Another weekend, another post “From the Library.” Well, not exactly. If you’re reading this post now, you probably know that our decision to revise our list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader created an enormous controversy, and we feel there’s more to be said. Criticism of our decision generated comments, outside blogs, and discussions that took issue with our standards for creating the list, our “cowardice” for its speedy revision, or our “unprofessionalism” for not honoring the requests of authors asking to be removed from the list. A lot of e-ink was spilled discussing the issue of “triggering,” and Bitch Media was accused of promoting and exercising censorship.
We know lists are trouble and historically we’ve avoided them, not only because of the controversy they inevitably generate but because of the danger of a list being interpreted as canon. Nevertheless, when a high school teacher contacted our library asking for a list of YA recommendations, we took the request to heart and quickly became very excited about the project. We spoke to high school and junior high school teachers, writers, and readers, and solicited recommendations from staff, interns, and friends. We read and re-read many books and reviews. It was a lengthy process, but not a formal one. Because of our desire never to proclaim anything a “canon,” we knew this collection would updated from time to time.
After posting the list last week, we received feedback from readers through the blog, our social media, and email, asking us to reconsider a few of our choices. As a feminist media organization, we took these concerns seriously, and took last weekend off to read. We checked Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott out from our library (where, by the way, they will continue to be available for checking out) and discussed them while reading and after we’d finished. Our eventual decision was to remove all three from the list. While many of the books we recommended cover difficult and controversial topics, we decided to remove these particular books because of how they deal with issues of sexual assault especially. Our particular concerns were elaborated upon in the comments of the previous blog post, as was our (continued) belief that the removed books deserve to be read and certainly should not be banned or otherwise kept from any audience. On a list of just 100 books, though, the problems we had with these texts were enough that three close runners-up deserved to take their place on our roster.
Bitch Media is a small-staffed, independent organization that takes reader input very seriously. We have read every comment that has come in since our original post a week ago. We have been listening, and we will continue to do so. Hearing some of this criticism, particularly as it has grown more and more tangential (and detrimental) to the original topic of YA literature and putting books into the hands of young feminists, has affected Bitch deeply, on personal and organization-wide levels. We have also been touched by the outpouring of support we’ve received. More than anything, though, our old-fashioned, ink-lovin’ hearts here at Bitch have been bolstered by such a passionate debate taking place over literature.
When we sat down this week to decide how to keep the vitality in this conversation going, we decided upon, and are now excited beyond belief about, an online YA book club for readers to participate in with us–an idea originally thrown out by commenter heatherwasahoodrat. So! We’ve selected ten books that we think a lot of you might want to discuss on the blog. Included in these selections are all three removed books, a few published in the list, and a couple that readers said they would liked to have seen. We’ll be reading five of these for the online book club, and you, the reader, get to decide which five make the cut.
Make sure to cast your vote before Wednesday, February 9th, and we’ll announce which books have been selected on Friday, February 11th.
Thank you, as always, for reading.