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June 01, 2010

Comments

Wendy Swore

How interesting to read all their different POV's on the subject. Thanks, Shannon, for putting this together.

Melody

Whoa, this was good. (You know some cool people, Shannon!)

I think I agree most with Mette Ivie Harrison (which is another reason to SOMEHOW get my hands on The Princess & the Bear).

Also, something no one mentioned is when the story itself is meant to teach, like an allegory. That's what I write, and while I'm sensitive to cultural standards, I write what makes the allegory all the more...well, I was going to say 'poignant'. But I'll settle for meaningful so Megan Whalen Turner will read it. :)

Ellen Hopkins

Morality is such subjective thing, isn't it? I have said it before, but it bears repeating, that every child's realm of experience is different. What's "too much" for one may not be enough for another. Kids need books they can relate too. Books that ring true (even if they are fantasy).

I believe most YA authors write with our audience in mind. Most of us (and I know many personally) have respect and love for our readers, and we are able to bring a broad perspective to the narrower worlds of our readers. By showing possible consequences to choices, we allow them to make better choices on their own.

Cate

Thank you for this post; as a book blogger I find that morals are a tough topic to discuss without causing an uproar. I am a firm believer that while books you read, TV you watch, and music you listen to may influence who you are as a person, they ultimately do not make your decisions. Just because I read a book about teen pregnancy does not mean I will become a pregnant teen. Young adults are intelligent enough to understand the difference between good and bad choices, and I appreciate authors' fearlessness whentaking that into consideration.

Amykathleenryan

What a great post! I too always get a little nervous when I hear people talking about "moral standards." Lots of people seem to think they're behaving morally when they revile someone for their religious or sexual orientation. And when people attack YA and children's authors for not being "moral" enough, I always object to the idea that kids are so mindless and easily led that if they see something in a book they're going to run out and do it.

I try to let my characters become more themselves through the course of their stories. Sometimes they do things that parents might not like, but I think it's more important to create characters that kids can relate to. Hopefully as the character grows, so does the reader a little.

Kenneth Pike

I think it's important in this conversation to distinguish between moral characters and preachy content.

There are YA authors who explicitly state that they are out to "challenge" certain viewpoints. Sometimes they are challenging racism or sexism; sometimes they are challenging abstinence from premarital sex. So while many (most?) authors are in the business of writing stories rather than morality (or immorality) plays--the parents who "push back" are justifiably concerned. Some YA authors really are out to teach your children that your religion is wrong and your morals outdated, and they will say so to your face.

Unfortunately, many parents have a hard time distinguishing between "a story involving X" and "a story preaching X." It is entirely possible for stories about immoral behavior to convey a positive moral; conversely, many stories with relatively tame content teach extremely negative lessons.

I personally think the difference is informational. If you don't want your children to read a book because you don't want them to know that some teens have sex or do drugs... you're sheltering them. But if you don't want them to read a book because it is about a teen who enjoys explicit, consequence-free sexual dalliances as a way of communing with supernatural forces? Well, maybe that's a different story.

In any event, I would stop well short of saying that authors have any kind of duty to write their books in a particular way. It is parents who have a duty to raise their children. But speaking as a parent, I appreciate those authors who furnish assistance by composing literature with admirable characters.

Lexie Hogan

This is a great post! And something that I discuss with people a lot. I am an adult and a mother and I tend to read YA fiction because there is less frequency of morally objectionable content. I myself do not like to read books that are have excessive sex, violence, and language in them. It is the same reason I do not watch movies that have this content in them. I wish there was a better way to see which books contained content that I, or my kids, do not want to read.

Stacey (AKA Aubrey)

Great posts and comments!

This is a big issue, and it is something I am dealing with in my current manuscript.

For me when I write and when I read it is about what I am comfortable with -- and that does not mean that I don't read and enjoy books about hard subjects. Example: my favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird which very much deals with some hard subjects.

I really like what Kenneth Pike said. For me I can read a book with sex in it, but if the point of the book is sex over and over and over again with no consequence, I know it's not for me, and to be honest not something I want my daughter to read.

That being said, I am also a book blogger and I run into this issue when reviewing books. I personally know a lot of my readers and they are moms with much the same ideals as me. So I will warn them of content if I think it needs to be told.

