Go ahead. Call it Kiddie Lit.

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We spent part of the weekend doing something extremely rare for us: We marathoned Netflix shows. I finished Anne with an E in 2 days, but then we moved on to 13 Reasons Why. Bottom line: Both have floored me in the best way. We’re not yet done with the latter, but I’m itching to get back to it.

Amazing. Gripping and fantastic. Both shows. Anne just got me with every single episode. 13 is a slow and devastating build.

Now, I love the debates around this show. I’m curious about how many people have read the book. It’s a YA novel, and Anne of Green Gables is also in my realm – a book I have taught in depth (i.e. right up my Children’s Literature PhD alley). I’m actually not reading 13 until after the series, which is itself unusual for me. There’s something, though, about this mystery – because it is a mystery no matter that we know the outcome.

One of the things that I tell my students in Children’s Lit classes is the fact that novels that work in first person narration already have a subliminal obvious: The character survived, no matter what happens. The story may make us forget that, but it is constant comfort. The whole experience of 13 completely counteracts that in the most glorious way! And it should. It should make you so uncomfortable. It should force it down your throat. It does. Directly. DIRECTLY. To the point of wondering if the address to the people forced to listen is the ultimate revenge-bullying with no chance whatsoever for them to find what the narrator does as (posthumously) as a character.

Here’s something ironic for you: the people outside of our field of Children’s Literature calling it Kiddie Lit are actually bullies who use the word to undermine the work we do to study child and YA culture via its texts. Our community, however, is strong and has support, unlike the protagonist.

So, why the debates over this work? Most likely because of this discomfort. It’s difficult to face the fact that, at some point, everyone is a bully. Irony: censoring IS bullying. Tsk tsk. And in this political climate, complicity is a sledgehammer. As for the people policing what we should and should not take up in to be self-reflective, it always says more about those who wish to censor than it does about those who engage the discussion. Oh the fear. The fear is real. Discomfort=opportunity to learn. If you want to know more about that, read bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress (opens in new window).

Understand this unequivocally: censorship is very, very different than shutting down hate rhetoric that is attacking living humans to do harm and lead to what happened to the protagonist. There is a massive difference between the unabashed inciting to enact violence and the works that are actually, rhetorically think-pieces. Read with awareness, and try to figure out the difference, then behave appropriately.

-Dr. Pyrate

 

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