Thursday, June 23, 2011

Argus-Eyed Parents and YA Fiction

YA spec-fic writer Diane Duane, author of the Young Wizards series, on over-controlling parents, with particular reference to books:

Eyes in the Peacock's Tail

One of my favorite bits:

"To have somebody ruling yes/no on every aspect of my life until I was eighteen? There’s a word for that kind of life. It’s jail. (And some of you will probably recall J.R.R. Tolkien coming up with something similar in a discussion of the value of the literature of escape. “Who are the people most concerned with the possibility of escape?” he asked. “The jailers.”)

"I do not accept that life for kids is all that much more dangerous than it was when I grew up. I just don’t. The difference between now and fifty years ago is that we now openly discuss the dangers that were often only whispered about half a century ago."

And Duane should know, being a former psychiatrist as well as a YA author.

Needless to say, I completely agree with her. Parents shouldn't try to control their children's reading, especially by the time the kids reach double-digit ages. In most cases, material that might "corrupt" the young mind's "innocence" goes over their heads and bores them. They abandon the book altogether or skip over the parts that don't presently "speak to their condition." Furthermore, one never knows how a reader of any age will react to a particular work of fiction. Audiences often respond to books in ways the author never expected.

Diane Duane again: "Books interact directly with the imagination in an essentially noncontrollable way that movies and TV and computer games do not. After all, when you sit down to watch a TV show or a movie with your child, you can at least verify that you’re being presented with the same imagery and deriving generally the same meanings from it. But you can’t be sure of that with a book: the reader does so much of the work in his or her own head."

Freedom of thought should be sacrosanct, even for people under the age of majority. As Duane phrases it, what I put into my brain is my own business.

My parents had very little idea of most of what I was reading in my teens—thank goodness!

Margaret L. Carter
Carter's Crypt

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