Monday, April 17, 2006

I Wish Naomi Wolf Would Stop.

Just stop. Take a breath. Yes, yes, we know Gossip Girls are trashy novels with two-dimensional characters and sometimes graphic (but flat, uninspired, not-the-least bit erotic if you ask me) sex. We knew it before she did.

Wolf was on Oprah last Monday, once again warning parents about dangerous books. "These books basically tell our daughters that their value comes from how high they are in the pecking order in their high school, whether they can afford all of the fabulous designer goods, and provide a hot sexual experience for the boys in their lives."

Shouldn't Wolf at least make an effort to sit down with girls who read these books and, oh I don't know, maybe ask them why they read them before making these claims? Or at least read what teen readers themselves have to say about these books on Amazon? There are 259 reviews over there ranging from one to five stars, with titles ranging from variations on "one of the best books I ever read!" and "awesome book if you like short beach reads," to "same old," "ridiculous," "guilty pleasure," "waste of paper!" "No Morals, No Plot, No Brains in the Character."

And maybe she could read around just a little bit more in the genre before presenting herself as the go-to gal on contemporary YA lit? Again, reading through those Amazon reviews, it's clear that girls who read Gossip Girls are reading a lot more as well. Many of the negative reviews offer alternatives--Cathy Hopkins' Dates, Mates series, The Traveling Pants books, Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson books.

But here's why I'm so bothered. Wolf's warning to parents--first in the New York Times Book Review, now on Oprah--is going to inspire book challenges at schools and libraries across the country. And it won't just be the Gossip Girls that people will want off the shelves or segregated or tagged with an astrobrite warning label. It'll be books like this year's Printz winner, Looking for Alaska, Golden Kite and ALAN Award winner A Room on Lorelei Street, Printz Honor books The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, and Fat Kid Rules the World, Brent Hartinger's Geography Club (which has weathered several challenges already) or David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy.

They might even come after this:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone who complains about books EVER read them? It's crazy.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Natalia C. said...

Well, it's okay that people complain about books they think are innapropriate, but they should at least read them.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

Brilliant post, Rosemary. Thank you.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the first Gossip Girl book (on a beach in Cancun at age 27). I found it flat and stereotypical, but I knew it would be. That's why I read it.

The sad things about people who challenge books are:
1. They never seem to actually READ the book(s) in question (shocking)
2. They seem to be the ones most in need of the lessons in the book

I had to read Naomi's "Beauty Myth" for my freshman English class at my (all women) college. It sucked. It read like an extended 5 paragraph essay. Talk about flat and stereotypical.

Maybe she should stop judging and be a mom to her kid(s). I would rather that than her try to be a mom to my (future) kids.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Janni said...

I actually loved The Beauty Myth, and feel it helped me rethink my own ideas and body image in ways I needed--but I stll think Wolf is off base here. And doing the same thing so many adults seem to do, talking for teens instead of to them. Far as I can tell, whether they're reading about magic or trashy relationships, most teens--like most adults--know that what they're reading isn't real. It's only those who want to ban the books that seem to get confused.

1:06 PM  
Blogger said...

This is great. Even a leading liberal like Naomi Wolf gets skewered by you guys when she crosses your path. I don't feel so bad anymore.

Rosemary said, "Yes, yes, we know Gossip Girls are trashy novels with two-dimensional characters and sometimes graphic (but flat, uninspired, not-the-least bit erotic if you ask me) sex."

Hey I'm glad you admit it! Hey, even the ALA [American Library Association] admits it! But that didn't stop them from producing lists of similarly trashy books for children.

Now I know you are all very touchy. Before you go on the attack, please read "The ALA Encourages a Further 'Drastic Fall From Grace' By Recommending 'Books For Young Adults Who Enjoy 'Gossip Girl' Series," including the two hyperlinked pages, then read the entire article that contains it for context.

Now here's the question for you authors based on the info in the above that I need not repeat here. Where the ALA admits books are substandard, should they be producing lists of substandard books for children?

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you serious Plan2?? How unintelligent do you think people are? No one was talking about the ALA. The discussion was (again) about old people thinkin' for young ones and you've tried to turn it to your own agenda of suing the ALA for pushing porn on school children.
You remind me of those blog comment-spammers:
"Nice blog! Come and look at my blog advertising cheap medicine!"

7:13 AM  
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8:23 PM  

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