But I try to always tell people that this is just MY opinion. It does not mean I don't think the book is worth trying for ones self.

Sometimes reading books that DON'T match up with your morals is a GREAT way to re-evaluate what you believe in an affirming sort of way. Ex. the book UNWIND by Neil Shusterman is now one of my favorite books because in a completely non-didactic way he discusses SO MANY moral issues.

Anyway, this is getting long. Thanks so much it was really great to read!

Sondy

This is an amazing post. You gathered some outstanding authors to give articulate, well-thought-out responses. I especially liked what Mette Ivie Harrison said about the movie rating system. It's so easy for people to draw lines without really looking at the content and what's being said.

JVDLAndersen

I agree with many of these comments. Our writing should be real to life. Sometimes that means challenging those morals. I do think it's our responsibility as adults and as writers to show the consequences of choices that teens are making. I think of Ellen Hopkins's Crank. It was honest, but some may say that it shouldn't be shelved for teens to read. We need to be honest with our kids and not scared that they may read something shocking.

I do agree with Janette when she said that many times in literature there is no consequence to sex. Maybe this is something more of us should tackle. (I'm working on it as I speak!

Meredith

Very interesting. I especially liked what MWT said (showing my bias as an insane fan of hers). I still flip through a book when I first get it to see if it's something I'll be comfortable with. And I have absolutely no problems stopping a book that I don't like.

Everybody sounded really reasonable and smart. Good job, authors! You can bet that I will keep this post in mind the next time a parent at the library complains about a book to me.

melissa @ 1lbr

This was so awesome to read! I love hearing how authors think about morals in books. I know I read with morally-tinted glasses sometimes, so it is nice to know that it's impossible (for many) not to include their values in their writing. Great post!

jenny

This will forever be one of my favorite blog posts of any blog. Thank you for getting such a wise group of people together to share such wonderful opinions.

Thanks for the real feedback and constructive idea on how to talk with our children about books and the different subjects they cover.

Anna Elliott

This was an amazing post, with so many great points made by all. Thanks, everyone!! I'm an author and a parent, and I absolutely don't write to 'teach a lesson' or preach or do anything at all but be true to my characters' story and tell it the best way I know how. But at the same time, I am conscious of the fact that stories have power, and I want to be careful of the stories that I ask people to believe in. Take, for example, the romance novel I just recently read, in which more than quasi-abusive behavior was glamorized as some sort of romantic, alpha-male ideal. In a world in which so many women live in fear of and suffer from domestic violence, I just don't think it does anyone any favors to ask readers to believe that.

But I loved what Megan Whalen Turner's metaphor of the skinned knee. And Holly Black's closing words: "Not every book is going to be right for every kid, but for every kid there should be that right book." That is so, so true. Humans from the dawn of time have needed stories. Needed them in the same way they need food to eat and shelter and love. My daughter certainly does. And as long as that's true, authors and parents are going to have to wrestle with these questions. Thanks so much, Shannon, for hosting this and to everyone who weighed in!

R.J. Anderson

Some terrific observations here -- particularly the repeated acknowledgment that every author's worldview is going to creep into their books in some way, whether they consciously intend to put it there or not. And when that happens, some people are not going to like it, and some people are going to feel threatened by it, and some people are going to want to hide it from their children.

But just as I believe that my moral and spiritual convictions are strong and well-founded enough not to be threatened by reading viewpoints that differ from my own, I also feel that my children need to learn to stand for their own beliefs and convictions in the face of dissenting viewpoints, as well. And I think good books can expose them to different viewpoints and cause them to reflect on those ideas in a meaningful way -- even if only to say, "I disagree."

Jenifer

Although I can see that a book rating system may not be flawless... I think it would work much better than telling my child to look for the word "poignant" on the cover. I completely disagree that "most toddlers will select a reasonable balanced diet ifyou give them a choice." Most toddlers would drown in a swimming pool if you give them the "choice". My 6 children have had many scraped knees, but I want to know BEFORE I place them on a rollar coaster if it is a children's roller coaster, a YA roller, or an Adult roller coaster. Sexual content in a book is not my only concern. But, pornography is prevalent in the media today. It is seductive, addicting and harmful at any age. I can not read every book before my children do. And, I shouldn't have to. My children should be safe in a school library. Morals are not black and white. There are a lot of dumb G rated movies and perhaps some ethical R rated movies that my kids are missing out on. But, if authors don't feel they should have moral responsibility, and we don't want the government censoring our freedom of speech, how do we protect our children? While not perfect, book ratings would be helpful.

