A couple days ago, Bitch Magazine posted a list of 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader, which, at a glance, is a fairly standard list of books with strong female protagonists. (Though if they're gonna put Harriet the Spy and Speak on the same list, they might want to redefine their terms.)
After the list went up, a Bitch staffer announced in the comments that they were "reading and re-considering...the three or so [books] that deal with rape." And then this:
A couple of us at the office read and re-read Sisters Red, Tender Morsels and Living Dead Girl this weekend. We've decided to remove these books from the list — Sisters Red because of the victim-blaming scene that was discussed earlier in this post, Tender Morsels because of the way that the book validates (by failing to critique or discuss) characters who use rape as an act of vengeance, and Living Dead Girl because of its triggering nature. We still feel that these books have merit and would not hesitate to recommend them in certain instances, but we don't feel comfortable keeping them on this particular list.
We've replaced these books with Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley and Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. Thanks to several commenters who pointed out the need to include these excellent books on our list. I'm excited to add a few more rad girls to our list and I can't say how happy I am to know that there are WAY more than 100 young adult books out there that tackle sexism, racism, homophobia, etc... while presenting us with amazing young adult characters. Young adult lit has come a long way. We're really excited to keep talking about feminist-friendly YA books on the blog.
YA author Scott Westerfeld's outraged response, and Bitch's response to HIS response, after the jump!
Among many indignant commenters—including other YA fiction writers—is Uglies author Scott Westerfeld:
Let's get this straight: You put Tender Morsels on your list without having read it, then saw a handful of outraged comments appear. So you reread Tender Morsels, swiftly and with those comments uppermost in your mind, then decided they HAD to be right.
Did you talk to anyone in the non-outraged camp first? To those feminists who originally recommended it? Did you engage in a rigorous discussion at all? Or did you just cave?
1) Please remove my book Uglies from the list. It's an embarrassment to be on it.
2) Perhaps change your name to something more appropriate, like EasilyIntimidatedMedia. After all, the theme of Tender Morsels is that one must eventually leave a magical, fabricated safe haven for (sometimes brutal) reality. The theme of this blog would appear to be the exact opposite.
Bitch's Kelsey Wallace responded just a few minutes ago:
Thank you everyone who has voiced your concerns about our YA list in this space. As a reader-supported organization, we most certainly take reader comments seriously, which is why we re-examined the list in the first place. As Ashley, the author of this post, has said, the books that were removed from the list are not bad books, they just might not belong on this particular list. At the suggestion of several of our readers, we did some research into the contested books and simply decided that the list should be amended.
I hope that even those of you who disagree with the decision to remove the books from the list understand that, as a feminist, reader-supported organization, if members of our audience contact us and tell us something that we're recommending might be triggering for rape victims, we're going to take that seriously. That being said, please feel free to voice your dissent here; we take that seriously also.
The real issue here, as other readers pointed out, is the omission of one of my favorite books of all time, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. But the knee-jerk pandering to vocal elements of their comment base (and implication that women need to be protected from books with certain themes) doesn't impress me, either.