Monday, October 24, 2011

Religion and Diversity, a haphazard meditation on something, Part 2 of 5

This is part 2 of a 5-part series kicked off by this post.  Please pardon the draft-yness.

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In the early responses to this kerfuffle, I came across the following comment, which made me happy.

"MM says:
September 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm

"What’s really needed is more authors willing to tackle gay-related viewpoints that don’t conform to the mainstream. The views and struggles of those who leave the lifestyle/choose to go on with their lives from a Christian standpoint and not give into gay urges and who are ex-gays should not be avoided or ignored. I can’t blame the libraries on that one, because I have a strong feeling that not many authors are willing to go there. But these viewpoints do exist and they need to be tackled. Libraries shouldn’t be afraid to get the ones that do come out, though, if they really want to be unbiased and cover all viewpoints. The same actually goes for nonfiction as well…there aren’t nearly enough.. . ."

And then this comment (and the subsequent slightly hysterical one bashing the post, which I will not repeat) made me so very sad.

"Editor’s note: I’m allowing this comment through because I think it’s honestly meant and not a troll. I request that commenters who disagree refrain from responding directly. Please keep this comments section a space for people to support diversity–even diversity of viewpoints you may find objectionable–and discuss the topic at hand."  MM 9/12

The problem being addressed included a lack of religious leanings in a typical YA protagonist, and now those who agreed that this was a problem were branding what seemed to me to be a respectful, enthusiastic, and in-tune-with-the-spirit-of-the-post comment as trolling because it expressed a religious viewpoint they didn't even want to give the time of day.  This kind of hypocrisy makes me tired.  If you're going to embrace diversity, you can't make exceptions like that, especially in a knee-jerk reflex fashion, or people can't take your "commitment to diversity" seriously.

The original authors and the blog owner who posted their statements were trying to raise awareness about how they perceive that certain viewpoints/opinions (that have to do with religion and other things) aren't permitted in mainstream YA fiction.  This commenter was agreeing and pointing out one that was missing.  For doing so, she got slapped by the blog owner in an indirect manner and by another commenter in a rather ugly and direct manner.  To give the blog owner credit, she was apparently right about how other people might take the post.  It's just sad that she had to step in to keep this discussion about why we need to be more open to discussions about religion in YA books from degenerating into incivility because someone brought up religion.

I agree with the original commenter: Christian teens wrestling with homosexuality and their faith and deciding on a course of action that leads to celibacy in order to exercise discipline and bring their lives into conformity with their beliefs and faith have nowhere to turn in YA fiction.  That perspective is not represented anywhere.  "Christian" publishers won't touch it in a meaningful and realistic way because it's too "liberal."  "Secular" publishers won't touch it in a meaningful and realistic way because it's too "conservative." 

No one will touch it.  No one will embrace it and publish something beautiful that will give Christian teens struggling with this issue validation that they are not alone in their struggles.  No voice will give an affirmation that these teens struggling with sexuality as they become adults need to contend with the issues thoughtfully and not just hide themselves away because people (and especially the church) don't want to talk about it because it's hard and divisive and painful.  No fictional character will help them realize the fact that they are part of a greater story.

I would read that book in a heartbeat.  I would recommend that book to lots of people, especially to people who went through that struggle alone when they were teens.  I believe there is value in reading about that kind of struggle written well even if you share none of the beliefs the protagonist has.  I thought that's what those who claim to believe in the need for increased diversity in YA fiction were saying.  I didn't realize they meant "except for conservative Christians who choose to buck the mainstream and choose to abstain from sex they believe is wrong."  I would like to believe that's not what they meant.  I would like to believe that they would give this book a fair shake, especially if they talk the talk of diversity.

Would you?

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Stay tuned for part 3 coming later this week . . .

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