Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We're important because you are

Every so often someone will start up on how useless YA writing is, or how YA/Children's authors write in their fields because they're not good enough for adult literature. Then there's a spate of articles popping up around the web in defence of YA, MG and picture books. All supported with valid arguments of why what we do is valuable.

But there is one argument I've never seen:

We're important because you are.

Our Western society values a university education. We've come to realise that it is possible to acheive great success without a degree- as proven by billionaire dropouts like Microsoft's Bill Gates, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, TV mogul Ted Turner, toy tycoon Ty Warner and even drug lord, Pablo Escobar. That doesn't mean we're not still grateful for the leg-up it can give in today's world.

But if a university education is important, then a high school education is important. You could be the most brilliant person in the world, Cambridge is not going to let you in with just primary level education. And could you imagine turning up at their gates, trying to argue your case never having taken an exam in your life? "I swear Mr. Vice-Chancellor, Sir, I'm smart. Never mind I've never had any schooling whatsoever." Let me know when he stops laughing.

That's not to say that primary and secondary level education don't have their own merits. But we could argue forever on what they are. What I don't think is debateable however, is that if an end has merit, and that end can be reached only or mostly through a specific path, then the path must have merit too.

This is how I feel about the arguments which try to extol adult fiction but put down children's literature and it's writers.

How many readers do you know that never read as a child or a teen, and suddenly woke up as a 20 year-old with a hankering for Hemingway? That's not to say it doesn't happen. But it's rare.

Most adult readers were read to as toddlers. They graduated to reading whatever early reader books were available at the time, and as teens they moved into books about romance or foreign worlds or magic or everyday people with extraordinary obstacles.

And then they graduate to the "worthy" adult books.

When you consider how many other ways there are to entertain yourself on your own these days- with the internet to be surfed and the PlayStation to be conquered, it's kind of miraculous that we're able to convince anyone to pick up a book. And when you factor in how many things have been added to our plates as adults, it's not hard to imagine that someone who didn't make time for books as a child won't bother to make time for them as an adult.

A love of these...

...leads to a love of these.

(Look at me being all multicultural with my 6-country, trilingual bookstack. Btw, do all French books write the spines backwards- reading down when the book is standing up?)

If adult books are important, then childrens books are important. If we stopped writing tomorrow, and children could no longer found things geared toward them and opted never to read, then the publishing industry would be done in about 50 years.

Not diminished. Just done.

And where would adult literature stand then?

I thought so. Say thank you.


Sophia Richardson said...

Totally random comment but would you classify Marian Keyes' The Brightest Star as romance? I'm trying to find some romances to read and that's on my list but I'm not sure whether it's romance or general fiction.
- Sophia.

Marsha Sigman said...

I think YA and MG is actually harder to write than adult! We are working with the shorter attention spans of our readers!

Love of reading starts at an early age and you are so right, if we didn't love Dr. Seuss then we wouldn't have ever loved Shakespeare.

Claire Dawn said...

Hi Sophia,

It depends on what you call romance. I'd say it's a woman's fiction- so there is romance in there, but there's a lot more going on.

Ms. Yingling said...

MG and YA authors have much more long-lasting impact on their readers. Maybe not on the profits of their publishers, but if a book can hook a 12-year-old and make a life-long reader, that's a whole lot better than some adult book that just wins an award somewhere. But then, I'm biased!