This is post in which I’m going to contradict and take myself to task. Apparently, I’ve been learning to play the Devil’s Advocate so well I’ll even do it to myself. I actually this is an important part of the critical thinking process – being able to argue with yourself and challenge your own viewpoints – but I realize it can be annoying.
How do people figure out what you actually believe, you say. What’s with your doublespeak/hypocrisy, Anna?
Deal with it: I contain multitudes, jerks.
Anyway. After I wrote my Books for Boys that aren’t “Books for Boys” post over at the Hub last week, I’ve been thinking about books for girls. The post did get a good response* with a few people tweeting the link out. Plus, Malinda Lo thanked me which is just spectacular. She’s so awesome: her work on diversity in YA and her books are just amazing.
Whenever an author interacts with me on Twitter or retweets something I react like a tiny excited child. If I ever meet a movie star or something, I’ll be the one ridiculously fangirling over people. It’s almost embarrassing. I have to remind myself they are just people like me.
Back to girls and reading. As I was thinking about my post this week, I was wondering why I didn’t write about books for girls and why “books for boys” is such a thing. I realized its because I think we expect girls to read, and especially to read YA. I touched on this a little bit earlier when I wrote about A.S. King, Karen Healey, and Malinda Lo (she’s everywhere!) at their Lexington book event – that people look down upon YA books because they are perceived to be the sole province of teenaged girls. And teen girls are not very respected in our culture.
We expect girls to read because we expect girls to be good and reading is good. It’s quiet and controlled. And we expect them to read books for pleasure; that they will read nice romances and think nice thoughts. But this isn’t always the case. Sometimes girls don’t like to read, or they don’t like to read the nice books. Little do we know girls are just as susceptible to the revolutionary act of reading as anyone else. Just as boys can read books about romance or from a girl’s POV or written by a woman, girls can read books with sex, violence, drugs, horror, anarchy, humor, and the rest. We assume they won’t read those because we don’t like to think about girls having sexual thoughts or being intrigued by action and violence.
Yes, there are differences between boys and girls, but they are still human beings; in a lot of ways they are the same. They read or don’t read for similar reasons. Some like character-driven novels, others want nonstop action, and yet more maybe enjoy a good romance – even if they won’t admit it.
Readers are readers. If we could just take off the gendered lenses entirely, I think we could serve our readers better. Let’s focus on writing, reading, and recommending stories that are true (in the manner of Truth, not necessarily a nonfiction story), that matter, that touch the soul, that are real, that show the varieties of human emotion and experience, that are maybe even an inspiration. Let’s do that instead of focusing on the gender we think might like the book the best.
Books for girls are books for boys, and books for boys are books for girls. It’s all just stories. I think that I was trying to say that in my “Books for Boys” post, but I didn’t want to leave out my ladies.
Stores for all! Goodnight, folks!
*It also cracked the top five most viewed posts on the Hub for February! First time I’ve done that!