From The Wall Street Journal:
Although “Heather Has Two Mommies” caused quite a stir upon its 1989 publication, a case could be made that the book was a reasonable reflection of the gay-rights zeitgeist as well as the latter-day realities of American domesticity. If nothing else, “Heather” was uplifting in theme and execution, likely to make young readers more comfortable with an evolving culture.
The same can’t be said for a list of “socially aware” books featured prominently at the inaugural Summit on the Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature, held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in June. The four-day summit convened nearly 50 presenters—top educators and authors from across the land—and focused nominally on “Rising Up: Socially Relevant Texts, Critical Literacy, and Identity.”
But “rising up” might not be the first phrase that comes to mind when one surveys a representative sampling of the marquee fare:
• “How It Went Down,” a novel by Kekla Magoon, presents 18 different perspectives on the shooting of an unarmed black youth. (This is the second prominent young-adult book on the topic published recently. While not featured at the summit, Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give”—also about the shooting of an unarmed black youth—contended for a National Book Award in 2017.)
• “Shout” is author Laurie Halse Anderson’s memoir of her sexual assault and struggle with eating disorders while growing up with an alcoholic parent suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ms. Anderson’s debut novel, “Speak,” examined sexual assault from the viewpoint of a ninth-grade girl.
• In “Losers Bracket,” family therapist Chris Crutcher introduces young readers to the heartbreaking lives of children who continue to love and depend on their parents “no matter how badly treated” they may be.
. . . .
It is difficult to understand why educators would so determinedly insist on immersing students in an unsavory worldview, portraying life in terms of its anomalies and unorthodoxies, as if there’s something wrong with you if there’s nothing wrong with you. Of course teachers want all children from all life circumstances to feel accepted, to belong—but belong to what, exactly? Classroom discussions that celebrate this or that fictive martyr, tragic figure, antihero or other outlier are bound to create more outliers: Consciously or not, adolescents will seek membership in the group that appears to be getting all the attention. And if indeed it is psychologically debilitating for the young people depicted in today’s YA literature to inhabit a world of virulent racism and interminable bullying and sexual abuse, then why make the vast majority of students, who don’t live amid such conditions, feel as if they do?
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal