Incens(or)ed

There was an amusing bit of fallout after my post last week. You would think that calling for recommendations of books for a pair of young ladies would hardly be controversial, yes? I mean, I don’t know about you, but there are few things I like more than a chance to talk about books I have known and loved since I was a girl. I was just comparing notes last night on social media with a friend about how nice it is to go wayback into memories and read authors like Grace Livingston Hill, LM Montgomery, Georgette Heyer, and others for sweetness and happiness in what seems to be an ever-more bitter world.

But I digress a little. I had occasion, after an angry accusation was made, to look up what the word censorship meant. I thought I knew what it meant, after all, but I wanted to be sure, because what it was being used about wasn’t what I’d have defined as censorship…

Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions.

So why was I being accused of being a censor by an incensed reader? because I and others were including warnings about books containing graphic and potentially inappropriate content, in a discussion about books for preteen children. So parents who want to know what is in their children’s books are guilty, according to this person, of censorship. It’s not the first time I’ve been accused of censoring content for my children’s sakes. When I wrote about the prevalence of what can only be called victim worship, or torture porn, in YA books, I was blasted for my stance against the graphic portrayal of abuse. I responded to that with science, laying out the fact that children need tools to cope, yes, but glorifying pain (and suicide, as in the recent Netflix hit 13 Reasons) is not a good thing for those who are trying to crawl out of the abyss. So why do I take this unpopular stance?

Perhaps because as a culture we now embrace pop stars who writhe all but naked on the stage, books that advocate ephebephilia and incest, but reject values, morals, and chivalry? I am not a perfect person, but I do believe that there should be personal responsibility in this world, a duty to protect the children, and the honor to stand up to bullies in any form or age.

I’m a mother who now has three teens and one almost-teen under her roof. Do I say ‘you can’t read that!’ and yank a book out of their bewildered hands? (and how do you confuse hands… oh, never mind) Am I truly a censor, using this blog as my ‘group or other institution’ to suppress information?

Not.

Actually, I think I can successfully argue that rather than censoring those books, I am doing the opposite. I am adding information to them, not blacking the ‘bad bits’ out. It’s no different than the rating systems we use for films and video games. Something meant for mature consumption is possibly acceptable for some who are younger, but that’s something their parents need to make a decision on. Not I, and certainly not the incen(sor)ed reader who was indignant that we were talking smack about books she read as a young girl and didn’t see any harm at all in.

I’ll tell a little story on my girls, here. When my Otaku Princess (who now adores anime and anything DC Comics-related) was a small girl-child with silky copper penny hair, she was absolutely terrified of a G-rated cartoon. It gave her nightmares every time her siblings watched it (we owned it on VHS, to date it) and she would run crying from the room when the gnomes appeared in this made-for-TV animation of Ozma of Oz. On the other hand, my Jr. Mad Scientist was taken to see Batman: The Dark Knight when she was only six years old by a doting great-grandfather who undoubtedly thought he was taking the tiny nut-brown girl to an Adam West show, all Bop! Bam! Biff! and he never even looked to see it was rated R. She didn’t bat an eye at that level of gore and horror.

Every kid is different. But only you, the parents, know which kid is yours and what they are ready for. When you look at a book like Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, you want to know that it has graphic accounts of child abuse, incest, and miscarriage in it. You, the parent, can then determine if that’s a book to be read now, or one that should perhaps wait a few years until the developing mind that is in your care is prepared to grasp that not all bad things end in bad times, they can come out to survival and triumph. Personally, that book shook me to the core and I can’t re-read it. On the other hand, her other earlier stories (I’ve never been able to read her after Deerskin) were brilliant, and I have bought copies to give to my girls. Some censor, I.

Some times a book isn’t right for an age level. I had a book rejected from being added to a school library due to content concerns. I didn’t think once that I was being censored, or cry out “I’m being banned!” to all the media. There is a scene in my YA book The God’s Wolfling that portrays the heroes as they are captured by drug dealers when they stumble into someplace they shouldn’t have been. The elementary school in question explained that they couldn’t have any books in their library that portrayed ‘drug culture’ in any way. As I’d never intended that pair of books for juvenile (under 12 years) readers, I shrugged and went on with life. Have I, an author, been censored? Yes. Did it harm me? No. Would that scene (spoiler: the teen heroes make it out intact and the drug idiots pay dearly) have harmed some young impressionable mind? Well, probably not. But that’s not my call to make. The school has a responsibility to parents, and parents are the ones tasked with raising their children. Not, thank goodness, angry people on the internet.

