By Tamara Girardi
We all have those authors that have us running to the bookstore on release day. They're our go-to authors. When we want a solid read, a funny read, a spooky read, we call on them. But I've recently been reminded what we're missing when we fail to venture out of our favorite sections in the bookstore.
This semester, I'm the graduate assistant of the adolescent literature course at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The course is mainly directed to undergraduate students majoring in English and secondary education. The purpose is to expose the future educators to works of contemporary young adult literature they may consider teaching in their classrooms. The titles on the syllabus are primarily literary.
The titles I often read on my own are also young adult, but they are mostly genre or commercial fiction. I'm not about to take the traditionally academic stand that a foul stench tends to radiate from such work. I adore Alyson Noel, Sarah Dessen, Ally Carter, Meg Cabot and many other popular writers, but the stories I'm reading for the adolescent lit course have made me think about YA differently.
They focus on serious issues such as imprisonment, conformity, sexual abuse, slavery, war, starvation.
If you're wondering to which titles I'm referring, take a look at Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak or Chains, Walter Dean Myers' Monster, Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl or Milkweed. The stories are heavy but enlightening. Truth be told, there are times I want to run back to the light, comic, feel-good stories I often read. Maybe it's because the class forces me to keep reading. Probably that and I really do like discovering new literature (and rediscovering some novels I've read before).
So what do you think? In your spare time (since time is just something we never have quite enough of) can you step outside of your reading circle? I challenge you to discover a piece of literature outside of your reading comfort zone and give it a try. You might just learn something that will spark your own writing.
Are you up for the challenge? Got any ideas of titles you might try?