Teens should be embarrassed to read adult literature
This week Ruth Graham wrote an article for Slate titled “Against YA” claiming that adults should be embarrassed to read Young Adult (YA) or children’s fiction. Not since the Patriot Act have you seen librarians this angry.
Graham describes YA in terms such as simple, worthy of eye rolling, uniform, uncritical, and immature.
Words that enraged many readers, authors, and educators who then took to social realms to #PromoteYAInstead . Thousands of people, clearly not embarrassed by their book choices, posted pictures of some of their current or favorite YA reads. A beautiful response to a poorly constructed opinion piece (that doesn’t reflect most people’s opinion).
But the words Graham used to describe Young Adult books struck me as more than just a bash on literary preference. It is a reflection of how some populations view teens themselves.
Simple. Worthy of eye rolling. Uniform. Uncritical. Immature.
I’m willing to hypothesize that Graham doesn’t hang out with teenagers much.
If she did, I think it could not only change her perspective on teen literature, but probably on teens themselves. Graham asks:
“But how can a grown-up, even one happy to be reminded of the shivers of first love, not also roll her eyes?”
Probably because they can relate. They see teens as optimistic, influential, valuable parts of our society and they can relate to them in person and through stories.
“But the YA and “new adult” boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books.”
It is possible, although highly unlikely. It isn’t common that you create a reader and then they stop reading as a protest to a generation of people wanting to understand them better. I would say what is more likely to happen is teens would stop reading because they are embarrassed to read adult literature.
Adult literature written by a population viewed as elite, snobbish, and extremely judgemental.
Teens are not going to stop reading YA literature because adults are reading it, because they are not the ones judging. We are.
They are going to continue to read whatever it is that compels them to keep reading. We should do the same. They are going to continue to adore authors who take the time to get to know them and appreciate them. We should do the same. They are not going to tell people what they should, or shouldn’t be reading. We should do the same.
We have no reason to be embarrassed about reading YA. However, Young Adults are being given more and more reasons to be embarrassed to read anything intended for adults. Including Slate.