OH, how I love Internet Drama. It is SUCH a delightful thing to watch people get all het up about something that’s taking place online. A lot of times, the Drama is over some stupid ass shit, like Snape Wives or Harmonians or something else equally ridiculous. But then sometimes, OH SOMETIMES, the drama is EVEN MORE WONDERFUL. Like that one time Marie Claire said fat people were gross. So imagine my delight when I came into work yesterday to find this post about Bitch Magazine’s list of 100 YA books that “every feminist should add to the stack of books on their bedside table”.
And THEN, a couple of days later, after a couple of negative comments about three of the books and “some emails”, Bitch REMOVED THREE OF THE BOOKS from the list! And replaced them with three DIFFERENT books, two of which, Howl’s Moving Castle and The Blue Sword, while being VERY GOOD books, are about a controversial as a kitten. Though now that I’ve said that I’ll surely see about ten different complaints about these books not being appropriate for young women. BUT! They are not TRIGGERING! Or about RAPE! So they’re SAFE TO INCLUDE!
And then the internet exploded.
Chasing Ray has a really good breakdown of who said what over in the comments thread at Bitch, though I will admit, reading the comments on that post yesterday was pretty much the highlight of my day. Oh God, seriously, some of the comments are SO WONDERFUL with the OUTRAGE! And DISAPPOINTMENT! And some with the BITCH WAS RIGHT! And dear sweet heaven, I TREASURE the comments thread.
And today, everyone who knows anything about books or YA literature has blog posts about how disappointing it is that Bitch didn’t stand by their choices and/or didn’t properly check out the books when they were compiling their list, because, OH YEAH, their staff didn’t necessary READ all of the books on the list. WHOOPS. Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has a really good write up about this whole kerfluffle, which is where I got the above advisory sticker. Scott Westerfeld, who wrote the Uglies series, has posted about why he’s upset and requested that his books be removed from the list. Margo Lanagan, who wrote Tender Morsels, one of the books removed from Bitch’s list, posted about why she feels her book was wrongly removed (because one commenter felt it “supported rape as vengeance … [and] is absolute crap on every possible level”). And here’s another great defense of Tender Morsels. And Karen Healey, another YA author (who I haven’t read, but will make a mental note that I need to), came up with her own list of Feminist YA literature based on books she has sitting on her shelves at home.
And beyond the DELICIOUS DRAMA, this issue kind of strikes a nerve with me. Like Maureen Johnson said on Bitch’s post, this is EXACTLY what happens when books are challenged. One person has a problem, one person thinks we should be “protecting” the youth from awful things that could hurt them, and NEXT THING YOU KNOW books are banned. They’re removed from shelves and lists and no one reads them and no one talks about them. No one learns from what these books offer. And Bitch may not have physically removed these books from the shelves of their lending library, but they MOST CERTAINLY made them inaccessible. Books no one knows about are books that no one reads, so removing these books from their list is tantamount to removing them from their shelves, and if it weren’t for the outrage raised by other authors, they might have gotten away it. But as one of the many blog posts I read today pointed out, book challenges in libraries DON’T happen publicly. If a library, a REAL library, had published this list, the one negative comment about Tender Morsels would have been a phone call to the library and could potentially have resulted in not only an edited version of the list, but in the book being taken off the shelves. Books challenges happen ALL THE TIME. And books are banned ALL THE TIME. Just look at ALA’s list of books challenged and/or banned in 2009/2010. And those are only the books that went through a formal challenging process! That doesn’t include ones that weren’t reported to the ALA or were just quietly taken off shelves.
It INFURIATES me that someone, ONE PERSON, thinks they know best for everyone else. Especially since quite a few abuse victims commented that, yes, these books are difficult, but also helpful for processing and healing from abuse, or that more triggering than the books is the judgment that someone else knows what’s best for them, judgment that rape shouldn’t be talked about. Look, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and it is Bitch’s prerogative to edit their list, but the way they did it was just SO SHADY and insulting to readers.
Not to mention, that thanks to this whole mess, I will be SURE to read the books removed from the list, starting with Tender Morsels, which is less than $7 on Amazon right now. Thanks to some gift card credit and the free trial of Amazon Prime, Tender Morsels is winging it’s way to me at the low LOW price of $2.87, and I know I’m not supposed to be spending money right now, but like I said on Twitter, at that price, it’s like God WANTS me buying it.