I completely agree with Mettie Ivie Harrison and Lauren Myracle- it is near IMPOSSIBLE for someone to write a book without their morals shining through. Morals may not be shown in the characters the author includes or even the choices the characters make, but most definitely authors use moral judgement in choosing the consequences the characters receive, and the thought process that is illustrated. This is why I tend to pick SAFE authors for my children to read. I'm looking not only for what the books DON'T have, but for what the books DO have.

Yes, whether you like it or not, Mrs. Hale, your books are both moral and teach beautiful lessons. You cannot just tell a story. Stories teach. I just finished reading Princess Academy to my kids... (I did have to force my 10 and 11 year old boys to listen at first- because of Princess in the title- but after a few pages they were completely hooked!) I could write an essay on why I loved that my children were exposed to this book... the things they learned as they read it. Yes, books do teach. Stories do teach. Words are powerful. You are never just telling a story, the details you choose to include, teach. Even stories that are written as pure entertainment, teach. They teach us to love, to laugh, and to enjoy life. Valuable lessons indeed. Stories that don't end with happily ever after, they teach too. Perhaps NOTHING teaches better than a story. What a great gift you have as writers!

There are always fanatics. People who read a moral story adn complain about stupid things. IN Christ's time He was often harder on the hypocrits than the sinners. I hope that authors don't allow themselves to become anti-moral or anti-responsibility as a response to these people.

I am grateful for the many gifted writers that I use to inspire my children each day. Parents who buy literature today are desperately seeking stories that entertain, teach and inspire. Today, crap is readily available. Goodness is hard to find.

Perhaps an author cannot just "write" morality or goodness. Perhaps and author just has to "be" moral and good... and the stories that come from their pen will naturally inspire. Mrs. Hale, you are good, and your stories are delightful.

Amanda49

Powerful? YES!! Thank you for doing this. I absolutely relished reading all of these points of view. AND, as a mother, I really appreciated the opinion of the author who said, "if parents are doing their job we will be able to help our kids handle whatever books throw at them" because heaven knows that society will throw enough stuff at them whether they read or not and we need to help them figure out how to handle all that as well!

This goes well with the advice of another author who said "we should teach them how to decide which books are right for them". Awesome advice on parental responsibility when it come to our children's reading....the end result we want is NOT censorship but the ability for our children to decide for themselves what is best!

mb

I am completely with Megan on this. I am tired of reading that parents should dictate their child's reading choices. My kid has brought home books that I knew were inappropriate and too old, and sure enough, after glancing through them, she lost interest and returned them unread. She's read other things I might have thought too old for her, and had surprisingly wise insights about them. I guess I was allowed to read whatever I wanted when I was a kid, and would hate to limit that freedom for my own child.

Zenny

It's true: kids know more about which books are good for them and which aren't than we give them credit for.

Kalli

Wow! Thanks so much for posting this! It's interesting to read some of these authors' responses. I'm glad to see Mette Ivie Harrison on there, as I know her daughter and have actually had the opportunity to meet her :)
I agree that it's reasonable for a parent to not let their child read books with graphic violence or sex scenes, but many parents make too big of a deal about a books "morals". They forget that books are made to tell stories, not to teach children how to be and what to believe.
I liked Carol Lynch Williams' point, that many readers don't care to read books with heavy moral emphasis. Lots of people simply want to read a good story, and don't want to be told what's right and what's wrong by a book. I also agree with Janette Rallison. While an author shouldn't necessarily focus on the morals of a story, they should also be conscious of what they write about and realize that books DO help kids form their views and opinions.

Wendy

Wow. Amazing. It is of my personal belief as an 12 year old that fictitious books should not be lectures, nor should they be dissected to find every little thing that may even hint at "inappropriate" topics. Kids my age are exposed to enough of this type of media as it is.
As for books like Twilight: Would you rather have kids learn about these things in literature or from their (misguided) peers?

