Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Topic: Depressing Young Adult Novels

10-second review: Why do teachers like kids to read books that make them cry?

Title: “Why Teachers Love Depressing Books.” Laura Miller. New York Times (August 22,2004), Internet.

Quote: “Most of the books chosen by the English committee at Alex’s school are problem novels, and the curriculum proves inflexible. ‘We can’t ever say we don’t like the books,’ Alex tells his mother, because, according to his teacher, ‘If you’re not liking the books, you’re not reading them closely enough.’ The books are so depressing—‘Everybody dies in them,’ he told me wearily.”

Quote: “She [Feinberg] sees the memoirlike problem novels as symptoms of ‘the drastic fall from grace that the imagination has suffered in popular understanding’ and her generation’s insistence on ‘making our children wake from the dream of their childhoods.’ ”

Quote: “Adults, she [Feinberg] suspects secretly resent the sheltered, enchanted world children inhabit and under the pretext of preparing them for life’s inevitable difficulties, want to rub their noses in traumas they may never actually experience and often aren’t yet able to comprehend.”

Quote: Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket series: “…results from a ‘wrong-headed belief that the more misery there is, the more quality there is; that the most lurid, unvarnished stories are closest to the truth.’ ”

Comment: It does seem to be true that teachers like to read “problem” novels with even their younger students. Maybe we teachers should emulate Shakespeare: a dash of history, a dash of comedy and a dash of tragedy. Balances the point of view about life.

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