Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Author: Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares, author of (correction + headslap to self)The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books has a very intelligent and reasoned take on The Rainbow Party controversy.

She contrasts the history of YA fiction with the publishing industry's current practices.

Young adult books are developed by children's book departments, offered in children's catalogs, bought by children's buyers, sold in the children's area and tallied on children's best-seller lists. It's a strange custom when you think about it. (Imagine, for a moment, that music for teenagers were released by children's divisions - the same producers, marketers and publicists who brought out "Baby Beluga" and "Rubber Duckie" also brought out "Pimpin' All Over the World." It's a ludicrous concept, and not only because the teenage music industry virtually is the music industry.)

Based on the reviews I have read of The Rainbow Party there is not much to recommend the book, beyond the shock value of the book's premise. The reviewers were not kind. To be fair though, I have NOT read it.

In the hands of a gifted author controversial books become great conversation starters. Chris Crutcher shares a story that involves his book Chinese Handcuffs. His novel gave a young girl who was being abused, a way to ask for help. Whale Talk is one of the best books I have ever read.

Brashares shares my personal take reading.

Reading is possibly the safest and best way for young adults to explore challenging, complicated subjects, including sex. Readers take in books at their own pace. They can read one word a minute or one thousand and stuff it under the pillow if it gets too much. They supply the pictures in their own minds; no one else's are forced upon them. Probably most of us agree we'd like to expand their reading, not restrict it.


Anonymous said...

I haven't read The Rainbow Party either. I've read enough reviews to know what it's about though and why it's so controversial!

I like the quote you posted from Ann Brashares about reading. Well said. I definitely agree with her.

Camille said...

I have always felt like books were a great way for families to talk about emotional subjects together. I have always told parents, "It is just a book, they can close it and walk away from it." Movies and television throw the images at you before you can close your eyes and ears.

I liked this entire article.

Personally, I have never understood parents who get their knickers in a twist about a book but will let their kids watch the most unbelievable stuff on television.

Chris Barton said...

Brashears makes several good points, especially about the slippery -- or maybe just squishy -- slope of book ratings and about the vast gulf between children's publishing (the stuff of picture books) and YA.

Still, every Op-Ed, every article, every online discussion, every blog post (and comment) has done more for that book than Simon & Schuster's marketing department could ever have dreamed of. I don't know whether all the attention has helped sales, but it's at least avoided instant obscurity.

Camille said...

I always recall the hoo-haa about Madonna's ...uh...NOT for children book. A good friend of mine runs a public library in a town here in the great state of Texas. When the committee appeared on the doorstep to demand the removal of THAT book he begged them, "you go through with this and I am going to have to add MORE copies to the library because of demand!" I think they backed off.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It seems to me stating that there isn' a YA section in bookstores, that publishers only market to children or adults, and not tracked separately is off by a bit; a large bit. Reviewers specialize in YA, writers specialize in YA, publishers have separate imprints for YA, bookstores and libraries have YA sections.

Judging from the tenor of the piece, it sounds almost like she is trying to scare parents into thinking RP is typical of YA. Contrasting serious from lowbrow without discussing the wide range in the middle, utilizing 'forbidden' books as a catchall, not discussing quality of writers in the YA field; it strikes some pretty heavy judgements without much substance for backup.

Camille said...

Good grief, I am reading the latest Princess Diaries AND the third Sisterhood right now. My brain cells are misfiring ...Brashares is indeed the author of the "sisterhood" books.

Camille said...

Brashares's Sisterhood books have their own "sensational" aspects which did make me wonder about her surprise at the RP subject matter.

Robert might be reading her tone accuratly but I took her comments not so much as scaring parents about YA books but more along the lines of a heads up for the uninitiated.

The fact that there could be such a controversy about RP shows most "grown ups" don't know much about YA lit, past or present. There was another article recently highlighting the A-List and the Gossip Girls books that was definately warning and scaring parents about these "new" books. Compared to that article Brashares is benign.