Sunday, June 8, 2014

Childish Things

This week there was another controversy where a columnist criticized adult readers of YA, believing that they should feel ashamed for reading books marketed to teens.

So what would she think of me? I write and read middle-grade novels and picture books.

The answer is that I don't care. Someone more brilliant has said what I think:

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

― C.S. Lewis
This isn't exactly true of me. When I was ten, I read fairy tales and I wasn't ashamed. But when I was thirty, I saw adults reading Harry Potter, and I thought they should be.

Then I read it too.

That was a doorway for me back to middle-grade books, which is what I began to write. It was also the doorway to fantasy novels -- middle-grade, YA, and adult -- that I had never read before.

And fantasy was something I'd been missing since I was ten. And yes, it's escapist. I read Harry Potter because it helped me escape a troubling time -- I could retell the stories to myself during the Hour of the Wolf, when I used to lie awake, toss, turn, and worry.  At last I could sleep and dream of a life that wasn't mine.

But now fantasy reading is not just escapist. It teaches me about my life and those of others. Without conforming to the physics of the known world, it teaches me about it. If that level of the metaphysical isn't something that literary fiction readers can handle, maybe they should try more fantasy.

Then if they don't like it, that's OK. The writer of that think piece should read what she likes and loves, and so will I.

No shame in reading.

About Kell Andrews:  Kell Andrews writes picture books and middle grade novels. Deadwood, her middle-grade contemporary fantasy about a cursed tree, comes out from Spencer Hill Middle Grade June 24, 2014. 


9 comments:

  1. That article annoyed me to no end! Reminded me of some of my stuck-up college professors. I write YA, I write NA, and I'm proud of it. I also have a YA/NA book blog. I've even been known to read middle grade- Harry Potter started out in that category. I enjoyed the picture books I read to my son when he was little. My tastes in literature are eclectic. How boring life would be if we were constrained to only one type of book because we're "adults".

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  2. I read an article recently that said people who read fantasy are less judgmental of others. Thank you Tolkien, Lewis, and all the other fantasy writers that I love. And if I can write something, anything that helps someone else head in that direction, then I would be happy indeed.

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  3. Ha, Jeri, that writer definitely should try more fantasy then! If you write something like Tolkien or Lewis, you'll make me happy too.

    Kimber, being adult means we can read whatever we want, right? There's no such thing as required reading now.

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  4. There is some exceptional writing produced in the YA and MG markets. I'm a firm believer that people have the right to read what they love--though I also advocate reading outside your usual genre on occasion, because you never know what new thing you might love. (This from someone who *does* teach college English . . . )

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  5. I must have missed that article and just as well, too. There is so much in a young character's heart, especially characters in middle-grade fiction, and much wise simplicity in picture books. To label them, or YA books, as unsuitable materials for adults is ... quite small of that writer.

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  6. With you all the way. I collected picture books as art in my thirties, because the best of them contain the best art produced today. I'm not ashamed at all, the older I get.

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  7. From Dianne Warner via email:

    Brilliant! How deep this article goes and as always, CS Lewis is as profound as Dostoyevsky.
    Apples and oranges.

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  8. :) You all are making me smile.

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