To say that I'll post a real one tomorrow, as I'm now caught up enough. Though still a bit scattered and novel-headed. Any requests or suggestions? Because otherwise I'll just do a recent reading capsule review thingie…
The apocalpyseWorld Equestrian Games are finally upon us, which should make for some amusing posts and pics. And some exciting dog walks, during which wealthy Europeans feel threatened by Mighty Puck and Trundly Emma. (I'm pretty sure Acousticats is something they've doggie had nightmares about.)
Now I shall watch the ANTM makeover show. This is the Elevated Season, you know. This time, ANTM is going to be a Real Girl… One of the best fantasytrashy shows on TV.
SERIOUSLY, give me a topic(s). I am bereft.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be working harder to improve boys’ literacy. Quite the opposite. I’m suggesting is that in doing so, consider the many female authors and readers of today, and think about how we grew up—and frankly, how female readers are still growing up. You can’t turn a blind eye to the basic reality that 50% (or more) of the school population is still getting a steady diet of male authors, even though an astounding variety of women are writing books of extraordinary quality. And it is certainly not the case that we are running out of male authors. That concept is demeaning to everyone.
I have this sense occasionally that there's a whole school of thought out there that We Must Coddle To Boys. We must give them Exactly What They Like And Only That. And it's coming from a very, very specific gender perception of what being a "boy" is. As if being a boy is any less diverse an experience than being a girl. The perception–as Maureen says–that teen boys (and let's face it–boys, generally speaking, when they grow up to be men) won't ever be as adventurous as readers as women. Meaning at least in part that they won't ever read books that could fall under the created heading of girl's or women's fiction by choice. (Let's not forget that women buy most fiction, period.) And if we need any proof that women's opinions and fictional tastes are frequently devalued, we have plenty of recent examples.
Lots of books by women and/or read by girls isn't part of the "crisis in boy literacy," and that won't be solved by pandering. I don't see anyone arguing that getting more boys reading isn't important, but it's just as important to try and expand the notion of what boys should read. Instead, what if the world stopped treating most fiction by women–especially if it has GASP romance in it–as fluff, as something only worth being read by women or girls. You know what? Again, that's *most* fiction readers. We should all be so lucky. Fun is not a bad word, not when the work in question is also whipsmart and brilliantly executed.
The whole idea of "girl books" and "boy books" is as reductive and culturally created as the idea of "boy colors" and "girl colors." It's as dangerous as the idea that those little genre books can never be Literature with the capital L. (Or as Jennifer Crusie recently put it: "literary fiction is just another genre, not God’s Library.")
Anyway, I don't want to support that structure. I want life to be more interesting than that.
How about we just start valuing readers more? No matter who they are and what they read (unless it's, y'know, all celebrity memoirs and crazy polemics).
AND I didn't mean to start posting about this, and there is a lot more to be said, so I will stop… NOW. As my brain is tired, and I have no idea how much sense I'm making. There's an important lesson to be learned here and it is:
Do not take sudafed after 5 p.m. This is as important as not getting the mogwai wet or feeding it after midnight.
p.s. The Hunger Games features a girl protag, a love triangle (which gets some serious page time) and a PLETHORA of makeover scenes, along with rip-roaring pacing and elaborate world-building and plenty of serious issues. Yet it's not much of a mystery that it appeals to both girls and boys; the packaging tells you it appeals to both. That more boys don't feel they can pick up, say, Ally Carter's Heist Society, which I bet lots of Hunger Games fans would love, is just disappointing. There's no reason it couldn't be packaged in a way to make that more likely.
ETA again: Check out the comments. And one little point from a comment of mine that I feel I should have made in this incredibly unfocused post:
Why women read so much more fiction than men is an intriguing question and I'd love to have more data about the reasons why that might be. Basically, I see a lot of people talking about the boys' reading crisis as if publishing is creating it and publishing can fix it and I think that's wrong. The problem is a cultural and educational system one, imo. A couple of interesting links to that point: http://www.hepg.org/hel/article/473 and http://www.hepg.org/blog/38. Because reading is only one part of the picture–the root problem is boys not doing as well academically pretty much across the board. And there are plenty of girls not being served well by the system either.
Part of what makes this such a complicated thing to discuss is that it's not one thing. We're talking about a whole bunch of different issues around gender and reading, perception vs. reality, etcetera, etcetera. The boy crisis is one thing, how certain kinds of books get marginalized by dint of being–either in reality or in perception–for girls and women is another, and how packaging can influence who reads a book yet another. And there's plenty more where those came from.