Fear mongering is rearing it's ugly head again.When I opened up my computer this morning there was an outcry on both Facebook and Twitter from YA authors and YA readers in response to an article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon posted in the Wall Street Journal on June 4th entitled Darkness Too Visible deploring the "dark" content of much of YA Literature.
Sigh . . . but when such eloquent responses popped up on the blogosphere, including a trend on Twitter called #YAsaves, it brought tears to my eyes. I found a post from last year's blog in April entitled Why Kids Like Dark and I thought that would be enough of my two cents, but I am still thinking about it late on a Sunday evening.
We are only as sick as our secrets. We need to make that darkness visible so that we can better understand it. And we write and we read to better understand the world, to give our own feelings a voice. It is freakin' hard to be human, let alone a teenager. There is joy and sadness, darkness and light, and all of us have to jump over some mine fields in the vibrant emotional landscapes we've been given. Everyone has problems, everyone feels pain. It is a matter of degree, rather than kind.
One of my psychology professors in grad school at NYU told me that the definition of mental health is the ability to tolerate ambiguity, to not see life in terms of black and white. The WSJ article suggests to me that the author doesn't have a handle on ambiguity.
Hopefully as healthy adults, we all learn to manage the ambiguity of disparate feelings, and are able to express them in healthy ways. But our brains aren't fully developed until we are 25. Think about that. TWENTYFIVE!
We need books to help us make the darkness visible.
Everybody knows intellectually that if anger, jealousy, anxiety and sadness are stuffed down, they fester, turning into depression which can manifest itself in any number of ways. That we need to give voice to our feelings.
We need art, literature, plays, movies, music to challenge us and to help us see things in a new way, to see other points of view. What a wonderful world we live in where there is something for everybody!
But I know that it's scary to be a parent. We don't want darkness to be out there at all, do we? We want our kids to have joy and hope. And they will, they'll have it all. You'll be there to help them navigate and think for themselves, have opinions.
Books can't take that away, I promise. And I'll say it again: we are only as sick as our secrets, and we need books to make darkness visible.
Someone tweeted this morning: Madeleine L'Engle saved my life. #YAsaves. I have read hundreds of letters to my grandmother with that sentiment. YA Saves indeed!