I am hated for loving
My wife and I had a lovely time at the University of Connecticut this past weekend, participating in the UConn Children's Book Fair. The campus has changed an awful lot since we went to school there (yes, we are both alumni)but one thing hasn't changed: I love being there. I gave a short talk and then signed books and gave away every last T-shirt. The staff did a wonderful job with the event, which included a number of great authors and characters from kids books like Clifford, Strega Nona and one of the Wild Things. No zombies, though.
It was an almost perfect event. I say almost, because as I was starting to pick up and leave the signing table, an older man picked a copy of Generation Dead from the table and said, "Just what I like to see--horror stories for children." Then he picked up the book, cracked the cover,and read the first two lines of the jacket copy--"All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren't staying dead."--said, "Great," and slammed the book shut.
I think I just have a face people want to punch.
I've written about a similar prejudgement made here, but I'm afraid my response to this particular gentleman wasn't as eloquent. I'd been speaking with a few of the volunteers, and thanking Nikki (sorry if I spelled that wrong!)for assisting me during the event and didn't really appreciate that sort of interruption, so all I said was "Well, you really don't need to read any further." The man stalked off.
The thing is, I agree with the sentiment that the man was trying to express. I do think there are materials, books, movies, video games, music, whatever--that are inappropriate for children in general. I think that Generation Dead is inappropriate for certain children of certain ages, and in fact tried to warn away one parent from purchasing the book for her 9 year old (the woman would not be dissuaded, however, and said she would read it with her child. I wouldn't let my own daughter, who is ten, read the book until very recently, and she reads more and more widely than most adults I know. I've seen the age recommendations for the book as 12 or 13 and I think, generally, those are good recommendations. That being said, I know my daughter at ten can handle the book. I also know certain 15 year olds I've met cannot.
There's a difference between something that is age inappropriate and something that is blanketly immoral, however. And I can't decide which would make me happier--someone, like this man, not reading the book and judging it immoral, or someone reading the book and judging it immoral.
I don't want anyone to read this and worry about me being thin skinned about these occurrences (and, as far as public visits go, I've had an "incident rate" of about 50%).I knew what I was getting into when I wrote a book about teenage zombies, believe me. The fact that the book (and continuing series, be warned!) examines, among other things, the "politics of inclusion" meant that I'd also catch heat from those who have and will take offense at some of the veiled societal parallels within, and that I'd have to absorb that heat with a smile on my face regardless if their reading matched my own. In the article I've linked to above, I stated part of the inspiration for the book and part of what I hoped it would accomplish. S'all good.
Of course, the man hadn't even finished walking away before a huge laundry list of "horror" stories that children of all ages should be reading sprang to mind. I'm sure even as you read this you are thinking of a few more.
I'm happy to say that I refrained from hurling any of these books (or my own, sitting so much more solidly in a neat stack at the edge of the table) in this man's wake. A list (although I think I will compile one, your suggestions are appreciated) would not have helped the situation. I think it is best to allow the man to continue to protect children in his way, and I'll try to continue the same in my own.