Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Morgan’s Mumbles: YA is Great, but it Isn’t the Only Game in Town

Today teen contributor Morgan Randall shares a bit of wisdom with us about allowing teens to read freely.

I went through a long period where I stopped reading and it wasn’t because I didn’t like to read or enjoy books. It was purely because everytime someone recommended a book to me it was the same storyline and concept in a YA novel. Now don’t take that the wrong way, I love me a good young adult novel. It’s what I grew up on, and even the cliches (no matter how overdone) always remind me of some of the first books I enjoyed reading.. However, no matter how weird it sounds, I have always been fascinated with classic literature and philosophical novels. I am obsessed with finding deeper meanings in simple texts, or trying to decode something that someone wrote decades (and sometimes even centuries) ago and find a way that it is still applicable in modern day.

The beginning of my junior year I went to a book store and bought Dante’s Inferno, an epic poem that had always intrigued me because of its long lasting impact on the Christian faith and how a majority of people view the concept of “Hell”. I find it fascinating that a text completed in 1320, still has a major impact on the modern world seven hundred years later. Even if someone is unfamiliar with the poem, a majority of people have at least heard of it or the concept of the Nine Circles Of Hell. Having a major impact like this on the world as a whole, along with individual people’s ideas and thoughts, amazes me and is what led me to purchasing Dante’s Inferno. Now, this isn’t a review or break down of Inferno, but something I observed after purchasing it. I bought it, read the first ten pages, and I found it interesting. But the first time I went to talk to someone about it I got the most judgmental comments and looks for reading it (especially since I did it out of my own free will).

I normally don’t take things like this to heart, but somehow I felt ostracized for being interested in classics and philosophy. This led to a drought in reading because being someone who likes to read you are already limited to who you can talk to about books, but being someone who likes to read classical literature narrows down the group of people way more. Now, I don’t think my friends thought of me differently, or would have judged me for this but I like to talk to people about the things I find interesting (which often times is what I am reading) and in all honesty unless you enjoy classic literature it is not something other people want to listen to. Because of this it felt easier just to set down Dante’s Inferno, and all other books that interested me at the time, and take a break from reading.

Now, by no means do I mean to tell you that you should begin to market Dante’s Inferno to kids in your library or class, but what I do want to tell you is when kids express an interest in reading make sure they don’t feel limited by what they are expected to read. Don’t assume every teenager who likes to read wants to read young adult, and on the flip side of this, don’t expose teenagers to only classic literature within your classroom. I think it is super important to give people freedom to read and discover on their own, however I also think it is super important that while they are doing this they are able to have open conversations with adults in their life about all types of things that peak their interest.

Young Adult novels are obviously marketed towards youth and there is a large variety within YA alone, in fact when I do read Young Adult I still enjoy it a lot because I know what I enjoy reading now. The problem is, it takes a lot of trial and error to find books that are a good fit for you, if you do not naturally enjoy reading. I think oftentimes people read one book from a certain genre and assume that it is an accurate representation of the genre as a whole, which is often untrue. This is why I am challenging you, to go out and read some form of literature that might be outside your comfort zone. Something that you assumed you would never like because of false assumptions, or because of pressure other people put on you. Know that you won’t like every genre, and you definitely won’t like every book you read, but there is something amazing about stepping outside of your “normal” within books and discovering something that you never would have thought you would have enjoyed as much as you did. It might give you new insight on what things spark your interest.

I challenge you to do both this, and also when you recommend things to people don’t just assume the genre they would enjoy. Give options of multiple genres and types of literature. Find new books, and old books to recommend across all genres. And when someone, especially youth, finds a genre they enjoy and are finally exploring literature, make sure you choose your words carefully even if the genre isn’t something you suspected. Now, I am not saying don’t encourage them to read other things as well, however it is important that youth who feel like they have finally found something enjoyable to read are encouraged to continue to do so. This will allow them to enjoy reading, whereas if someone around them that they admire (or is in a position of authority) seem to judge them for their choice of literature, it can be a huge turn-off from reading as a whole even if it was enjoyable for them.

Morgan RandallTeen Contributor

Morgan recently graduated high school and is currently enrolled to attend college in the fall getting her BA in Theatre and Dance with an emphasis on Design and Technology. She loves theatre, writing, reading, and learning. But something that has always been important to her is being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one, and being a catalyst for change in any way possible.

