Some of you might have noticed a controversy within the YA community today. It started with what sounded like an exciting concept, a list of the Top 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader, compiled by Bitch Media.
You could go read the list here. Except, well, it’s not the original list. And therein lies the controversy.
Soon after the list was published, a commenter complained about Sisters Red’s (by Jackson Pearce) appearance on the list. “Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott and “Tender Morsels” by Margo Lanagan quickly followed. That’s to be expected though, right? Of course not everyone is going to agree about what constitutes great “feminist” literature. Nothing out of the ordinary there.
It’s Bitch Media’s response that gets kind of...peculiar. Instead of opening up discussion about the books, or better yet, DEFENDING the reasons why the books made their list in the first place, Bitch Media started removing books from the list. Not only that, but the person commenting on Bitch Media’s behalf indicated she hadn’t even read the books in question. Here are the reasons stated for removing the books:
“We've decided to remove these books from the list -- Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature.”
Well, you can probably imagine what followed. Several other authors—including Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, Justine Larbalestier, and Diana Peterfreund---took offense to this action, and ultimately asked to have their books removed from the list as well, some claiming censorship on the part of Bitch Media.
Personally, I feel like putting books on a list and then removing them based on commenter opinion strips the entire list of its value. Read the books first. Discuss them. Decide at that point if you think they’re appropriate. Do not carelessly toss books on the list, only to waffle later at the first sign of dissent. Also, as Scott points out, where is the logic in removing one potentially "triggering" book while leaving behind scores of others, including his own Uglies or Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls?
And while some of my other writer friends might disagree, I absolutely believe this smacks of censorship. The list-makers are trying to “protect” readers from potentially objectionable material. If that’s not a form of censorship, well, I’m not sure what is.
Please, tell us your thoughts on this matter. Do you agree or disagree with removing the books in question, and if you disagree, do you think it’s censorship?