I don’t think there are many children reading this blog. To be honest, I’d be surprised if that number was greater than one. There are rather a large number of parents and grandparents who read and write here. With all of those, I suspect that a primary goal is for us to raise readers. Not to restrict them, but to guide them and feed them good, tasty books, until they can be weaned and off to a diet of meaty books full of stories that will satisfy them, mystify them, and make them think more until their brains stretch out a size or three. And the best way to accomplish that is to talk about books which are beloved and find ones the children will read all up until they cry out for ‘more! more’! and that’s when you know you can come here, asking for ideas when you’re out, and we’ll tell you about the books we loved. Which includes a word of warning about things you might want to know so you aren’t up in the middle of the night with a case of reading indigestion and a crying child.

78 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, point of veiw

78 responses to “Incens(or)ed

  1. paladin3001

    Good topic and post. My parents were picky about what they gave me to read. Until I was able to get books from the adult section at the public library that is. Truth is that there weren’t a lot of books that didn’t meet their standards. Yes some of their standards were a little odd (some would call them fundamental Christian), yet they didn’t really censor stuff. They waited until I was old enough (or mature enough perhaps) to make my own decisions. Few times we came to arguments mind you, yet they said their piece.

    It’s a parents role to filter what information is given their child. Only a parent has a good understanding of what their offspring is capable of handling. So not censorship in any form of the word.

  2. Tom

    It really sounds like someone has no clue what censorship is. At all.

    What you did is something called “parenting.”

    I’m willing to bet the person who made this accusation doesn’t have children or, if they do, they’ll grow up so screwed up that they’ll need serious therapy.

    It’s a parents role to introduce the world to their children as they’re read. The good stuff, like love and devotion? They can see that right away. Thing like rape, incest, and abuse? That can wait until they’re capable of handling it.

    And it’s our role to filter this stuff, to make sure the right books, movies, and shows get to the right hands.

    Sounds like someone didn’t get that.

    • My son kind of gets it now, why his dad and I curate the books he reads – and that we have his best interests and enjoyment in mind in doing so. A year ago, the Matthew Reilly books he liked were Troll Mountain and The Great Zoo of China – he read Contest because he got sucked into it, but he bounced a bit off the others at the time, saying they were a little boring (!)…

      Fast forward a year, and he tries the Jack West series of books. He devours the whole series in a week, and is making his way through the Scarecrow books. He said to me, “Mom, you’re right, these are fun. Why didn’t I read them before?!” And I said “I don’t think you were as interested in archeology or guns before, and thought they were a bit boring.” And he gives me this look, that says “HOW COULD THIS EVER BE BORING!?” and I say “You were younger then.”

      The Tournament is a book I wouldn’t have him read until he was ‘more mature.’ He asked why that book was put out of his reach (and, really, mine, since I can’t reach that without at least a step stool) in the ‘grownup section’ of books. I told him ‘grownup stuff you wouldn’t find interesting now, or understand at the moment.” Son’s reply was “Oh, okay. I’ll wait then.” He wasn’t interested enough at the time to ask what ‘stuff’ it was.

      Recently he asked me if there were other books I’d think “he’d like a lot, that I like a lot that would be fun for him to read,” and so once I pull together the copies, I’ll introduce him to David Eddings and Diane Duane’s Young Wizards.

  3. Absolutely commonsense.

    • Indeed. I can’t recall my parents ever being overt about telling us that we couldn’t read something… oops, one single exception: Mom disposed of the monthly magazine (Harpers or Atlantic) which had an excerpt in it from James Dickey’s “Deliverance” in it. Mom read it, and thought, “Nope, nope, oh hell NOPE!”

      Later on, I tried to be subtle about steering my daughter towards appropriate books. Although she did find a couple on her own, which weren’t …

  4. Draven

    Considering how much the commercials for 13 reasons squick me out every time i see them…

    Yes, you can censor what your child reads, watches, and listens to, and should. Its part of the job description. No, the government shouldn’t do it for you.

    (reminding everyone involved that the public face of PMRC was Tipper Gore)

  5. Don’t get me started on libraries or rather, librarians. You cannot walk into a library computer section without being treated to a bunch of perverted hobos watching porn. Librarians are so attuned to the slippery slope of censorship that our libraries, once a haven, are now ‘no-go’ zones.

