We are Hippodilly Circus. We speak to (not at) the teens.

In the last few weeks there has been a great kerfuffle on the internet about sexism and diversity in YA books. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation, nor do I have any interest in reviving it. The “discourse” got contentious and accusatory and ugly and I am not sure what was accomplished. In the end, many were invoking the way things are or how they should be in the “YA Community.”

I read a lot of the back and forth. I’m not sure what the outcome of the outrage or the vitriol is or will be. I do know that it didn’t ever feel like a discussion, but a shouting match, as is often the case on the internet. I also have no idea what anyone meant by the “YA Community.” I don’t know who is a member of this “YA Community,” but I do know that there is one thing missing from the conversation and from this “YA Community.”

Young Adults.

I didn’t see any actual Young Adults speaking or even invited to the conversation. All I saw or heard were adults in blogging, publishing, and authors themselves telling each other what is wrong with the “YA Community.” Another group of adults telling teenagers what they need and what they like and how they are.

So, while this “YA Community” of adults is busy demonizing each other and launching accusations about what someone’s motives might be and how diversity isn’t being fully embraced, think about this.

Your ageism is showing.

Teenagers are people. They’re just young. They read, think and make their own decisions. If we can’t model an actual discussion, this “YA Community” isn’t good for much. If the teens aren’t a part of the conversation and instead are talked about as if they have nothing to contribute, then we’re just as guilty of discriminating as anybody out there pushing “boy books” or “girl books” or not promoting publishing and writing by people of color or about people of color. If I want to know what the “YA Community” thinks or feels about the diverse books written, published and marketed to them, I ask my students, kids and kids’ friends. They are the Young Adult Community and they should be consulted and heard.

That’s why I started this blog. My hope is that all voices, especially teen voices will find a place here and that real dicussions will  take place. There are plenty of places where teens are condescended to or told what’s good for them. This isn’t one of them.

We are the Hippodilly Circus and we speak to the teens.

4 thoughts on “We are Hippodilly Circus. We speak to (not at) the teens.

  1. I am so glad you talked about this here at Hippodilly Circus. I also believe that the YA Community has been referred to in a very strange way recently. My guess is that since it was a mix of critics, journalists, librarians, teachers, and authors talking, that somehow we forgot about the teens during this “conversation.” I don’t like forgetting about the teens. In the most obvious example, where would the YA community be without groups as strong and awesome as Nerdfightaria?
    I’m an author. I’m not a “commercially successful” author, whatever that means. I don’t write for money which is very apparent when one might see my tax returns or see my weekly schedule that juggles three jobs. I don’t think about those things when I write anyway. I write for teens and I interact with teens on a respectful level because I believe teenagers deserve respect. Teens seemed to not be invited to what was going on in the beginning of this “conversation.” It was strictly an adult conversation and in some ways I understand that. Sexism in our industry (and beyond) is age-old. I’ve experienced it many times and it needs to stop. We need to have respectful conversations about it that actually start with a conversation, not reactionary commentary. It’s never one person’s fault. It’s a culture that is built from TV to politics to just about everything that surrounds us. Teens know this. They could have a really great discussion about it if asked.
    I’m a loner. Always have been. I like being part of the YA Community when it’s respectful to the most important people inside of it: teenagers.
    One of the things I love the most about teenagers is: you can’t bullshit. You can’t backpedal. You can’t lie and say something was what it wasn’t. I mean, you can, but teenagers know what they see and they take note of it. In many ways, maybe that’s why I respect them so much. I can relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, teens know when they’re being lied to and they know when they’re being disrespected. I see it every day when I’m teaching. There are plenty of teachers and other adults who think they can ‘get over’ on their students by telling them that their life depends on this test or that if they would just study harder, their lives would improve, etc. They also know when they’re being patronized and asking for their opinions, but not intending to heed them. The best thing that we can do is really hear them. They get brushed off and told what to do and rarely asked their opinion in a meaningful way. We can do better.

      Just imagine what would happen if we recognized their power in the world and asked them to work with and for the things they believe in and support?

      Like

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