Jun 6, 2011


Under the advisement of my peer and good friend, Ash over at Big Bad Ashi, I took the weekend off from writing. My wife agreed with my need for a break because, as much as I was getting done, I was also stressing out about how much I wasn't getting done. So I've spent the weekend watching movies, cooking and playing the odd video game. It's been exhausting. I need to learn how to un-wind in ways that aren't related to writing or doing things for others.

The one major writing-related thing I kept up to date on this weekend was the article, Dakness Too Visible in the Wall Street Journal. Read it and decide for yourselves what you think. Personally, I think the writer is perhaps more than a little naive and doesn't quite understand the gravity of what she's saying.

I have known people who have abused drugs and self-harmed. I've known people who were victims of sexual abuse and depression. Despite what Ms. Gurdon says, to my knowledge none of these people have engaged in self-destructive behaviour on account of having seen it depicted in a book, or any other form of media. Her statement about depicting self-harm in YA fiction making it more likely that teenagers will engage in it is flawed and biased.

Indeed, she seems to believe things were better when there was no literature written specifically for younger readers, dealing with issues that children and teenagers face on a daily basis. I would rather see my children read stories of darkness and suffering than feel that the world of reading had nothing to offer them.

Others have spoken out about the terrifying number of children who have to deal with mental disorders, bullying, sexual assault, and other traumas. I've been fortunate that bullying was the worst thing I experience in school, and my parents managed to spare me from the majority of family melodrama. What I want to highlight is the importance of a parent to understand what their child is reading, and why.

Reading is among the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child, and it is up to each parent to understand their own child, to know their level of maturity and the subject matter they can handle. No, it is not an easy task, but no-one ever said being a parent was easy. If a parent cannot find a book that they believe is suitable for their child, it is not the fault of the YA authors, or the publishers. It's not even the fault, as I at first thought it might be, of the bookstore for not having a wide enough selection.

It is the fault of the parent for not knowing their child well enough to look past the covers and bookstore sections, to understand that their child is a unique person with their own preferences and ability to deal with specific subject matters. And, most importantly, to try out those books for themselves. Read what your children read, experience what they experience. At least then you can see what they seek in their entertainment, and better understand them as people. It gives you a way to connect in a world where children are increasingly pushed or drawn away from their parents. Wouldn't you rather sit down and discuss a book you and your child both enjoyed, than feel you need to lecture them about the dos and donts? Children learn through their entertainment. You owe it to them to share in that. And if you don't believe a particular book or film is suitable for your child, then offer them something else instead until they're ready for it.

But do not rely on censorship and the bias of others to tell you what's right and what's wrong in the world of children's literature. Censorship is no substitute for attentive and responsible parenting. And don't be afraid of letting your children see that there is darkness in the world, so long as you also show them that dakrness can be overcome.

I believe that we should attack the causes of depression, drug-abuse and self-harm, not the knowledge of these things. Knowledge is power. With it, we can conquer everything. Of all the blog posts I've read this weekend, one in particular stuck with me the most. It's by

Is the darkness visible? Yes.

Should it be? Damn straight.

Grab a match and light it up. Burn the darkness until it has nowhere left to hide.


  1. Paul, you are absolutely right. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse (six years old) and if I had read something that talked about that, even in the slightest way, it would have helped me tremendously to know I wasn't alone and that there wasn't something wrong with me. I think parents need to pick and choose the books, the subject matter, and most importantly, how the subject matter is handled. Thanks for tackling this issue.

  2. I have to agree. If we shelter them too much from all the darkness of the world, imagine the shock they'll face when they're thrust out there on their own. Teaching a child what goes on out in the world at intervals and at the right ages is what prepares them to face all these things on their own. It is one of the toughest parts of parenting, to have to gravitate the innocent away from fairy tales and toward reality. It's up to parents to show it to them the right way and make them tough enough to handle it, but soft enough to have a heart.

  3. Great response. Talking about the big stuff is the only way to make a difference and I can't think of a better way to do it then through books.

    I had to throw in my own two cents to the discussion as well

  4. "Censorship is no substitute for attentive and responsible parenting." I second that.

    I also thought the same thing about the author thinking we were better off before there was such literature aimed at teenagers.

    I have more to say about this article, from a teacher's point of view at www.buildingcastlesonthebeach.blogspot.com

  5. Karen: I think that's one of the most important things for a child dealing with some kind of problem; to learn that they're not alone, that others have been through it and survived or escaped.

    B.T.: That's something I think a lot of these very vocal groups forget. It's just as important for a parent to prepare a child for living as a strong and independent adult as it is to put food on the table and make sure they go to school.

    Kelli: I agree completely.

    Brent: Excellent, I'll check that out!