    • Roger Ritter

      I think this is not so much the librarians as the courts. When Internet-connected computers were first added to libraries, they did use content filtering and prohibited looking at porn. They got sued for censorship, and lost. Since those court decisions, the libraries are prohibited from stopping hobos and others from watching porn on the computers, regardless of who might also see it just from being in the vicinity.

    • Mary

      I have a cousin who has never forgiven the profession for having a member who thought bunnies meant kiddies, and put Watership Down in the chidren’s section, when it’s 1984 in animal form.

      • mrsizer

        I read it in sixth grade (and haven’t thought much about it since). I don’t recall anything particularly adult about it. Am I misremembering?

  6. Jess

    I grew up with a mother who kept her smutty “romance” novels on a readily available shelf in our home. I ran out of my own books to read. The entire Nancy Drew series, The Chronicles of Narnia, Romeo and Juliet, and all the available Goosebumps books at the time, plus many more. I tore though every age appropriate book in that farmhouse that summer. For reference sake, I turned had just turned eleven.
    So I picked up one of Mom’s books off the shelf, sat next to her on the couch and read it. I couldn’t tell you the title now, but it was about a woman kidnapped by pirates and the dashing captain of the ship.
    I wish Mom would have pulled that book out of my hands and told me to wait. I wish she would have taken the initiative to move those books to the shelf in her room when I began questioning the terminology. I ended up being an eleven year old with a very indepth knowledge of vividly described sexual encounters when I really didn’t understand the mechanics of sex until that point. I had, after that summer, a knowledge base that no child that age should be dealing with.
    I, as a mother of two growing girls at ten and thirteen, do take careful consideration of what I allow them to read. I keep a lot of my books in my bedroom. The girls are allowed to come in and peruse the shelves, but I have to see what they take before they start reading. There is a huge gap between Discworld Novels and the Outlander series. Somethings are just not appropriate for everyone. I would be thankful for someone to give me a disclaimer before I recommending a book for the girls.
    Even my dear friend, Amanda, who is a voracious reader, sends/lends me the Kindle version of books before sending them to my daughter.
    Censorship in this case, is an overreach by any rational standard.

    • I had a few library-based experiences like that. Post-nuke apocalyptic world with all kinds of sexual sadism, the first third of a book about a young man who could speak with the dead and the monster who become his nemesis. . . Age 13-14 was far too young for that, at least for me.

      • Bob

        The title please?

        • SheSellsSeashells

          The second one sounds like Brian Lumley’s Necroscope, but I may be projecting because I also only made it through the first third. 🙂

          • Bob

            I was reading Necroscope books around that age. Me, I liked em.

          • Necroscope. At least I was able to preempt Sib from reading it a year or so later, and back up my objections to Mom with “I read part of it.”

      • By that age I had read The Godfather; had done a book report on M*A*S*H; read a couple of porno novels passed around on the sly (merely saying the titles would break PG-13); and various off-color magazines. That’s not a boast, BTW. My wife says we were a bunch of hoodlums.

    • My folks seemed (that might be a keyword…) to take largely laissez-faire approach, as aside from a few books when very, very young and a couple given as gifts later the strategy was “leave books lying about” and “take to library” and let things just happen. I don’t recall ever being outright told not to read something. Of course, there weren’t literary landmines left about either.

      • Initially it was highly restrictive, but was slowly relaxed as I became older, and maybe because they’d realized I’d already been exposed. There’s a balance. Make it too restrictive, or make too much of a deal about it, and they’ll head straight for it behind your back.

        • Pretty much. I don’t recall reading anything that I was particularly traumatized by, but movies were another thing. The Fall of the House of Usher – which I saw at a friends’ sleepover – gave me nightmares for months, years, even.
          Our local high school showed old movies in the auditorium one summer – one of them was No Man Is An Island
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Man_Is_an_Island_(film)
          Little sister had screaming nightmares from that showing for months. Years, maybe. I think it was the brief scene where the Guamanian resistants sheltering the hero let the local crabs reduce the body of someone to a skeleton so they could pass it off as the missing Navy man. Little sis did not process that brief scene well. At all.

      • My dad had a very specific rule for us – for our family, NOTHING was censored or considered ‘too grown up’ for us to read once we hit a certain age (8?); and if there was something we didn’t understand that required adult explanation, ask them. This rule did NOT extend to visiting children, since Dad expected us to be sensible, mature and intelligent. “The other kids have their parents’ rules to follow.”

