On a listserv that I used to be on a lot of the talk was about first person in YA lit.
Basically, everyone except for me said:
1. There’s too much of it.
2. It all sounds the same.
3. Why use it? It’s so darn limiting.
And because I am a woman of strong opinions who is contrary, I countered that:
1.There’s not too much of it if kids read it and love it.
2. M.T. Anderson and Angie Thomas and Meg Cabot and Kekla Magoon and John Green do not all sound the same. Yes, I know that list doesn’t cover the people who do sound the same. But why do we always focus on the negatives in our industry instead of the positives? Why are we so quick to degrade our value?
3. Everything writing choice we make is limiting really. That’s the nature of choices in life and in writing. We decide to do something one way, to be a certain way, to go to one place. That means that we can currently do the other option, be the other option, go to the other location. But choices also expand our horizons. When we make a choice, pick a path, we are taking a step towards follow through and commitment.
But my main point was mostly ignored. No offense to the writers in the group who probably don’t remember the conversation anymore. I’d ignore me, too. I wrote my response VERY early in the morning and it was a bit impassioned, as the brilliant Brent Hartinger said.
Throughout our history an integral part of civil rights for all groups has been giving voice to the voiceless. Angela Davis, Audre Lord, lots of people have spoken of this in terms of women’s rights and civil rights movements. The recognition that your voice is heard, that your voice matters is an essential part on the path to equality and liberation. It’s part of the need for intersectionality. For young adults this is also true.
Teens don’t have the voice that adults have. They can’t vote. They tend to not have as much money and power. That’s hard.
But even in a nonpolitical sense, some teens are struggling with identity issues. The first-person voice is the perfect reflection of that struggle. Rather than having a third-person narrative, instead the books are in the voice of the people who are finding their voice, which is a tool towards empowerment. So, I argue that even though yes, there are a TON of first-person narratives, don’t there need to be? Shouldn’t there be more and more voices out there, giving power to more and more thoughts. And, yes, it comes down from an adult writer (usually) recreating the voice of youth, but even that mimicking shows a sign of respect for the voice of young adults. The mimic in us gives worth to the original voice that we are trying to recreate in our stories.
This is in NO WAY to say that third-person voice or narrative is bad or doesn’t have a place. It does. I love third person. When I was a kid I loved both, too. I think books in the third person are also important and empowering. Just by telling the stories of young adults we give value to them.
My point, though, is that first-person narratives shouldn’t constantly be pooped on as something unworthy or that there’s too much of it. I just would like it if we sometimes thought about the political choices that underpin our craft choices. I know some writers do. Maybe I mean, collectively, as a community.
I am cringing now, ready for someone to scream at me. That’s okay. Scream away. REMEMBER SCREAMING IS CONVEYED ON THE WEB WORLD BY DOING ALL CAPS AND LOTS OF THESE !!!! AND EVEN A FEW OF THESE @#$%.
Do Good Wednesday
Here’s a quick way to make a difference. Donate your old bike if you have one. Bikes for the World is an organization that helps provide bikes to people who are economically disadvantaged. Why? Because a bike can change a life. It can make you self-sufficient because it gives you a way to get around.
That’s a big deal.
Your old bike can be the key to someone’s better life.
Random Marketing and Book Things
My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!
Kirkus Review says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.
The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new episode Tuesday. Check it out.
I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.