Yes, this is another @WSJ post.
Judy Blume is a name that anyone who writes for kids/teens (or anyone who was, at one time either a child or a teen) should be familiar with. Hers are some of the stories I grew up on, and they are some of the stories that inspired a love of reading, which led to a love of writing. She was cited in "that article" as the nostalgic "why don't they write like this anymore" writer from back in the day. The one, lamented the article writer, whose style of writing could no longer be found.
Maybe, in all the research that should have gone into the article, but somehow didn't quite make it onto the page, the writer could have popped over to Ms. Blume's website. Right at the top, there's a lovely tab with the word "CENSORSHIP" crossed through in red. Click it, then read the words there in light of the complaints issued in the WSJ article.
I'm going to quote a couple of things here and if, by some quirk of fate Ms. Blume should happen to stumble across this post, I hope she won't mind.
First, I give you this:
I felt only that I had to write the most honest books I could. It never occurred to me, at the time, that what I was writing was controversial. Much of it grew out of my own feelings and concerns when I was young.
Guess what? This feeling is the same one shared by those of us who write MG and YA lit today. We write because of the concerns and feelings experienced by the young. Those concerns have changed, so literature has changed to meet them.
Then there's this:
But in 1980, the censors crawled out of the woodwork, seemingly overnight, organized and determined. Not only would they decide what their children could read, but what all children could read. Challenges to books quadrupled within months,
Which means, that at the time her books were published, she was the one, not Andrew Smith or Jackie Morse Kessler, having that bewildered parent stare at her books with disgust for what they represented. The banner of wholesome, decent YA lit of a bygone era that the WSJ would like us to imitate was someone decried as warped and wrong and leading children into places children shouldn't go. She was the one parents wanted out of their kids' hands, and yet, she's the one, now that those parents are grown up, who they want their children to experience.
There's a pattern here that may be difficult to see from the perspective of someone staring up at that wall of books you don't recognize from your youth. The writers you cherished as children and teens are the ones who didn't toe the line and regurgitate the stories your parents read; they were the ones who stripped the paint off and let you see what was real and what was fake. They were the ones who were less interested in "writing for kids" than they were "telling stories".
Ms. Blume has this little note posted on her site, that says, succinctly, what every writer who participated in #YAsaves was trying to get across:
I don't know where I stand in the world. I don't know who I am.
That's why I read, to find myself.
Elizabeth, age 13
It's a human tradition. Stories are passed down and new ones are spun to hand off to the next generation so the chain keeps going. When you try and pull back on the chain, you snarl the line. That tradition of storytelling and communication is what shapes the next generation, and when you refuse to incorporate new experience into the tradition, then you condemn those who come after to a future of the mistakes you've already made. You deny them the chance to learn from those who came before so they can make things better for themselves and their own children.
Kids look for information, and they look for truth. You can't protect children from dark things by pretending they don't exist, and exchanging the windows in your house with mirrors won't make the world outside conform to whatever reality you create within your own walls.
If you visit Ms. Blume's page, and I hope you do, then pay attention to not only the links on the left side of her "censorship" page, but also take care to read her closing statements:
But it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.
Yep. When I grow up, I want to write like Judy Blume, and I hope the rest of you who stick your toes into the waters of YA lit do, too.