    • My mother kept romance novels under her side of the bed, where I was not allowed to be poking about. Back when my age could still be counted in single digits, I came to her with a bodice-ripper she’d borrowed from the library, and complained to her that her fantasy book was completely weird. The people in it were silly, they were doing things that made no sense, the magic system didn’t work…

      (Hey! It had a castle on the cover! Obviously it was a fantasy!)

      Mom smiled indulgently at me, rescued her romance, and explained that no, these books were brain-candy for adults. They’re light, fluffy, and free of substance, just like cotton candy for the mind, and tasted just as good to her. As for how that could be, when the people couldn’t just get on with their quest? “Wait until you’re older.”

      • LOL! My mom had her “romance reader cycle” later in life when I was already at least late teens, but I can imagine my younger self doing exactly the same thing…

        When I was older, though, I got myself into a bit of trouble with peers in college. You see, my family was virtually all biological sciences, so there were scads of anatomy, physiology, etc. books around the house since I was born. The first Boris Vallejo poster I saw, I immediately pointed out that it was anatomically impossible. Friends of both sexes descended upon me…

        (Yes, I grew up knowing all about human reproduction. The mechanics of it, that is. The rest of it turned out to be a bit more complicated…)

  7. Ho boy: this issue again. Maybe I should wait for the caffeine to kick in, but . . .
    Been there for some of this. That’s been there as in reading stuff that was way age inappropriate. Yes, this included stuff you’d find in the seamier parts of society, but it also included some aspects of current events and history that best not be delved into in detail at that age. And I regret that. That, as much as religion, influenced how we presented material to ours.

    Any parent knows you are absolutely correct in how what bothers some kids doesn’t phase others. Some pretty innocuous stuff can trigger the fears and the nightmares. Others, though, are like what Corrie Ten Boom told about when she, at a young age, ran to her father and asked “What is a sex sin?” In reply, her father asked her to carry his suitcase, but she said she couldn’t because it was too heavy. He then said, in the same way, he wouldn’t burden her with other things that she was not yet able to carry.

    That’s part of the job of a parent. Every parent does it, or should. To be blunt (caffeine hasn’t kicked in, remember), I resent those who would shove all manner of stuff on kids despite the wishes of their parents. It makes me want to go “Hey, these aren’t you’re kids. Have your own if you want to mess some up.” Presenting information for parents to make decisions is not censorship; that’s respect for the role of parents.

    Can parents be too protective? Sure. Yet that doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t be protective at all, and that’s the demand of these who scream “Censorship!” when it comes to parents exercising their duty over certain material. Something tells me some of these same ones would have a hissy over a glowing children’s book about Trump.

    • Yet that doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t be protective at all, and that’s the demand of these who scream “Censorship!”

      The ones who accuse ‘censorship’ when it isn’t (ergo, responsible parenting being an example) I tend to look at with a suspicious eye, as they’re the sort who want us to expose young children to sexual or other inappropriately mature content, to make them seem ‘normalised’ – and view them with the same eyeball that I’d give potential sexual predators of both genders and all sexual persuasions.

  8. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Family story. Many years ago, one of my aunts had nightmares after seeing a movie. The movie? The Disney Snow White movie. The forest scene was fairly scary for a child.

    Also, Stephen King was once asked if he’d let his children see the movies made from his books. His response was that the movies were (IIRC) rated R so his young children shouldn’t see them. Then he said that his young boy had nightmares after seeing One Hundred and One Dalmatians. His boy (not sure of his age) thought that Cruella de Vil was after him.

    So yes, I see nothing wrong in parents screening what their children see or watch. Of course, as was said, every child is different. 😀

    • Bambi for me. One of my sisters, too. (Although, IIRC, the sister’s was about the shooting of mom – mine was about fire, growing up in Arizona and seeing at least one forest fire in the surrounding mountains every blessed summer.)

      • It was an innocuous program for me. If something gives me nightmares, the nightmare tends to be an order of magnitude worse. That was in Kindergarten, but still clearly remember those nightmares, involving everything from someone duped into developing a weapon and who was on the run to keep from getting killed; a cannibal chief on a litter decorated with the skulls of his enemies; and human carcasses hung up like sides of beef.

        So when ours had nightmares, I didn’t press for details. Those tended to be triggered by innocuous programs, too.

