In response to: “Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?” by Meghan Cox Gurdon in The Wall Street Journal, Sherman Alexie wrote “Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood.” Alexie is the author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and winner of the 2007 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, so he is an excellent choice for the response.
And here’s the quote from the essay that made me put this young adult book on my TBR list:
“As a child, I read because books–violent and not, blasphemous and not, terrifying and not–were the most loving and trustworthy things in my life. I read widely, and loved plenty of the classics so, yes, I recognized the domestic terrors faced by Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters. But I became the kid chased by werewolves, vampires, and evil clowns in Stephen King’s books. I read books about monsters and monstrous things, often written with monstrous language, because they taught me how to battle the real monsters in my life.
And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don’t write to protect them. It’s far too late for that. I write to give them weapons–in the form of words and ideas-that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”
Now, since it’s summer, I’m harkening back to all those summer vacations I spent reading my way through the Mt. Carmel Public Library. Sounder made me sob. I wondered if I could be as brave as the girl in The Island of the Blue Dolphins. I had to put Black Beauty aside for a day, after reading the scene where the horse was beaten.
In fact, I’m thinking that while the “young adult” readers these days may have more graphic choices, we should be doing some serious celebrating that there are still kids reading out there. Next to Alexie’s article, was a picture of the cast of the latest “Twilight” movie at the MTV Movie Awards. I’m happy there is such a vigorous market for 450+ page books about weighty issues, like the Stephanie Meyers’ books and the “Harry Potter” series. There was also a poll at the end of the article, asking, “Are dark themes in youth fiction helpful or harmful to teenagers?” As of June 11, 2011, 88.8% felt they were helpful.
God bless my parents, who while they were alcoholics and pretty much let me raise myself after my brother died when I was nine, always encouraged me to read anything and everything. While I am not a parent (and I don’t even play one on TV), I believe that as long as there are forums for discussion and responsible caring adults to help tweens and teens along the way, it’s extremely important for us to get any and all books in the hands of readers.
What were some of the books you read that influenced you as a teen?
Link to Gurdon’s original article: MEGHAN COX GURDON
Link to Sherman Alexie’s website: here.
Link to Alexie’s original article: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/06/09/why-the-best-kids-books-are-written-in-blood/