Grown-ups who read kids’ books

Illustration by Liana Finck for SLATE.

Illustration by Liana Finck for SLATE.

Ruth Graham’s June 5 SLATE piece about grown-ups who read young adult novels has sent reading and book-loving opinionators into something of a tizzy. The piece was titled “Against YA“, and even more provocatively subtitled “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

I giggled with embarrassment. Not.

Them’s fighting words, Ruth Graham. And who are you anyway?

Turns out Graham is a writer from New Hampshire, and she soonafter turned up on her home state public radio’s show Word of Mouth and also on NPR, in defense of her piece.

I will resist joining the chorus defending both myself and the various pleasures and virtues of reading children’s books — and not just YA but even books for younger readers (gasp!).

Suffice it to say that the subtitle was certainly chosen as a way to draw in readers, and Graham’s piece was much more thoughtful and provocative than a simple “shame on you!” Really interesting questions emerge both there and in the debate that has followed: about pleasure and reading, literature and not-literature, the changing nature of adulthood, youth culture, sexism and books, parenting, child development, and more. If you’ve missed the hubbub, jump in and see what you think!

 

2 comments

  1. Oooooo how tantalizing! I have yet to hear the hubbub. I am an avid reader of YA novels, and not just to pre-screen them for my step-daughter who has been reading way above her age level for years (she is now 12), but also for the sheer pleasure of them. I have drawn the line at rereading anything Judy Blume wrote. I did not savor the books on the first round after all. My personal taste runs more toward fantasy in this category. I find sometimes I just need to escape into a book and given the reality of being a full-time adult in this world, YA novels are just the ticket sometimes.

    1. One of the response pieces that I read likened reading YA novels — which, the article claimed, often have tidy, pleasant wrap-ups — to watching a *TV* show like Nashville (which I am a sucker for — for the music, of course). I think the term “escapism” was bandied about too.
      And while I don’t agree that all YA novels are escapist or simplistic (nevermind that “YA” came into being as a marketing category!), if some are, and that’s why people read them, so be it! More power to you for *reading* as opposed to plopping down in front of the tube like me!!

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