    • Mary

      I remember a woman telling a story online to ask for advice: they had read the Disney Snow White book to her daughter, who was terrified, and half way through demanded to know it had a happy ending — but demanded to be read it again before bed — and woke up screaming — and should she just hide the book?

    • !!!

      I, too, had nightmares after seeing the movie Snow White when I was 5 years old! Way too scary for me. My parents learned from that and were then very careful about what movies they would let me see, for which I was grateful.

      It never seemed to occur to them that they should exercise a similar care over what I read. I avoided the scary stuff on my own. But I definitely encountered some “mature” content that I would have done better without, and didn’t know enough to simply stop reading.

  9. Mark White

    It’s our job as parents to censor what information our children receive until they are old enough to be able to make knowledgeable choices on their own. That’s called “being a good parent”.

  10. Doug

    Years ago, when our children were small, we made a practice of screening what they read or watched. We tried to get movies, especially that had caught the interest and approval of our peer group. And sometimes that wasn’t good enough.
    I recall how our youngest, then 4-5, reacted after seeing the movie, Ernest: Scared Stupid. Hey, we’d watched all the other ones and not a quibble.
    Until that night when we had to comfort a terrified child. And night after night after that. For weeks.
    Visitors would enquire as to the reason for having a can of condensed milk at the door to her bedroom. Many nights she slept with us. It’s amazing how much room a small body takes up in a queen sized bed!
    Had we to do it again, that movie would have been off the list.

  11. Family story. My father tended to notice my existence once or twice a year, usually to disapprove of something. (“Are you….going out… dressed like that… in PUBLIC?”) On one of these forays into parenting he found out that I’d checked Boccaccio’s Decameron out of the library. He came righteously thundering down, demanded that I return That Book immediately, and I meekly acquiesced.

    I didn’t want to rain on his parade by telling him that I’d quit reading the book a week ago because I was bored silly and the dirty bits were highly overrated.

  12. adventuresfantastic

    My father, a minister, monitored my reading for inappropriate content. I’m glad he did, because I ended up reading a lot of sf from the 30s, 40s, and 50s because it passed muster for violence and sexual content. I discovered some of my favorite writers that way.

    OTH, a few did slip through that shouldn’t have, such as Chalker’s Well of Souls….

    • SheSellsSeashells

      I was in a similar boat, except that my mother was firmly convinced that “Mazes and Monsters” was a documentary. Her paranoia about me and fantasy was a thing to behold, especially when 1) she let me have one of the Chalker books because it had a centaur on the cover and was therefore based on MYTHOLOGY, not fantasy and 2) pitched a fit when she found me skimming one of Christopher Stasheff’s Warlock books, because it had “warlock” in the title*. Never mind that the Warlock books are so family-values it hurts, and Chalker was…well, Chalker.

      *I had already gotten hooked on the Warlock series by then, and just got very creative about buying the books and smuggling them home.

      • George R Crichton

        Jack L Chalkers work are not children friendly. Very interesting and imaginative but R to M Rating applies. some of them were included in the Science Fiction Book club collections.

  13. My parents mentioned — well after I grew up — having friends who read everything their children might read, before they allowed their children to read it. They thought this was very strange.

    • Hrm, that might be another part of things for me. Pa read a lot, but magazines and such, not books in general. The only book I ever saw him read was by one of the Wright brothers. And much of the stuff I chose to read was science/tech subjects (or histories of such…) and Ma… well, was/is not into such things. Which meant that when she went for her Advanced (ham radio) license, we all knew she was Very Serious Indeed. A fellow we knew (of) had managed to get his General in a manner suspected of being less than proper and Ma had a General… and she was determined to not have the same class ticket as “that so & so.”

      Yes, she got it. And she got into radio as I did.. and then Pa did (he was initially dismissive, then realized the [pre-inexpensive cell plans] utility of autopatch) and then $SISTAUR got involved… and so, “I need to get a license so I can keep up with [keep tabs on?] all of you!”

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      My parents did not keep up with my reading. However, for a time when I’d moved to the adult science fiction section the rule was that they wanted to read first anything that wasn’t Star Wars or Star Trek. By that point I’d already become careful about how much I believed of adult claims about sex, so that probably minimized the degree to which I was damaged by stuff I wasn’t ready for.

    • The easy way to do this is to offer to read the book to them at night. I ended up having to skip over some Uncle Remus and Brothers Grim stories because I knew they couldn’t handle them yet. Didn’t read them Hans Christian Anderson at all. After much deliberation, didn’t read them Lewis’ The Last Battle, either.

