I’ve decided to try and bring more discussions to my blog, since I find them super interesting when other people do them, and so today we’re going to talk about a topic which I found interesting after hearing about it on Twitter…. Genre Shaming.
I hadn’t ever really thought about genre shaming in the past, because I didn’t really realize that it was a thing. After I heard about it for the first time, I instantly got on the lookout for examples because I wanted proof that this shaming truly existed. I was (sort of) shocked at how often YA books are called “less than” and how often the term “guilty read” gets tossed around. And then I realized that I am far from innocent of doing this. Since I was little, I would intermix my cliche high school novels with classics that I deemed better literary material. Even in last week’s blog post, I defined summer reading books as “beach reads” then promptly decreed that books that take on issues or aren’t light and fluffy don’t fit this description.
But is it a bad thing to consider some books as “less” than others?
I adore “easy” read YA books, and I’ll certainly always include them on my TBR. After all, reading would get boring if you didn’t include some books that you could fly through in just days and that leave a smile on your face. However, they are not as intellectually stimulating as other books, such as literary fiction and classics. I’m not saying that makes YA books any worse than lit fic, I’m just saying that it doesn’t provide as much educational value as “education” is traditionally defined.
Still, does that give us a right to shame people who read certain genres? or change the definition of reader so that it doesn’t include those who read only certain types of books?
My short answer on the subject would be no.
I don’t think it’s possible for books of literary merit to exist without having some books that are there PURELY FOR FUN. And, not to mention, people, especially teenagers, need books with characters that they can relate to. And recently, more and more YA books are taking on important issues in society. They may be written to be more accessible for the average reader, but they aren’t afraid of teaching and taking stances as well.
By telling someone that they aren’t a true “book lover” because they choose Sarah Dessen over Charlotte Bronte is hurting the bookish community as a whole. Not to mention the fact that some books that considered easier reads can have the most powerful messages as well as influence the reader. While reading classics and other “good” books, there is often very little representation of minority groups, teens and younger, independent women, or lifestyles that would make sense to today’s generation of readers. In order to find a role model in literature, it is often necessary to turn towards contemporary prints.
That brings me to my main point. We, as a bookish community, cannot afford to be judging and shaming each other for the types of books we decide to read. WE ARE TOO FEW IN NUMBER TO AFFORD OSTRACIZING EACH OTHER. Look, the book community should be close, and for the most part we are, but those among us who consider themselves superior just due to the type of books that they read are seriously, seriously wrong. And I hate when I go on Twitter and I see certain people flaunting the types of books that they read. It’s ridiculous and self centered.
I do believe that books should be separated slightly based on educational/literary merit, because I genuinely think that when kids read harder, more complex books, they will become more intelligent and able to think in bigger, better ways. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT THEY CAN’T READ EASY BOOKS. In fact, the only way someone will truly enjoy all of those big books is if you get to read 2-3 books that you really desperately want to read in between (I’m thinking of when I read The Cliche for all of middle school despite the eye rolls sent from my mom’s direction).
That top part doesn’t just go for kids. Everyone once in a while should try to read a book that challenges them, whether it be at the diction level, finding the deeper meaning, or a moral struggle. These are the type of books which will make us better people.
For some people, the above book might be 13 Reasons Why, or I’ll Give you the Sun. For others, it might be Crime and Punishment, or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. All four of those will challenge you in different ways, and although the latter 2 are considered “better” than the former by the critics among us, ALL FOUR could be just as enriching and powerful for the right person.
So stop genre shaming. Stop calling some books guilty pleasures and others works of literary merit. Stop judging a book by its genre, and stop presuming that you know what will challenge others and make them better people.
If you love classics, then great. Congratulations. If you love YA and SSF, then that’s awesome too. It isn’t about the genre, it’s about the emotions of the person as they read, and how it will change them when they come out on the other end.
Do you think genre shaming is okay? Are you a victim of genre shaming? Do you think that readers of different genres should be looked at differently? Let me know!