Trevor

I found the comment that said "I cannot read every book before my children do. And, I shouldn't have to." very interesting. This is beside the point of whether an author presents morals in a book and I think goes right to the heart of this post. If a parent shouldn't have to read what their children are reading, who should? Shannon Hale? The publisher? Some other authors who may or may not believe in the same things the parent believes in? The author is not in charge of our children's upbringing. An author might simply present a situation we find morally questionable; hopefully parents can help their children understand and begin to think through this. If the parent doesn't want the child reading the book at all, so be it, but that is the parents' charge. But even if an author actively encourages moral anarchy, it is still the parents' job to ensure their children are equipped to understand it or learn how to avoid it. Why would we want to pass that responsibility on to someone else? Especially seedy, disreputable authors ; ) ?

Jenn

I just don't understand those that wish to take on a personal crusade against a book. Everyone has different morals- if this book or that movie don't adhere to those morals, then don't watch/read it or let your children do so. It's the same as book genres, read what you like and ignore everything else. Personally, I don't like books that are realistic fiction because I think that books should serve as an escape and it is hard to forget about real world problems while reading about them. However, I am not on a personal quest for all these books to be banned. Go ahead and don't let your child read something if you want to. But don't go abusing the author for all their hard work because you don't like it. And recognise that your child, if they are old enough, may go ahead and read that book anyways.

Emma Marie

I partially agree with Turner. I think that parents cannot and should not try to shield their children from every little bump that might come along.

(I'm sorry but I didn't have time to read everyone's comments, so please forgive me if I am repeating something)

I think that the most effective way to "guide" your child's reading is to read the books that they are and discuss them! I believe that this will not only help hone their moral compass but it will also bring you and your child closer together. I know that parents are busy. If you can't read everything your child reads, then at least read the books they label "favorites". If there is something your child reads in a book that you disagree with, or makes either of you uncomfortable you can talk to your child about it. On the other side of the coin you and your children can easily become fans of a book series and have a blast talking about them!

I think that the written word is a powerful thing. I find it much easier to enjoy a character if I read about them rather than see them on stage or on screen. I feel more comfortable reading about most things, rather than hear a lecture on them. I like to be careful about what I open my heart and imagination to. Therefore I'm careful about what kind of books I read. You've heard the saying, "you are what you eat"? How about "you are what you read"?

I believe that it is the parent's responsibility to raise their children to make the world a better place. Not the grandparents or the kids friends or a church. Though all those might be helpful, the parents are ultimately the main guiding force in a child's life.

Kristin

Great comments - thanks for putting them together!

Emily

someone made the beautiful point that if parents teach their children strong values, they can learn to self-select what is appropriate for them. After all, parents will not always be by their child's side as he or she is encountering the world and making decisions, and therefore I think that it is most important to give children both strong morals and the conviction to live those values.

Emily

Oops I accidentally only posted the last part of what I was trying to say; this was supposed to come first:
I'm writing this as a college student who has been a voracious reader for my whole life. When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I ran out of books to read. Naturally, I turned to the books on my mom's shelf, which were primarily romance novels. Most of them had fairly explicit sexual content. I was surprised,to say the least, but it didn't prevent me from reading more of them.

For a few years those romance novels were my go-to books. My parents never prevented me from reading them; occasionally my mom would tell me not to read a certain book. This generally meant that I was drawn to those books, but after a few pages, I would inevitably slam the book shut-- my mom had been right! That being said, I wanted to decide for myself whether I could handle it. And after a few years of this, I started to get bored with both the romance novels and with being constantly bombarded with sex. I started reading other books instead. And those particular novels have had no effect (that I can detect)on my morals or behavior. Maybe my mom let me read them because she trusted me to know what was appropriate behavior and what was not.

Jessica

I'm a teenager myself an would just like to add something. Do any of you parents think to ask your kids about what they read, what they like to read, how they feel about reading, etc? I've read things I wish I hadn't. I've also read things that opened my eyes to things outside of my community-things that if I hadn't read about would've gotten me in trouble in the real world. Reading is an experience, just like life. In life, there are ups and downs-if you don't experience the downs then you never know the meaning of an up. I know who I am and reading a book that reflects different values does not change that-it just gives a different opinion, and everyone's opinion is valuable.

Chachic

Great post! It's interesting to read about the authors' take on this issue.

