Thursday, May 30, 2024

Targeting the YA Category

It seems that everyone is out to get the YA category.

How Public Libraries Are Targeted Right Now—It's Not "Just" Books: Book Censorship News, March 29, 2024

The above linked article covers all of the threats facing public and school libraries.  One article mentioned within it caught my eye.

Flathead County Library Board trustees propose removing young adult designation

Several Flathead County Library trustees want to remove the young adult fiction designation owing to the genre's wide age range that they argue fails to give parents enough guidance on whether a book is appropriate for their child.

That's the problem right there:  YA books are inappropriate for a child.  Children shouldn't be reading young adult books; they should be reading children's and middle-grade books.

The hue and cry over YA books being inappropriate is due to people thinking that the books are for children.  Perhaps children are consuming them, but most of them probably shouldn't be.

Young adult literature typically focuses on a young protagonist but varies in subject matter. According to a report from PBS Digital Studios on young adult fiction, the genre's meaning has varied wildly over the years, encompassing everything from coming-of-age-stories to serialized adventure series.

Not again.  Ugh.  People have a problem with YA books having varying themes.  They make it sound like the genre has no meaning since it can range from "coming-of-age-stories to serialized adventure series."

YA books feature young adult characters and are written for ages 12+.  Period.  They can be any kind of book.

[Board Chair David] Ingram described young adult fiction as for readers ages 12 to 25, which he added "appears to be an arbitrary classification by the publishers that does not provide guidance to the librarians making selections within this category."

Say what?!  Ages 12 to 25?  Apparently, Ingram hasn't heard of the category New Adult, which is for people in their twenties.

That aside, my first thought when seeing the age range of 12 to 25 was that the real age range, obviously unstated, is more like age 12 to 75+.  Lots of adults read YA, but even so, YA is still in between children's books and adult books. 

Ingram said he was confused by the young adult designation and that the easiest demarcation in his view would be to designate all materials as either "for minors or for adults."  Ingram turned the proposal into a motion, adding that it can include further division of materials by staff as they see fit.

So, books are for children or for adults.  This is the problem, people.  We have the YA category for a reason.  We should use it appropriately.  The books aren't for children.  They also aren't intended for adults, even though many adults read them.  Many adults also read children's books as well.  I am one of them.  

He had the support of Vice Chair Carmen Cuthbertson, who called young adult fiction "a designation that libraries didn't come up with, but a sales tool from the publishing industry."

Just stop.  But then a glimmer of hope...

The young adult fiction designation can be traced back to librarians at the New York Public Library, who coined the term in 1944. It followed decades of work by librarians there who wanted to keep adolescents interested in reading. An earlier iteration, the "NYPL Books for Young People" list, was sent to libraries across the country in 1929, according to PBS Digital Studios.

Thank you!

Cutbertson, though, characterized young adult fiction as a sales tool and agreed with Ingram that it is confusing for parents who want to guide their children toward age-appropriate materials.

No, it isn't.  If I were choosing books for an eight-year-old child, I would not pick young adult books.  Why is this so hard?

I wrote about the stigma against the YA category in a recent post.

Stigma Against the YA Category

I've been wanting to respond to some comments that occurred as a result of that post, and this post is a good place to do it.  Pornography in books was mentioned and that many books containing pornography fall under the umbrella of the YA category.  I can't comment on how true that is, but I have never found any pornography in the YA books that I have read.  Of course, I do avoid the modern YA romance books and also do not read YA biographical books, so perhaps that's why.

I do know that many YA books that are said to contain pornography do not contain pornography.  Two YA books were recently in the news locally because of a demand for them to be removed from school libraries.  The books were said to contain pornographic content. 

I immediately went online and found examples of the said content to see for myself how bad it is.  In short... I didn't see a problem.  The content is absolutely inappropriate for children, but it's not inappropriate for teenagers.  People pretend that teenagers know nothing about sex and that even a minor description of sex is inappropriate for teenagers.  These same people would undoubtedly be shocked about what teenagers routinely see online and in media.

The content is being described as pornography, but I contend that the word "pornography" is used as inflammatory language in order to garner support for book bans.

From Cornell Law School:

Pornography–"porn" or "porno" for short–is material that depicts nudity or sexual acts for the purpose of sexual stimulation.  However, the presence of nudity or sexual acts in piece of media does not necessarily make that media pornographic if the purpose of that media form is something other than sexual stimulation.  Pornography can take the form of photographs, videos, written material, audio recordings, or animation, among other media formats.

When a book that is not for the purpose of sexual stimulation has a brief sex scene that is described minimally, it is not pornography.  

From Google:

printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.

The key word in this definition is "explicit."  When I viewed the allegedly inappropriate content of the two books in the local news, I saw nothing explicit.  Most was left to the imagination.  That is not at all the same as reading a play-by-play of a sexual encounter with every movement described explicitly.

I will say again that some YA books may very well contain explicit sex and thus fall under the umbrella of pornography, but I do not find that most are like that.  In any case, the YA books that I read do not have explicit sex. 

Modern YA books do typically contain foul language and themes intended for teenagers.  And that's why young children should not be reading them.

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