Talking about sexual violence in young adult literature with a teen book club, by Amanda MacGregor
Usually our meetings are very informal. I try to direct some of the conversation, but usually it’s a little chaotic, with everyone jumping in or going off on tangents. There is usually good natured arguing over opinions on books and lots of laughter. This meeting, though, was different. I’ve never seen the book club members so quiet while listening to someone talk. I began by giving them some background information on rape statistics (from RAINN) and rape culture, most of which I pulled from the archives of the SVYALit projectwebsite.
I read them this piece to make it clear what sexual assault is and to point out that it can happen to anyone and be perpetuated by anyone. I wanted them to hear these words, to listen to someone making it clear for them that sexual assault can happen in a lot of different ways. For their own sakes, I wanted them to know this, to really understand it.
After the meeting, some of the members chose to send me further thoughts. One member shared with me that this was the first time she discussed sexual violence with a group. “I liked how comfortable I felt discussing what I had read with the group. In other situations, mentioning to someone that I had read a book about sexual violence usually ended with an odd look and an abrupt ending to any discussion I had hoped to spark.” She goes on to say that she valued the open discussion we had. “It’s what I wish I could have with a teacher, a friend, even a sibling without feeling weird for bringing it up.” She says she wishes we had had even more time to discuss our books and this topic because talking “about a topic that society seems to shy away from isn’t an opportunity I get often.”
Filed under: #SVYALit, #SVYALit Project
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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