  14. Bob

    What age range are we talking about here?

  15. Just checking on something. Nothing to see here . . .

  16. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I read some books I absolutely wasn’t ready for, because I assumed that authors wrote all their books for the same audience, or some such nonsense.

    Also, if a story relies on evoking sexual excitement in the reader, it will bore a reader that does not experience sexual excitement.

    From a perspective that is not a parent’s, just concerned for what I enjoyed at what age, I don’t see anything wrong with recommendations and warnings.

  17. John R. Ellis

    Some of MicKinley’s post Deerskin stuff is more like her early stuff. SPINDLE’S END (a loose re-telling of the “Briar Rose” version of Sleeping Beauty) and A KNOT IN THE GRAIN (a collection of short fiction) are both good.

    • I like Chalice, though it’s a bit obscure in points. (She’s certainly not infodumping about how magic works in that world, to be sure.) I think Deerskin was one of those novels that jumped up and demanded to be written, and I think even the author was somewhat disturbed by the content. I love the book, but it was given to me by a friend in high school because she couldn’t cope with it. I’ve always been a dark fairy tale lover—though I also hatewhen people try to inject darkness into something that is based on light because they can’t understand the presence of joy. (Thinking of that Netflix series of a popular children’s book. As I saw in a good article on the subject, if they wanted darkness, they could have always gone with another series by the same author, but no, they had to inject it into the sweet one…)

      • I remember reading some comment that yes, it was the kind of book that demanded writing, according to the author, and even she was rather uncomfortable with it.

      • John R. Ellis

        PEGASUS is good too, though frustrating because it’s looking like she’ll never write the sequel. 😦

        I agree, her reasons for writing Deerskin were non-exploitive ones, though it is one of those books I’ve been able to read maybe…twice? Because of how much the content disturbs me.

        (We all have our limits.)

  18. Uncle Lar

    A few years back when i started dabbling in editing I was asked to help with a project to sanitize John Ringo’s Ghost to a level suitable for the requestor’s barely teenage nephew. With John’s permission I hasten to add.
    Those familiar with the book know that it is actually three novelettes depicting the adventures of a battered beaten and highly conflicted former special operations warrior. John has stated quite openly than readers should take nothing in the whole series as remotely tied to reality.
    Was able to do as requested with a few changes in the first part, deletion of one entire scene in the second, and the same with the third.
    I assume it met with the requestor’s approval, but the whole thing left me quite uncomfortable. While I cleaned the stories up to YA level, I did not by any means improve it. Looking back, I can’t but think I made it into a lesser work, and would if asked refuse to do such again. Instead, I would simply recommend to wait two, possibly three, years and hand the young man the book as written.

    • Ghost is one of those characters that I would gladly buy a beer or several for. If either of my daughters evinced the slightest interest in him, though, I’d have to try my best to kill him.

      Fatherhood leads to conflicts like this all the time, dang it.

    • Which is usually my recommendation, by the way. Well-done books are always worth reading (and I quite enjoyed Ghost, own a copy, and would only mildly facepalm if I found one of my teen daughters reading it). But there is a time for them, and sometimes that isn’t ‘now’

  19. aacid14

    Admittedly as someone with minimal skin in this game,I am of two minds. First is that gatekeeping is definitely a useful tool even in the reader side. I got much more out of 1984 and Red Badge when I read it in jr high vs in grade school. But even if one intends to allow young skull full of mush to read the book in question, just knowing how it goes can help if something clicks poorly.

    On the other hand, they will find things you want them to avoid. Saying no Shakespeare because has naughty ideas is different than saying they can’t read the novelization of Debbie does Dallas, but people tend to conflate the two extremes as all encompassing.

    • Terry Sanders

      Quite dliberately, more often than not.

    • It’s all on the individual level. My kids will get different recommendations depending on their individual ability to cope with certain things—and honestly, I’m not afraid to use the “wait a bit; you won’t enjoy it right now.”

      • I’ve done that for completely innocuous books – just because I know they won’t enjoy them now. It took me years to finally pick books up and ‘grok’ them fully, some were books I’d tried, bounced off as a teen, and as an adult (especially after motherhood) they made so much more sense.

      • ‘Wait a bit, you won’t enjoy it right now’ has worked for me.