MonsterAteMy

I'd really like to hear Megan Whalen Turner's lecture 213-2.b. Please? :o)

mwt

Oh, no. I already feel as if I've derailed Shannon's conversation. It was supposed to be about the author's role and I made it all about the parents'.

I wish I'd had MT Anderson on hand here in Pomona when I was going around and around with Roger Sutton trying to illuminate the difference, if there is one, between telling the reader what to think about something and telling the reading something you'd like them to think about.

Both are attempts to guide world-building, but the underlying assumptions are very different.

Mettie Ivie Harrison,

"I mean, seriously, I do not think vampires should eat people, even though they eat people in my books. Do I have to say that? Perhaps I do."

I am not actually a pantheist.
: )

Je Reve

Great post. I mean, really excellent. Thank you all!

Jenn

I kinda have to agree with Jenifer. I'm sort of surprised that so many of you are opposed to any kind of rating or warning or anything about what a book may contain. I don't think anything like that could ever be perfect, but I think it could be extremely helpful. I wouldn't let it be the be-all and end-all of my decisions on what I would let my kids read, but it would be nice. And I'm not talking about books being banned. I'm just talking about getting some kind of indication of what's in it.

Every book already has lots of indications all over it about the things it contains that are good. Lots of positives are already on there, as they should be, so we know all the reasons we should read it. So it seems like it would only be fair to have in some tiny print at the bottom of the back cover or the inside flap a little box that lets us know some of the negatives, dontchathink?

I'm grateful for Goodreads because sometimes I'm able to get some of that info. from other peoples' reviews.

I disagree that you can read the first few pages and know what a book will contain. Sometimes a very graphic scene that I could have very well done without thankyouverymuch comes in the middle or near the end of a book, and I wish I'd known ahead of time so I could just skip it and read one of the other millions of awesome books that don't have a scene like that in them.

I put a filter on my and my kids' computers so that I don't have to look at every single website before they do to know if it's okay for them or not. But if they come to me wanting to go to a website that the filter is blocking, I take a look at it and often unblock it because it really is OK. But even though the filter blocks some of the good stuff, I'm still glad I have it because it blocks a lot of KRAP that I don't want to have to personally filter out.

My mom gave me a book when I was a teen that I know for a FACT she would not have given me if she knew everything that was in it. But she knew I loved to read, and she thought it would be a good book. If there had been indications on the book that it contained the things it did, I could have been saved a lot of problems.

And do we really believe that kids will gravitate naturally toward things that are good for them? Aren't we told that the natural man is an enemy to God? I mean, seriously, if I did what I naturally gravitate towards all the time, I would be a really sad excuse for a person. And I'm an adult with a lot more foresight than my kids have.

I wonder if maybe all the opinions here aren't a bit biased because of the fact that these are authors who are weighing in, and they wouldn't want their books to be filtered out unfairly because of a warning that might be put on them? I don't know; I could be wrong. But I wonder.

On another note, I read a book recently where a kid had oral sex and then got an STD from it. So, thankfully, there are books out there like that.

But I think there's a difference between telling us that something happened and being graphic in the description of it. In that particular book, we just find out that it happened, we don't get a description of it happening in all its gory detail. I know I can't protect my kids from everything, and I wouldn't want to if I could because then they wouldn't learn and grow. But I do think it's my responsibility as a parent to protect them from things they aren't ready for when I can.

And on yet another note, because I just can't seem to shut up, as a hopeful author myself, I do hope to have my morals shine through in my books. I do hope that my readers learn and grow. And I also hope to never leave images in my readers' minds that they will forever wish they hadn't gotten. I do feel that that's my responsibility, and I worry about it with every word that I write. I'm currently working on a book in which my MC gets pregnant in High School, and I want my reader to come away with a better understanding of how and why that could happen, even to a good kid. But I don't want to write scenes that will arouse feelings in the reader that will lead to problems. Maybe not every author feels that responsibility, but I do.

And now, anyone who actually read through that whole tirade, see me later for a special prize. ;o)

Jen

I really enjoyed Rallison's point about STD's, among many other things about this post.

mb

My problem with the idea of a book rating system is: who decides, and what criteria do they use? This seems like the kind of thing destined to be clunky and unworkable. The current movie rating system is ridiculous. I've seen R-rated pictures with nothing questionable except a couple of curses, and PG-rated films with a great deal of violence. Makes no sense.
So, Jenn, I guess I'd say your use of Goodreads seems like the best solution -- better to get an idea of the content from actual readers. Because it's all very subjective, isn't it? What is traumatic to one person is merely gripping to another. And how does a rating system distinguish between gratuitous graphic violence and necessary, tasteful, well-written violence?

