Staring Back at the Darkness

Tweet of the Day: Making the Darkness Visible


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal has set the publishing world on fire and not in a good way.

The article, title Darkness Too Visible, start thus:

Amy Freeman, a 46-year-old mother of three, stood recently in the young-adult section of her local Barnes & Noble, in Bethesda, Md., feeling thwarted and disheartened.

She had popped into the bookstore to pick up a welcome-home gift for her 13-year-old, who had been away. Hundreds of lurid and dramatic covers stood on the racks before her, and there was, she felt, “nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff.” She left the store empty-handed.

All well and good. A parent goes to a bookstore and makes a choice about what to buy her 13-year old. Well done madame.

But…it goes downhill from there. This is how it ends:

So it may be that the book industry’s ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers spring from a desperate desire to keep books relevant for the young. Still, everyone does not share the same objectives. The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn’t be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives. (Emphasis mine.)

Do you see the problem?

Well, of course you do, I highlighted for you. But seriously, the problem starts right at the title.

Darkness Too Visible?


From then on Meghan Cox Gurdon (the author of the article) construct her whole argument against current YA trends based on a flawed assumption common in many conservative circles of American society, teenagers are like computers: garbage/garbage out. Raising children it’s a matter of imputing the right set of data at the right time, failing as a parent means that you did the opposite or failed in the timing.

If only….

It is true that, as I once wrote, our words have meaning and I have called out publishers and authors on their responsibilities.

But if I have to chose between showing the darkness, specially to teenagers, or hiding it from them….

You guessed right, show it!

Because the world is both beautiful and ugly. And being a teenager is all about discovering that for yourself.

Censorship is never the right answer.


P.S. I found something rather interesting while I perused the page. On the right hand corner there is a box with Books We Can Recommend For Young Adult Readers. I was surprised to find Fahrenheit 451 among them, until I re-read the box. It is under BOOKS FOR YOUNG MEN. No mention of the book under the heading: BOOKS FOR YOUNG WOMEN. Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me that women can handle science fiction.


For more on the subject check out the following blogs/posts:

Organized Chaos: The Dialogue: Talking about the Darkness

Open Up and Say’ Blog: Making the Darkness Visible

Publisher Weekly: Young Adult Fiction is Not All Doom and Gloom

Bites: Why Vacationing In Your Anus Is A Bad Idea

Word for Teens: Thoughts on YA: WSJ Article, YA Saves, and The YA Genre


6 comments on “Staring Back at the Darkness

  1. The suggested books section of the article is what got me thinking the most…all of the books for Young Men intrigued me more than the ones for Young Women. Guess I’m an atypical female.

    I should reread the article, been kicking around some ideas for a response myself…


    • I don’t think you are an atypical female, I think the article (and I’m assuming the author of said article) assumes that women would not want or need to read such things. Made doubly ironic that Fahrenheit 451 is a book about censorship and it is the female love interest that helps free the male lead from his mental confines.


  2. Exactly. Most people in the mainstream don’t think that women enjoy reading things like military history or sci-fi.
    I need to reread Fahrenheit 451–it’s been something close to ten years since I read it. Hmm…the Summer of Non-traditional Female Books will begin…


  3. Great post! I think she also doesn’t understand the difference between children and young adults in her posts. We’re talking about teenagers, who already have access to the internet and know about way more than their parents would like to admit to themselves. Also, props for pointing out her book list; I hadn’t even noticed it!


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