When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.
No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be. They are trying to protect privileged children. Or the seemingly privileged.
Sherman Alexie is amazing. However, the WSJ saw fit to illustrate this beautiful, beautiful piece with a photo of a young white boy.
READ THIS READ THIS READ THIS I TOTALLY CRIED IT IS LIKE THE BEST THING I HAVE READ ON THE INTERNET IN FOREVER.
so so good. this essay. gawd.
This this this this. One of the things I hated most about being in school and being a teen was that adults who tried so hard to protect me from BOOKS and LITERATURE they thought was “dangerous” were the same adults who had no problems letting things like abuse, rape, bullying, harassment, poverty, and -isms happen to me and my classmates.
They didn’t want us to read books that talked about sex and rape, but by the time I was a senior in high school, I knew almost a dozen people that had been raped. They didn’t want us to read books that talked too much about racism or showed it too obviously, but they didn’t have a problem pepper spraying black students for fighting when white students merely got told to break it up and sent to the principal’s office, they certainly didn’t have a problem letting the white, Christian students harass the only two Muslim students in our school and call them “devil worshippers”.
Even more ironically, they got angry and tried to ban Harry Potter because it would turn kids against Christianity, but nobody said SHIT when my 12th grade English teacher, on the first day of class, told a student, “Your father is going to hell, don’t you go with him.” And even when I reported it to a favorite teacher of mine, a trusted one, told her how uncomfortable it made me and several other students feel? Nothing happened.
So when I read statements like Alexie’s, I know them to be truth. And I know that everything he’s just said needs to be mounted on the walls of libraries and schools and any place where YA literature is sold, stocked, borrowed, written, or published.
One thing I really like about the Harry Potter series is how much diversity there is. It has the race relations we all wish the real world had. I wish more minorities existed in leadership positions, but all the minority characters are portrayed pretty excellently. From the twins to Lee Jordan to Cho Chang. Not only do they get to play quidditch and do magic, but they get to live in a universe where being a minority is exactly the same as being white.