Christen

Wow, so incredibly interesting.. This has left me with lots to consider...

John (Dreaming in Books)

I agree with Turner 100%!

I had my own issue regarding this, age, everything, and reading another take on it was really good. As a teenager, I know I'm independent enough to make my own decisions. Frankly, I've been reading what I want since I was 10. Granted, some of what I want ISN'T what my parents want, but I know what I can handle. Books are obviously going to have lessons and such, and that's completely needed. I think we need to take in account as to what the lessons are, though.

I've rarely seen a book without a universal lesson, which is what I think most authors end up sticking in subtly. More hit-home lessons are there, too, but those I think are harder to put in without knowing about it right away.

The one thing I absolutely do NOT agree with is Janet Rallison. I think, more than not, authors take precautions as to what kind of sexual message they are sending. Turner hits the nail on the head that, while sex is an 'adult' act, sex as a subject is subjective to the person talking about it - and frankly, teenagers live through a time where sexuality is being questioned at every interval. I know that on the onslaught of my puberty *shudders*, I discovered I was gay. And as to sex as an act - what you're preaching is safe sex. Which should be a big deal. Safe sex is important, and I should think every YA author with sex should make that a message, or at least a thought of the character. STD's are obviously a part of that, and I'd like to see a YA couple go through testing and worry about that.

Wait, there was. Alex Sanchez's Rainbow Boys series. One character has unsafe sex and possibly contracts AIDS. An excellent way to show how a relationship is affected and a life.

Ms. Hale, love your books, and ADORED this post.

Naomi Thompson

Hmmmmm... This was quite interesting. I'm glad I clicked over. Thanks for sharing :D

*Still chewing stuff over and thinking*

Lia

The person I agree most with is M.T. Anderson. And I love the essay in the link he provided. He says, "ideology is always present, vibrating in the text, whether it’s there consciously or unconsciously. We can’t escape it. It structures our stories. It informs our cast of characters. It imparts a feeling of rightness or wrongness to our plot resolutions."

To me, the discussion of whether or not authors *should* provide morals is moot, given the fact that whether they like it or not, they are influencing others. It would be nice to be able to sidestep that responsibility, but it's not possible.

I like this quote by a religious leader:

"There is one responsibility that no man can evade. That is the responsibility of personal influence. The effect of your words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the life of the whole world. Every man has an atmosphere or a radiation that is affecting every person in the world.... To exist is to be the radiation of our feelings, natures, doubts, schemes, or to be the recipient of those things from somebody else. You cannot escape it. Man cannot escape for one moment the radiation of his character. You will select the qualities that you will permit to be radiated."

As authors, we need to understand that we are constantly influencing many people, and we need to be comfortable with that -- not embarrassed by it, and not trying to pretend that the influence doesn't exist.

Kristine

Books are powerful in both positive and negative ways. I do feel that authors of children and young adult literature should feel some responsibility or accountability of what they are exposing children to. Some things are just plain inappropriate for children's literature, and I do get tired of the excuse of "I am only broadening your child's world view."

Melissa Fox

Interesting perspectives. And could you tell Megan that I, at least, am interested in Lecture 213-2.b "On the Evils of Assigned Reading."

Shannon Morris

Thanks so much for the effort in collecting comments from such articulate authors. It's always fascinating for me to consider this issue. I've thought about it frequently lately as I've struggled with my latest manuscript and although there aren't easy answers the questions need to be asked. For example: animal experimentation. Do I condone it? No. Does it go on without my approval? Yes it does. So as I write a story resulting from animal experimentation I constantly ask myself, as do my characters, now that this really bad thing happened, where do we go from here? This is what we have to work with, so what are we going to do now? How do we proceed? How do we form our future from the ground we stand on at this moment? Do we continue using animals sadistically? A resounding NO!!! But it happened already, and we move forward. At the same time I'm not preaching to our society about cosmetic companies trying their mascaras on innocent critters before supplying it to human masses. I'm simply telling a fictional story about fictional characters living in a fictional setting. Derive from it what you will, and I hope what you gain is a more clear understanding of your own beliefs, not mine.

