Life hasn’t been going well for me the last couple months. It seems we’re in the middle of a rash of family illness and death and general bad luck. It’s one of those extended times of doom that most of us experience eventually. There’s not much to do but hang on and wait for it to end.
My friends have been reminding me to care for myself as I care for others in my life. With that in mind, my teen daughter and I drove over to Boise for Monday night’s SCBWI meeting. We settled into the comfy back room of Rediscovered Books, feeling a bit numb and battered.
Then our guest speaker, a local junior high school librarian, started talking about books.
“I’m in the middle of that one!” my daughter told him, pointing at Liar by Justine Larbalestier. “No spoilers!”
“Isn’t it great?” he asked. “Are you into part two yet?”
And somehow in those moments, our dark cloud vanished for a while. For the next couple hours, we talked about YA books and the kids and adults who love them. We came away with a dozen more books we want to read.
This past week, young adult writers and readers have been livid over a June 4th article in The Wall Street Journal. In “Darkness Too Visible,” Meghan Cox Gurdon argues: “If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.”
The element that most amazes me in Gurdon’s statement is her underlying sentiment that anything hideous about life is a distortion of reality.
I cannot do the mental gymnastics to deny the bad in the world, either for myself or for others. Bad stuff happens. It happens all the time. I can offer friendship and comfort and an ear to listen. Thankfully, I can also offer books.
Monday night, that junior high school librarian didn’t know he was saving me from my pain. He just offered books. It was what I needed. I’m sure he does the same for his students every day.
On Twitter this week, writers and readers embraced the tag #YASaves to react to the WSJ article, declaring over and over how much good comes from reading YA fiction. #YASaves. It’s true. These authors deserve enormous credit for their bravery and honesty, but let’s not forget: teen librarians are often the ones putting those books into the hands of the readers who need them. Many thanks to Gregory Taylor for speaking with our group. I endorse my daughter’s assessment. You do, indeed, rock.