Monday, June 6, 2011

A Nurse/Mom/Writer's Perspective on WSJ's Review: Darkness Too Visible

Irony of ironies....I was dreaming big in NYC when I read Laurie Halse Anderson's Blog regarding Meghan Cox Gurdon's article on the content of teen novels: Darkness Too Visible.

Of course, I have to contribute my unique perspective.  I am an ER Nurse, certified to teach Emergency Nursing Pediatric Care.  I am a Mother of a 12 year old boy and 8 year old girl.  I am a Writer of realistic Young Adult Novels. And I'm fascinated with human growth and development and try to apply it to every corner of my life.  "Darkness Too  Visible" jabbed right at my heart.  Specifically this quote:

"Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care."

I say: YES! Please normalize these behaviors-so no one has to feel alone or freaky for having unhealthy coping skills. Teens in crisis perform these self harming behaviors (cutting, binging/purging, drinking, etc) LONG before they seek out books that might make them "imagine such extreme measures".  These brave authors provide a means to talk about it and almost all of them do so with great care. And for that, I applaud them.

And that leads to my other pet peeve belief about teens.  This will be a shocker, I know, but TEENS ARE CAPABLE OF MAKING UP THEIR OWN MINDS.  Developmentally, they have outgrown concrete thinking which means they can now reason based on information provided. See Jean Piaget's theory of development for more.  They can and do think critically.  True, they do not yet have life experience to guide them, but that's where books written by adults comes into play.  Well written Young Adult Novels provide insight in a way few other forms of media can.  They tell a story.  Teens have the ability to apply that story to their own life or not.  

Great books make all my jobs easier.  As a nurse-it's a lifeline for me to offer when I see kids in crisis.  I can say "You're not alone. See?"  As a mom, I can open a conversation about what I just read.  And trust me-they always ask what I'm reading and why.  And in return, ask their thoughts about the topic. As a writer, I have mentors, a guide to follow.  These pioneers are clearing the way for me to also share my story.

Do I want my kids to know that rape, violence and brutality exist?  Of course not.  But in order for them to avoid it, I need to be real, with both myself and them-at the right time.  

Is rating books a good idea, as suggested in the article?  As a mom, I'd probably say yes.  To be honest, I rely on those ratings for TV, movies, music and video games.  Publishers do a great job of assigning age ranges most of the time.  But do parents know how to use them properly? 

As my kids age, I'm learning.  I try to read every book for content before my 12 year old to make sure it's appropriate.  And if it's not, I tell him why.  He can still choose to read it, but we will at some point have a discussion about it.

In the end, I'd like to say that good writing should stir up controversy, should push the envelope.  I'm tired of teen issues shrouded under clouds of fantasy, goth or horror.  Teen problems exist, always have and always will.  We owe it to our kids to talk about it for real.  Otherwise, mistakes will do nothing more than repeat themselves for generations to come.    

1 comment:

  1. very well said my dear. Thank you for this perspective. I feel the same way.