So, anyone who follows Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Maureen Johnson, Ellen Klages or Bitch Media on Twitter may already be aware of the showdown over Bitch Media’s 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader. Basically, what happened was Bitch Media published a list that included some controversial titles, including Tender Morsels. A commenter reacted that the book could be a trigger for a rape victim. Bitch responded (OK…. I giggle every time I use “Bitch” and then a verb, just FYI), “Huh. We hadn’t thought about that” or something similar. So, over the weekend, they looked over the controversial books (Tender Morsels, Sisters Red, and Living Dead Girl) and then TOOK THEM OFF THE LIST. Oh, shoot, Bitch! (Hahaha, it works without the verb, too!)
Well, there is no better way to anger the hornet’s nest of YA authors and readers than to do anything that smacks of censorship. So, things took off, and the authors Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Maureen Johnson, and Ellen Klages asked to be taken off the list. Comments went crazy with most being pro-putting the books back on, and some people defending the list makers as being allowed to make whatever decisions they want.
Of course, list makers can put whatever materials they want on their own lists. It’s true. Someone could make a list of books that allude to cheese in the title, and I wouldn’t fuss if they didn’t include The Stinky Cheese Man, despite its many literary merits. It’s their list, they can put what they want on it. But, no one was questioning what they wanted to put on the list. They were questioning the decision to put books on the list and then take them off. It’s like saying, “Just kidding! We thought these books were worth-while, but now that we finally read them- not so much.” It’s incredibly insulting. Maureen Johnson (I swear, I read other people’s books and follow other people’s Twitter accounts) may have said it best in her comment where she describes how she was originally flattered to be on the list, “But I have been incredibly disheartened to see your process for removing books. It mirrors EXACTLY the process by which book banners remove books from schools and libraries–namely, one person makes a comment, no one actually checks, book gets yanked.”
The funny thing is that Tender Morsels made me cry, made me nauseous, and made me want to rip my hair out. But, isn’t that what books are supposed to do sometimes? They make you empathize with someone’s situation. They pull you into the story. They kick you in the face with some of the realities that exist in the world. You wouldn’t want to read it every day, but it’s probably good to have everyone read something like that at least once, just to wake them up to other people’s situations.
So, listen, Bitch (heehee), don’t back down from your beautiful, normally controversial stance just because of a couple of comments. You’re better than that, and so are your readers.
For more commentary on the kerfuffle see: Chasing Ray or Karen Healey. They give more details and talk about why everyone’s upset. UPDATE: Please also see Smart Bitches, Trashy Books’ response.