Monday, June 29, 2015
Walking the tight rope with content.
So today I was vegging out on the internet. (A much needed break since I busted out 20k in Cursed in a 3 day span, no joke.) Anyway, there I was bopping around cyber space and stumbled head first into a great post over at Stacked Check it out here, and it hit home with some thoughts I've had recently.
Two weeks ago my daughter (She's 10.) and I were hanging out at the library with my other two munchkins and she asked me if she could read the book I was reading. (The Charley Davidson Series by Darynda Jones, in case you were curious.) Well the book went into some pretty graphic orgasms and I was weary. So after a moment of consideration and discussion we marched over to the adult section and I plucked out the first of one of my favorite series, The Stephanie Plum series and handed it over.
We went about our library trip and when we all went to check out, my two younger kids and I at one place and my oldest checking out on her own. I glanced over and saw the volunteer checking her out look at it, then to my daughter, thinly veiled shock, and then to me with thinly veiled disapproval. I offered a shrug and continued about my business.
I write YA books, and my books contain sexual content, cussing, and yes even underage drinking- and my oldest has read all my finished work- Why, some may wonder, would i let my 10 year old daughter, 9 at the time she read Sacrificed, read adult books or for that matter write books with such content? Plain and simple- she can handle it. And I write them because I draw from my own experiences as a teen and of those that were around me. She is and always has been a strong reader, surpassing grade levels by leaps and bounds. One thing I have NEVER EVER in my whole life heard from anyone was that they went out and engaged in sex, underage drinking, drugs or anything else frowned upon, because of books, think about that for a moment. Have you? Why would I limit something that helps my daughter better understand the world? Why would try to control something so subjective and personal?
If you took the time to read the post I linked above you already know where I'm going with this... I have always felt strongly about not censoring young readers, but, I didn't allow her to read the book I was reading? Well first, it was the seventh book in the series (We'd have to start with the first, obviously.), and second, this is where the Plum series came in, the Charley Davidson series and the Plum series are similar in humor and other content. However, Janet Evanovich, in the Plum series uses more of a fade to black approach to her sex scenes whereas, the other doesn't. It's not that I won't allow it, in fact if she chooses to she could put it on hold and get it tomorrow.
BUT, now this is the most important part of my post, she & I decided that she would try the Plum series first. This was something I pondered and we discussed it, when she asked me why I recommended the Plum series first, I was honest about my hesitation. I explained that if she read the Plum series and felt completely comfortable with the content we would put the first book in the Davidson series on hold.
Here is why she is allowed to navigate with only a little input from me, she has to be comfortable with what she is reading. If an adult friend asked my about the Davidson series they would get the same recommendation and disclosure as my daughter did, because reading is completely subjective and everyone is different.
She has already decided that she prefers the Wicked Appetite series with Diesel and Lizzy over the Plum series. In case anyone was wondering where she stood, the Plum series she liked but she has DEVOURED the Wicked Appetite series, nearly in one sitting.
I felt I needed to post about it because there have been many times that I have been writing and second guessed my content. I have even had reviewers who've mentioned that my books would have been just as good without the swearing, yes, I'm sure they would have been, however, it's who my characters are/were, they said what they needed to. I believe it to be consistent with YA culture. If you've ever spent time at basically every single middle school or high school in America it would be hard to argue this point. (Trust me, as a substitute teacher I can vouch for this.)
Everyone has to navigate their own lives according to their own beliefs and goals. I do believe that trying to control the youths reading materials and censor it is a wasted effort when there is much more important things to shield them from in the real world. I think those uncomfortable topics our children may read can even be a benefit, to open dialogue between parent and child.