Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Many Books for Teens Distort Life

By Ada Brownell

“Too many books for adolescents act like funhouse mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life,” said Meghan Cox Gurdon in a March 12, 2013, speech at Hillsdale College.
“Today too many novels for teenagers are long on turbulence and short on a sense of perspective.”
She gave an example of a book approved by School Library Journal, which consists of explicit and obscene descriptions of sexual encounters. Two others Gurdon used as examples go into detail of bloody violence, cruelty, self mutilation and offensive language.
“Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave—what the spectrum is,” the reviewer said. “Books don’t just cater to tastes. They form tastes. They create norms. The norms young people take away are not necessarily the norms adults intend.”
What about church kids? What are they reading?
I’ve worried about the advent of fantasy, paranormal and superhuman powers in Christian books for young adults. Speculative Christian fiction messes with your mind, but nothing like what Gurdon described in the secular literature for youth.
The supernatural isn’t the problem if it stays away from wizards, fortunetellers and that sort of thing. In Leviticus 19:31, it says, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.  Another warning is written in Levitcus 20:6. In my YA books for teens, I speak often about God’s supernatural power—straight from scripture. In Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult, in his dreams Joe slips into the skin of Bible characters that experienced God’s miraculous intervention.

Gurdon said, "The body of children’s literature is a little like the Library of Babel in the Jorge Luis Borges story—shelf after shelf of books, many almost gibberish, but a rare few filled with wisdom and beauty and answers to important questions.
 “The good news is that just like the lousy books of the past, the lousy books of the present will blow away like chaff,” she added. “The bad news is that they will leave their mark.”

            --excerpts from “The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books,” July/August 2013 Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.