Earlier this week, we hosted the first YA book club of our Beyond Judy Blume program here in Portland. We had a great discussion about how sexuality, gender, and race are portrayed in The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson. Since we know lots of our readers aren't able to make it to our book club meetings, we're discussing the book here on the blog as well. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Thanks to a generous grant from the fine people at Oregon Humanities, we'll be spending the next few months exploring identity and sexuality in young adult literature here on the Bitch blogs.
Judy Blume is known for writing about topics like teen sex, masturbation, and menstruation before it was cool to do so, and she's often credited with redefining young adult literature as we (or our parents) knew it. Fast forward to 2012, and we're in the middle of a young adult lit heyday. YA lit sales are way up and publishers and book stores are catching on. As the book business continues to invest more money into bringing YA lit to the masses, we're seeing more and more books that are pushing the boundaries of YA lit in really exciting ways, exploring issues of teen identity and sexuality while remaining honest and challenging. During this series, we'll talk with authors, teachers, librarians, and teens who are dedicated to making sure that every teen is able to find books whose characters they can relate to and be inspired by.
Another weekend, another post "From the Library." Well, not exactly. If you're reading this post now, you probably know that our decision to revise our list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader created an enormous controversy, and we feel there's more to be said.
A piece of advice for those who are interested in reading Am I Blue?, an anthology of YA short stories about gay, lesbian, and questioning characters: don't read it on the bus. I tried several times, and always missed my stop by many blocks without fail. The collection is engrossing to a plan-canceling degree; editor Marion Dane Bauer has put together funny, poignant, compassionate, impassioned stories about teenagers supporting each other, by authors dedicated to both advocacy and entertainment.
This summer, I'm reading lots of young adult literature. Re-visiting some of my favorites from high school, catching up on some of the gems I missed, and paging through what has been published since I reached adulthood. I invite you to do the same. Re-read an old favorite, or discover a new one. You don't need to be a teen, parent, teacher, or librarian to read YA Lit. All you need is an interest in how stories are being told to teenagers.
I knew the Little House on the Prairieseries from my mom reading it out loud to me over the span of many many months. As an idealistic Midwestern youngin', I felt a connection to the Ingalls family, romanticizing the debilitating diseases, crippling crop failures, and other completely unrelateable nineteenth-century pioneer ailments they experienced throughout their homesteading and pioneering. (Did I take a family vacation to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri? Yes.) And as an only child, I was delighted to learn Laura Wilder's only daughter aided with the completion of the books. But Judith Thurman's recent New Yorker article "Wilder Women" explores the lives and politics of both Laura Wilder and her daughter, removing both the series and the women behind it from the rosy lens of American lit-lore.