like young readers, from the littlest to the almost-grown deserve better from adults. Because adults have power and control in ways they don't, especially grown ups privileged enough to be writers for a living. Young readers often don't even get to control what and when they can read (see also: every shitfit parents and some librarians have thrown over books they don't like without asking the kids in question how they feel about the matter). So it seems that maybe, yeah, an author aiming their works at an audience who lacks the power to be in total control of their reading habits, who often have limited resources to even find stories, maybe really does have a responsibility to be careful what and how they write.

a.5) Honestly, I'm not even talking about "oh, don't write about scary things", either. A lot of kids LIVE those "scary" things every day and there's a lot of adults who'll ban books but won't lift a finger to save the actual selves of these young folks. It happens in their lives: bullying, abuse at home or in school, drugs, eating disorders, mental illness, learning disabilities, sexual abuse, sexuality in general. I'm talking about maybe your duty of care is to make sure that when you talk about these scary damn things and label them with the "hey, kids, this is your genre and it's for you" that you take care that you aren't appropriating or erasing what the actually kids who are kids right now are experiencing and what they might need (or not need any more of). Especially since you're aiming specifically at a demographic that has WAY LESS POWER THAN YOU in a lot of ways that matter fundamentally in their lives. I'm talking about being fair because you know what, that book you write for yourself about the kid getting bullied - there's actual kids being actually bullied and your book that was so satisfying to your adult self might be a slap in the face to them. And maybe you wanna think about that before you dismiss any notion that you have a "duty of care".

b) I really (really!) don't like anyone who's response is "write your own book". This is about the shittiest, derailingest response in discussions of books and literature I can imagine. Because getting to write a book is a privilege that a lot don't have because it takes a certain amount of privilege, resources, time, and education to accomplish it. Even if it's a really terrible, horrible book. More than that, so what if someone writes their own book? Doesn't mean they'll ever get it published. Lots of people have written lots of their own books, and those books remain on harddrives or in drawers or in notebooks and you and I will never get to read them. So I certainly don't like that response coming from a widely published author who seems to be doing rather well for herself in the business. Getting published is great and all, but have the fucking sense (and maybe humility) to admit that it's also a privilege and not one everyone can just have access to.

Like I said, I don't have an organized response to this and I'm still feeling out why that rankles. But there it is. Thoughts, internet?

Date: 2012-08-19 09:22 pm (UTC)
owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)
From: [personal profile] owlectomy
I feel like I have a different perspective on Larbalestier's post although I agree that the "write your own book" thing is silly and derailing.

There is a long tradition in YA of novels that are written with therapeutic and/or informational intent. This is what it's like to have anorexia, and this is what you should do about it. This is what it's like to be a victim of child abuse, and this is what you should do about it.

Usually those books don't work as art, and don't work as therapy. (They work, to an extent, as information sources; but kids are more likely to turn to the internet). They are too glib about the emotions involved; they feel paternalistic and condescending; they're concerned far more with hot-button social issues than real nuance and depth. (I'm thinking particularly about one book about the dangers of cyberbullying written by an author who, by his own admission, could barely use his own computer.)

My own experience is that when writers treat young adults as people who need to be treated a certain way because of their youth, the books they write do a disservice to young people. And when writers treat young adults as people very much like themselves, who are less experienced and less apt to pick up on subtext but smart and thoughtful and capable of handling some very complicated stuff, the books they write respect the audience's developmental level.

I think Larbalestier is being a bit disingenuous to say that she doesn't feel a duty of care. But at the same time, I approach all the writing I do with a sense that I have a duty of care -- I want to approach readers, whether teenage or adult, with nuance and respect and hope. But the books that are written from a position of "I know how things are, I know how you should feel, I know what the right thing to do is" -- those are bad books, and far too common in YA, and they're written by the people who see themselves as having a duty of care.

Date: 2012-08-20 04:56 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bigbrasskey
My impression is that what you're talking about is exactly what [personal profile] megwrites addressed in a.5. I mean, 'duty of care' is just words.
Edited Date: 2012-08-20 04:59 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-08-20 04:55 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] bigbrasskey
That post rubs me a little the wrong way, as well. Every writer is responsible for what they write. There are a lot of complaints I don't consider valid, and it sounds like she's referencing those kinds of comments at the very beginning - much like refusing to educate your child on their own body and its sexual components, attempting to blinder your child to the things going on around them and maybe within them is toxic at best - but the dismissive tone of her post makes me uncomfortable.

If you're writing, you're making a choice. You're making that choice again and again and again and again. Her attempts to 'humorously' shirk the label weird me out - whether or not you're thinking 'I'm writing for a teenage audience!' that's who you're selling it to, and making money off of, and I believe that's largely who she's writing about. It's a subculture of people that she is creating a dialogue with through her material, one way or another. The effort to divorce herself from it simply, as far as I can tell, to brush off criticism (don't accuse me of trying to corrupt your kids! I'm not writing for your kids, though I'm living off of them!) feels inappropriate to me.

I really, really agree with a.5. You are talking to these people. You are emotionally touching them, or if you're not you're trying your damnedest to emotionally touch them, to affect them, to draw them in and attach them to you. And you're getting paid for it! Respect them, don't give me this hipster sidestepping about how you're writing for the past and the future and yourself, you're too cool to be writing for kids. Because that doesn't even make any sense.

Not to mention the fact that even if you do write a book of your own, divert your time and resources, and manage to get it published, and it addresses the issues raised in a way the author believes to be superior - it doesn't erase the existence of a book that might be hurtful or appropriative or offensive in a way other than 'too heavy' or perceived as 'leading astray.' That's often a good thing. But my hackles rise on automatic at the dismissiveness of 'write your own book' because often even if you are putting books out there, there are books that need to be spoken out against directly especially in YA, because teenagers are too easily silenced without other voices. I realize that's not really the issue she's addressing right here, but it's too close for me to properly pry apart.

Date: 2012-08-22 02:08 am (UTC)
holyschist: Image of a medieval crocodile from Herodotus, eating a person, with the caption "om nom nom" (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyschist
I got the impression Larbalestier is reacting primarily if not entirely to the folks who think all Serious Topics should be off-limits to YA because Think of the Children, and is coming from a place of exasperation with people who thinks it's the author's duty to avoid things the parent thinks should be off-limits to their kids. And to that reaction and exasperation I'm entirely sympathetic. I'm not sure about how she phrases the post overall, but I definitely don't get the impression from everything I've read of hers, both novels, and blog posts, that she doesn't feel a duty of care to her audience--but I think she frames it as a responsibility to write the best books she can, and to treat the subjects and characters in them as respectfully as she can, rather than to sanitize to some arbitrary standard.

Probably she could have expressed herself differently, and "write your own book" is kind of snide, but I'm not sure she'd actually disagree with the majority of your post, somehow.

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