Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On a more serious note...

So this happened: A magazine puts together a list of feminist YA books, then backtracks and deletes some books (TENDER MORSELS, SISTERS RED, and LIVING DEAD GIRL) in order to appease some objectors, which causes a bit of an uproar.

I think Bookshelves of Doom has a pretty easy to follow set-up of the links. You should definitely read that first. Chasing Ray also has a great summary if you'd rather read that than the original.

I have found this whole debacle--and yes, by this point it has moved from a debate to a debacle--to be fascinating. I must admit that I've read all the posts and comments on this--and often, the comments seemed more thought out than the posts.

Here's the thing--it's not censorship. To be fair, Maureen Johnson didn't say it was censorship, just that it MIRRORED the same process, though I think some people have misinterpreted her statement:
It mirrors EXACTLY the process by which book banners remove books from schools and libraries--namely, one person makes a comment, no one actually checks, book gets yanked.
And I think she hit the nail on the head about what makes debate a debacle--this is the same sort of rash decision making that is often applied to censorship cases.

From one perspective, the comments and changes pretty much invalidates the entire list. It implies that the makers of the list didn't actually read the books, and instead based their choices on others' opinions. Furthermore, the reasons the magazine gives for this is because the books they removed may trigger negative emotions from rape victims. Which, essentially, means they want to protect readers.

Books are dangerous things. They should be dangerous things. I, personally, can think of no greater compliment for TENDER MORSELS, SISTERS RED, and LIVING DEAD GIRL than the label "Dangerous Book." It's what I aspire to for my own work.

16 comments:

Beth S. said...

Word.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Thanks for bringing this up, Beth. Your last statement is key. Book should make us think and question things. Putting ourselves in a bubble - or putting our children in a bubble - will never solve anything.

Krispy said...

I heard about this last night but didn't have time to read up on it. So thanks for the links and for your comments.

Debra D. said...

Great post, Beth! I whole-heartedly agree with virtually everything you said (though I do think it's censorship--but whether you view it that way or not all depends on how broadly or narrowly you define the term).

I posted on it here:
http://www.thegotya.blogspot.com

Overall, I just think it's a shame, because this could have and should have been such a great thing--a list of top feminist YA reads. And I still give Bitch Media kudos for trying. Hopefully, something positive will come from this debate.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Yes! Books are not meant to be safe. Books are meant to teach us what it means to be human, and being human is sometimes very ugly and very dangerous.

KLo said...

Dangerous books are rarely if ever forgotten ...

Myrna Foster said...

I haven't read the other two, but Sisters Red should definitely be on that list.

Miriam S. Forster said...

Haven't read Tender Morsels, and I couldn't make it through Living Dead Girl (my issue, not the story's), but I loved Sisters Red.

I've been following this too, and one thing that made me puzzled was this whole idea of Sisters Red and the victim blaming.

I can kind of see where they got it, but even at the older sister's most bitter, she still wants to defend the innocent. She's willing to fight her whole life so that no one else ever has to become what she is, so those girls can STAY happy and beautiful and innocent.

If that's not the core of feminism, then I'm not sure I understand the term at all.

Anne R. Allen said...

I wasn't aware of this brouhaha, but a similar thing has happened with Catherine Ryan Hyde's marvelous "Jumpstart the World," which deals with transgender issues. The forces of "more politically correct than thou" advocate boycotting it because the protagonist isn't transgender--it's simply about a straight teen falling for a transgender person.

There are fascists on both sides of the political spectrum. Whether a person is a religious fundamentalist or a gender-issues fundamentalist, people who try to control other people's thoughts are DANGEROUS.

Unfortunately, Bitch Magazine seems to have fallen prey to a handful of control freaks--who care more about their own power than they do about spreading understanding.

Thanks for alerting us to this nonsense. I'm sure it will result in a sales spike for the three books in the end. The trolls have apparently helped Catherine's Amazon sales a good deal.

Penelope Lolohea said...

Very well said!

JEM said...

I 100% agree with your thoughts and comments here. I checked out the link before reading the rest of your post and when I came back did a little mental cheer that we're on the same page. The comments alone make it seem as if the list wasn't well thought out, and that the organization that created the list was easily swayed by the singular opinions of others. They should have known they might face opposition (as all books do if they're really good), and they should have already had an answer prepared for why they chose it. Instead they answered with an easy "oh, we'll just take it off the list." From my perspective that damages their reputation more than the reputation of the books in question. It makes the list creators look unprepared.

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

I saw the explosion of outrage on Twitter last relating to this and I must say that it disappoints me. I had never even heard of the magazine before, but it seems to me that they pride themselves on putting together a list like this one. And to see them cave to comments that said that the books were 'triggering' just does not make sense to me.

If a book creates such strong emotions in people, then it's doing its job. As someone who has read Sisters Red and Living Dead Girl, it upset me to see them both removed.

Debate of debacle, the magazine's actions are upsetting. Great post!!

Abby Minard said...

Well said! I completely agree. I' haven't read any of the comments or anything, but heard about it. I was trying to figure out how to put it and your post says it nicely. Not quite censorhip...its more like, they jumped on the bandwagon without looking and then after the comments were like, 'nevermind' and pulled them. You'd think people who publish a list like this would be able to stand by their choices.

Jennifer Hoffine said...

I hadn't heard about this. Thanks for posting.

Yes, it does sound like a lack of preparation by those who made the list. A prepared statement defending their choices could have been sent to those objecting to certain books. Instead, yanking the books seems to invalidate the whole purpose and strength of the list.

Empowerment. Isn't that what feminism (and those books) is about? This doesn't help the cause.

Jamie Fox said...

I agree that books can be dangerous and that can also be the most intriguing part. I disagree with removing books from a list, although if certain books are going to upset a certain readership a warning might be included. I think to completely remove them, though, does a disservice.

Michelle Hodkin said...

TENDER MORSELS was one of the first YA novels I read after I started writing.

It is heartbreaking. It is vivid.

It is brilliant.

Ms. Lanagan is one of the most skillful living writers today. And so is Elizabeth Scott, for that matter. I've read LIVING DEAD GIRL and her newer novel, GRACE, which is about terrorism and is written from a suicide bomber's perspective- and both books are unflinching, brutal, perfectly real and perfectly written.

They are books I would fervently recommend to any feminist reader. It is a damn shame they were removed.