Posted by: Kristen Hicks | June 6, 2011

Reading as a Teenager

There’s a great post at the NPR Monkey See blog about the fallacy of worrying too much about dark themes in the books teenagers read.

Like Linda Holmes, I also started reading Stephen King books at around 13 or 14 and had read just about every title with his name on it (and Richard Bachmann’s) that my High School library had by the time I was a Sophomore.  I also had earlier gotten through a large portion of the R.L. Stine books in Middle School and made an effort to stay up late enough on Saturdays (if memory serves) for Monstervision and devoured the many (heavily edited) horror movies that flooded the airwaves every October with zeal.

Somehow, in spite of this, I’m pretty sure I’ve grown up to be a largely well adjusted person who tries my best to live in a way that takes into account the good of those around me.

I should correct myself, I don’t think this was in spite of an interest in art that tackled dark and even violent themes, I think that this art, and the many, many other books and movies that I took in all played a role in helping me to understand my life with more perspective than I would have otherwise.  I have a very supportive family, lived in a very comfortable, but rather dull suburban environment and wouldn’t have ever had to think much about the fact that there are many other people in the world who have it much harder than me had art not brought this to my attention.

Sure, it’s a little harder to point to something like Friday the 13th as providing valuable insight into how the world is a genuinely scary place to survive in for much of the world’s population than a book like The Hunger Games, which forces kids to face some of the grim realities of what life in a totalitarian police state where hunger is a daily issue might be like; but, I very much lived in a world where safety and comfort could be taken for granted and I think there was a value to being transported to stories where that wasn’t the case.  It taught me about something I had the luck not to face in my day to day life and prepared me for much more serious fare, such as when I spent a semester in college mired in the stories of torture victims disappeared during Argentina’s Dirty War, or reading more recently about things like the rape epidemic in the Congo.

It turns out, shielding American kids from the awareness of violence and suffering in the world isn’t doing a damn thing to help kids in other places who are actively facing violence and suffering every day.  Maybe we should turn our concern to more pressing matters?

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