I think all authors are

Meredith B.

100 thank yous to Janette Rallison. Seriously. 101.

McKinney V

This was a really fascinating blog post to read. I find the notion that authors always agree with what their characters say and do ridiculous, and that's an issue I think we can brush off and ignore right at the start because it's so clearly inaccurate. However, I certainly agree that the authors morals and viewpoints guide the direction of the book. In fact, that's part of why I enjoy reading the books of certain authors- because I know that those authors are thinking in parallels with me, and that I'm going to enjoy the story as a result of that. I agreed with most of the opinions of the other authors, and I appreciate that collectively they were able to delve into the many different areas in this topic.

I really like M.T. Anderson's comment about readers building their own worlds as they read. I think the authorss world-views can definitely influence that, but that a good reader who can critically think about the book will be able to break free from the author's influence and just use the story itself to help build their world.
Thanks again for this incredible post! I think this is an enduring topic, these comments will probably never end... But I appreciate your posting such a provoking topic, Ms. Shannon!

hwalk

Honestly, I like books that I can learn a moral lesson in reading. But that has a lot more to do with me as the reader.

However, I also think that what I read affects me, so I try to read uplifting literature, and I don't like too much swearing, violence, or sex in books.

Sarah Burney

I agree with Megan Whalen Turner that children are quite able to find for themselves literature that is at the right level for them. As a young teenager I read almost anything I could get my hands on from the library or the shelves at home. I can clearly remember making the decision to stop reading one or two books that made me feel uncomfortable or depressed. Other times I read things I didn’t understand and dismissed them from my mind without any adverse effects, only to realise much later what they had been talking about.

Telling your children not to read certain books can often have exactly the opposite effect to the one desired – the lure of the forbidden only adds appeal in many cases. My parents forbad me from reading 'Flowers in the Attic' by VC Andrews, so of course I immediately rushed off to the library and borrowed it. I read it under the covers and enjoyed the thrill of secret defiance more than the book. If they had said nothing I may never even have come across it on my own.

I think it’s unwise to expect authors to be moral compasses. Several other commenters have suggested that the more sensible course of action is to equip young adults with personal values that allow them to face the moral dilemmas they come across in reading, and in life, with integrity. I agree entirely.

Caroline

I was so happy to see Megan Whalen Turner's name and the cover of her new book:). Longer comment later, perhaps...xD

Regina

What a fantastic post! And I'd like to say "Huzzah!" to Megan Whalen Turner's comments. Like a few other commenters, I too an a teenager and have been picking out my own books since I was 10. There were definitely a few books I jumped into way too early and abandoned quickly, but then there were many that I found that I wholeheartedly enjoyed. Reading is a process of trial and error, finding out what you like, and sometimes stepping out of your box and finding something new.
And I think that if parents have prepared their kids properly for the world, those kids will be ready to decide which books are good and which are bad for them. Adults should not always pick what books their kids will read. That takes away the independence, and therefore some of the fun, of reading.
Which is why I kind of disagree with the idea of reading all of your child's books before they read them. If my mom had censored some of my reading, I'm pretty sure I would have lost interest. She is a different person than I am, and we enjoy different things. I think that restricting your kid's reading to what you like and agree with is too stifling. And, like many other people, I'm sure I could go on and on and on, but that's the bare bones of it. Let your kids read what they will read and find their own books. They will thank you for it in the end.

Princess Loucida

I agree-and I don't agree. Authors can't write whatever they want. But I as a Christian cannot read whatever I want. It's the authors book. It's her choice. But I don't want to read about that sort of thing. What I read shows who I am. And I'm readin' and writin' for God's glory!

Justina

Shannon, I'm having trouble with this idea you and some other authors put out there of being almost detached from your characters. The whole i'm-just-telling-their-story idea. I mean, in actuality, it's not their story, it's yours. You are creating the characters. They are coming from you. So they will and do have aspects of you in them. Isn't that true? They aren't strangers you met for lunch and then told you their life story. Or are they? I mean, how does that work exactly? They tell you their story... but at the same time it's coming from you, not them.

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