Thursday, February 23, 2012

No one is inferior here

A few weeks ago, Kiersten White (author of the Paranormalcy series) posted on twitter she was frustrated that certain reviewers found The Fault in Our Stars by John Green to be so good, that it went "beyond" young adult (also know as teen) fiction. Here are excerpts of what she said.

I have been fortunate enough as a blogger and a reviewer to encounter an extremely limited amount of snobbery regarding the books I read. Seeing Kiersten's tweets though, I took a moment to actually think more about this issue.

I recommend books to people all the time, it's what I do. However, I'm noticing that when I pitch certain types of books to most of my friends or people I've just met, they immediately get turned off. They start to, sort of dismiss me, in that way where someone is trying to look like they're actually listening to you, but you know they're not going to try to remember what you said at all. I hate that look. I used to attribute it to an error on my part, that they just weren't prepared for how into books I am or that I was giving them too many suggestions at once. Now I realize, that's not it at all, as soon as the words teen, romance, paranormal or historical cross my lips, it's like me and that other person are on two different planets.

Teen has this connotation to it, that every person who reads it has to be "young" or "of a certain age." That's completely untrue. Books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, Twilight and all those other series that hollywood wants to turn into movies were written specifically for teens. They are not books that "happen to have a teen narrator" they were books written for TEENS for us to enjoy. That being said, I do not begrudge any adult the chance to read YA, in fact I encourage it. I only have the condition that they can't look down their nose at it or elevate it to a status above YA.

The romance genre? It's mainly viewed as frivolous, annoying, ridiculous, dumb and a waste of time to even try to read. "It's just filled with sex" or "there's no plot" are the most frequent arguments.The people who read romance novels are categorized as mousy little brainiacs that are starved for love and sex, grey haired ladies looking for the passion they can't find in their every day lives, or people that are the intellectual equivalent of brain damaged hamster on meth-amphetamines. I am so sick of this stereotype! I read romance! I love it. I read Harlequin novels. (Those $3.99 books that usually have a title like The Italian Millionaire's Pregnant Mistress.) One of my best friends, who is infinitely more brilliant than I am loves them too. I read paranormal romance, ass-kicking and kissing all in one. Historical romances make me all jittery inside sometimes. Just because a book has sex, or isn't going to be a great American classic does not mean it isn't a good book or that you should prudishly stick your nose in the air to avoid it.

Paranormal books have been seen as Satan's tools or more recently, stereotyped into all being like Twilight. The very mention of the word vampire or werewolf in a book send some people running for the hills. The most frustrating thing about that, is there are so many more paranormal creatures than those two. There are witches, wizards, mermaids, trolls, faeries, gryphons, unicorns, aliens (though that's more sci-fi), there are things that don't even have names, there are things I haven't even discovered yet. It just makes me so, so, so mad when people dismiss the genre because they think it only caters to vampires and werewolves, that all books are like Twilight which (due to a lot of bashing on many people's parts) they think they'll hate.

Two things happen when people mention "historical" books. The person you are speaking with will start thinking Dickens, Austen, Shelley, Stoker, etc. Or, they will realize you mean books that are set in or are about the past. This genre gets shunned because many, many people think that certain time periods are dry and boring or that the book will be educational. There is also the chance that they will think you mean "historical romance" at which point you fall back under the ridiculous romance category with images of  all those covers of ladies in massive ball gowns with a shirtless or near to male on the front dancing in their heads.

Basically, the point I am desperately trying to make is that no one genre or type of book is inferior. If it's a great YA book, don't be ashamed to say it. If you like reading novels about billionaire playboys divesting some young woman of her virtue, be damn proud of it. If reading about a magical unicorn with a sparkle sniffing problem happens to be your thing, do not let anyone act like that makes you any less intelligent. If taking a trip back to early 20th century Russia makes you giddy, das vi danya! Read what you like to read and do not give anyone the opportunity to make you feel bad about it.

Also, if you are one of those book snobs that insists your taste in books is the only good taste in books, get over it. We live in a world bursting with creativity, ideas, opinions and different points of view and you have no right to try to stifle that. Having preferences, or enjoying a certain type of book is wonderful, it means you know what you like, but don't shut yourself off to that one particular style. Experiment for crying out loud! I promise you will not be any worse for wear if you try reading one book that you're not sure you'll like.

No one is inferior here. No one is better than anyone else. We are all readers. We are all dreamers. Our end  goal is the same, to disappear into the world of words in a book, a poem, a play for just a little while so that we can deal with and make sense of our lives. Everyone is equal parts explorer, learner and audience. Respect everyone's right to read what they want, please.

Oh, and to make sure Kiersten is portrayed completely fairly (Because I love her and don't want her to get hate at all.):

Happy Reading,

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