I wanted to be an actress, but my parents said that I should go to college and get a degree in something useful. So I majored in Creative Writing (take THAT!). My favorite authors are Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce, but Brian Jacques’s Redwall series initially sparked my passion to write. Needless to say, I was never interested in writing The Great American Novel. I wanted to write about knights and magic and castles and fantasy, specifically YA (Young Adult) fantasy because that is what inspired me to become a writer. I cannot TELL YOU the struggle I had in college because of this. Teachers and students alike sneered at my “genre writing.” It took me years to recover from the ego-beating I received in university writing classes from closed-minded assholes who claimed that writing about girls with swords wasn’t worthy of my page or their eyes.
I have since emerged from the Despairing Self-Pity Cave a fearless defender of YA. Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, wrote this brilliant article that sums up my feelings exactly about the importance of young adult fiction and the ignorance surrounding what it should be and who should write it.
This morning, I stumbled across this totally absurd piece entitled “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.” I needed a rant, so I came here.
Lynn Shepherd, some writer who has not tasted the same success as JK Rowling, has decided that in order for the unknown authors of the world to get a fair shake, Rowling should step down from her tyrannical throne and let others have a chance, for Christ’s sake. I mean, it was all well and good when Rowling was “Pottering about,” but now she’s strangling the adult book market with her crappy novels and no one else can even get a word in edgewise, so maybe she should just keep to writing for babies so that other authors can be published.
The premise alone is ridiculous, since that’s not actually how publishing works, but this line
is what makes my head explode:
“I did think it a shame that adults were reading [the Harry Potter books], mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.”
So she has the audacity to judge readers for enjoying something that she has never read because she claims to be some sort of arbiter of what adults should and shouldn’t read.
It’s not breaking news that another snooty literary type thinks that any work labeled “children’s” or “young adult” is not worthy of adult consumption. It’s just disappointing and tiresome. Who the hell is anyone to say that it’s wrong for an adult to identify with Hermione or Alanna or Katniss any less than Elizabeth Bennett or Rosasharn or Lady MacBeth?
And if you say YA novels don’t use sophisticated prose, then I raise you the austerity of Hemingway as an example of powerful literature sans the fancy-pants and then hold up the maddening complexity of Joyce, who used all sorts of fancy literary devices and yet managed to make you want to kill yourself after having to untangle his sentences.
But children’s books are void of complex ideas, you say? The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.
Good books transcend genre. Period.
But back to Shepherd, cus it gets better.