In defense of teens by Heather Booth
If you haven’t read the recent article chastising adults for enjoying teen lit, you could seek it out, or you could just not bother (we won’t link to it here). I did have the misfortune of reading it. It didn’t make me angry though, it made me sad. And it didn’t make me sad for the way teen lit is perceived, it made me sad for all of us, because the attitude presented is so prevalent in our society and it colors the way teens experience the world. I’m talking about the clear disdain for teens. The way the domain of adolescence is habitually disparaged as an unfortunate phase that people should escape from as soon as possible. The way adult culture – literature, clothing styles, music, leisure time preferences – are all displayed as the ideal, the pinnacle for which we should all strive.
It gave us summer vacation. It gave many of us freedom from the confines of a job. It gave us the ability to focus on ourselves and be cared for by someone else. It gave us the opportunity to craft ourselves out of myriad possibilities – to try on theater club one year and be a newspaper photographer the next and to try out for volleyball, and when that didn’t work out, to be a runner on the track team because they took everyone. When was the last time you had that flexibility in redefining yourself as an adult?
That article made me sad because it shows no understanding of the worth of teenagers. No importance of the value of that time in our lives. No respect for teens as people. Not people about to become adults, not people who are unfortunately stuck where they are for the time being. Not defined by their lack of and striving for adulthood, but interesting, valuable, whole people just as they are now.
Read whatever you want; I don’t care. What you read doesn’t define who you are. But if you can’t appreciate the stories of teens written for teens, it says a lot more about who you aren’t. If you can’t do this, it means you aren’t able to suspend your own absorption in your own life and experience that of someone else’s. It means you aren’t able to empathize with people who are younger than you. It means you think you’re better than them. And you’re not. None of us is. Because we are them and they are us. Don’t be embarrassed to read teen lit. Be embarrassed that you think reading it should embarrass you.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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