When Pride is Said and Done: Teen Contributor Elliott Shares Their Post Pride Thoughts

It’s been a couple of months because Teen Contributor Elliott was busy graduating from high school, but today Elliott is back to share their post-pride thoughts.

Trigger Warning: Suicide, abuse

As Pride Month comes to an end, many people are hit with the realization that although they have a month where they can feel free and openly themselves, the world is still not a perfect place. Even just one day after pride month, corporations stop showing their support, harassment and attacks against the LGBT+ community continue to happen, and people are forced back into silence. I want to take this opportunity to shed light on some hardships AND prosperity in the LGBT+ community that often go overlooked.

Being in the closet during Pride Month can be extremely frustrating for some people who dream of being open about who they are. But for others, being in the closet can be the safest, yet most dangerous situation at the same time. Someone’s environment may not make it safe for them to come out for fear of abuse, abandonment, or death, but the closet can also be a prison that denies someone access to try to figure out their identity. This can make the person confused and insecure about whether or not they are truly part of the LGBT+ community. While I would never suggest for someone to force themselves out of the closet in the hopes of figuring themselves out, the situation they are in could be compared to being trapped on a bus in a zombie apocalypse. While that person is safe from the hoards of zombies outside, they are starving, confused, and left alone on the bus and either way death is imminent. So their options are to starve on the bus- be confused and drowning in self hatred in the closet, or risk it with the zombies in the hopes to find other survivors- come out of the closet and find other members of the LGBT+ community who can help them figure out their identity and help them live their life. There is also a third, and overlooked option- stay in the bus and wait for the zombies to leave and then learn to survive on your own. In other words, stay in the closet until you feel safe and instead of getting help, figure out your identity by yourself. All three of these options are completely valid; however, they often go overlooked because they don’t project the happy point of view that society likes to display.

The LGBT+ community may literally be full of rainbows, but it isn’t always the most happy, rainbow-filled community. Often times coming out to others and being part of the LGBT+ community can be dangerous, not because of homophobic people outside of the community, but because of gatekeepers who identify as LGBT+ themselves. A bisexual woman is accused of not being “bisexual enough” by a lesbian because she’s in a relationship with a man; a trans male is accused of not being “trans enough” by a gay man because he happens to like wearing makeup (despite the fact that the gay man wears makeup himself and is sternly asserts that he is indeed a male); an asexual nonbinary individual is accused of not being nonbinary by other trans folk because they’re too feminine and they can’t be asexual because they’ve kissed somebody. All of these stories are true stories and I would know because they’re stories from people I know…and the last story is mine. Gatekeeping in the LGBT+ community is so incredibly toxic. Dealing with homophobia and transphobia from cishet people is already difficult enough, but to face the same discrimination within the community can make it feel like there is no safe place. I know that for me, it made me question my identity and made me hate what I identified as for the longest time. The LGBT+ community should be just that, a community. A community where we are here to lift each other up and help fight against the oppression that all of us face instead of adding more fire to the flame. But right now, that’s simply not the reality.

I know I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the hidden darkness of the LGBT+ community. However, there are good things in the community that often go overlooked as well and I want to spend just as much time bringing those truths to light.

One of the most common coming out stories that I hear often goes unnoticed because there’s no drama or extreme message behind it. Someone who hasn’t had many struggles with their identity tells their parents casually in a normal conversation that they’re LGBT+ and their parent is simply okay with it. Nothing grand, nothing drastic, nothing dangerous- just stating a fact and the fact being accepted. I just want to say that there’s nothing wrong with this story! This story is just as beautiful and just as powerful as someone with a tragic backstory or a less than ideal coming out story. Sharing such an intimate part of yourself with the world is such a beautiful, powerful thing to do, even if there were no obstacles of hardships in the way.

Pride Month is beautiful and the fact that there is a month where LGBT+ identities, struggles, and victories are brought to light, this month is also a call-to-action. The community still faces hardships left and right. Identities and stories are still being hidden. And, although pride month is over, LGBT+ pride should never end. The steps we are taking to make the world a better place should not stop after June. Pride is forever and our fight is not over.