I’m Just Going To Leave This Here

On September 13, 1988, Carl Sagan delivered a speech titled “Thoughts on the 125th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.” His main argument is that weapons have advanced to such an extreme that those involved in the conflict are no longer the only casualties. When leaders of countries point weapons at one another, the citizens will be the ones who truly suffer. And while we think we’re being careful, accidents can happen.

And then I read this passage:

This is the century of Hitler and Stalin, evidence–if any were needed–that madmen can seize the reins of power of modern industrial states. If we are content in a world with nearly sixty thousand nuclear weapons, we are betting our lives on the proposition that no present or future leaders, military or civilian–of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and whatever other nuclear powers there will be–will ever stray from the strictest standards of prudence. We are gambling on their sanity and sobriety even in times of great personal and national crisis, all of them, for times to come. I say this is asking too much of us. Because we make mistakes. We kill our own.

I wonder what Mr. Sagan would say today.

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Why I Love YA

I do not fit the dictionary’s (or society’s) definition of “young adult,” not by a long shot. But nevertheless I read and love YA literature for the nostalgia and camaraderie.

I was fortunate to attend the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Atlanta a few weeks ago. During one session, I overheard a line that has stuck with me ever since: Laurie Halse Anderson said, “Young adult literature is popular with adults because no one talked about those things when we were growing up.” And she’s right!

I’ve blogged before about my reading life (see “A Life in Books” and “Reading: A Life and Goals”), and the more I think about the kinds of books I read as a kid, the more I realize that they would be considered “middle-level” today and not truly “young adult.” (Forever by Judy Blume is an obvious exception to this, but I digress.) There were very few, actual young adult novels to help me navigate the treacherous waters of high school and everything they encompass: friendships, dating, drinking, sex, parents. The books my teachers assigned certainly afforded no guidance–all I learned from George in Of Mice and Men was that {spoiler} murder is the simplest way to lighten your load. That wasn’t really advice I needed when I didn’t make the varsity softball team. A book like Challenger Deep would have showed me how to bounce back from that rejection.

While it’s nice to be reminded of what my high school experience was like, I honestly can’t imagine growing up in the world we have today. It seems like kids face so much more pressure and so many more obstacles than I ever remember dealing with as a teen. Ultimately, I read YA lit so I can better understand what my students might be going through and then share those findings with them so they know how to handle life.

The other aspect of YA lit that appeals to me is the sense of community among the authors. At any given time on Twitter, authors are chatting with one another about new projects, defending one another from misguided attacks, or just sharing a mutual love for coffee. I admit I geek out a little when I see Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli talking about movies or Sarah Dessen tweeting about her obsession with Lauren Graham. And the best part is when they interact with their readers! Many authors on Twitter are so appreciative of feedback about their work, and I don’t know if they really understand the other side of that: how thrilling it is for a reader to have a tweet replied to or liked. That kind of accessibility is something that makes YA lit and authors so special.

My actual age might not fall in the range of the target audience for YA lit, but I’m definitely still a young adult at heart!

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No big deal. Just hanging out with Laurie Halse Anderson at NCTE!