        When asked why they couldn’t watch Deadpool despite all the other Marvel Cinematic Universe stuff being greenlit for their enjoyment, we went with the blunt reply of “It has lots and lots of sex stuff.”

        Response: “EWWWWW! Okay, no, we’ll wait until we’re older.”

        Yeah, still that young. The occasional kissy romancey stuff is okay because they see parents kissing and cuddling, but sex is still in the ‘that’s icky grownup stuff’ box.

        On the other hand, we were rather surprised at how easy it was to get the “We’ll wait.” And since they are unable to watch that stuff in secret at our home, they’ve obeyed that.

        Am VERY unhappy with the classmate who decided to show Game of Thrones and Prison High School to my daughter on his laptop. That necessitated a call to the school.

  20. The entire reason I was introduced to sf/fantasy (particularly fantasy) at such a young age was because a.) my mother was also a fan, so we already had a lot of them, b.) at that point (the early-mid 80s) large chunks of it was still pretty safe for a kid reading well past her grade level, and c.) she could recommend good stuff. (And indeed, one of my to-this-day most beloved series–The Dark Is Rising–came because she recommended I read it.)

    I still came across a few clinkers on the shelves (I suspect they were ones my father had maybe picked up–his taste in books is frequently questionable and veers from the very odd (he loves Amish romances. It’s adorable, but also weird.) to the “no really, dad, you should burn this book.”) I did discover the bodice rippers perhaps a bit earlier than I should have…but I was still a teen by that point. And absolutely sure I was going to get into HUGE trouble if I was caught reading them. I was both mortified and mildly offended when–upon coming home from school one day to find that the parents had found my stash of romance novels in my closet–they weren’t mad but laughing themselves sick. After that, though, Mom did make an effort to steer me towards a better class of romance novel.

    She was less amused some years later, however, when she picked up an assigned reading book from school for one of my (much younger) siblings, who was just starting in middle school…and found the book to be full of drug use, as well as graphic depictions of abuse, masturbation, and sex. There was a Chat had with the teacher immediately thereafter. I believe the excuses of “but realistic!” and “censorship!” were in fact brought out, and shot down as the scummy excuses they were.

    • “Realism”–aka, “in the grim darkness of the third millennium, there is only trauma, child abuse, and racism.”
      (Spits)

    • found the book to be full of drug use, as well as graphic depictions of abuse, masturbation, and sex.

      May I ask what book that was and by what author? I want to be forewarned. And what age was this supposedly considered “appropriate reading” for?! O.o

      I was both mortified and mildly offended when–upon coming home from school one day to find that the parents had found my stash of romance novels in my closet–they weren’t mad but laughing themselves sick.

      I’m sorry, but I laughed at the mental image. That’s the kind of response we might have. But really, I’m not one to talk, the mental potato chips I have come from Harlequin.

      • I honestly don’t recall the title, if I ever knew it–this would have been 15+ years ago now.

        And yeah, I laugh at the memory myself now too. Although there were a few particularly graphic ones that I wish had been out of my reach at the time–but most of them were of a fairly tame nature. Sadly, Mom didn’t have any Georgette Heyer on the shelves at that time, so I didn’t discover her until I was in my mid twenties. She’s now one of my go-tos for light, fluffy reading that makes me happy.

        • *chuckle* A recent line I read at the end of one of my mental potato chips had the woman admitting, in a sort of ‘am too happy, you said you love me’ brainlessness that her husband grew on her, like mold. The guy burst out laughing, because she had been prone to saying incredibly observant things in the most undiplomatic manner possible throughout the story. I find myself of late, more frequently skipping the sex scenes to read the character interactions that don’t involve their being naked in these books.

  21. Aimee Morgan

    I recently read Heinlein’s Friday to see if it was as good as I remembered (it was). I was talking to my sister about some of the differences between RAH’s vision for the future and what we have now, and she said that maybe she’d let her almost 15 y.o. son read the book.

    Now, for all I know, Kev could handle the book with no problems. My sister on the other hand? I suggested she read it herself first. I could just imagine the look on her face the first time her son asked her about an “S Marriage”. And while the moment would be popcorn worthy, she’d never speak to me again.

  22. Chez Phantom does not have television or radio. The reason? Commercials.

    Young Relative was watching Little Children’s Show one day when a movie trailer was shown in the commercial break. A gory, sex-and-violence horror movie trailer. During the children’s show. In the day time. For some reason I can’t recall, that was the last straw for me. Possibly because Young Relative looked at is as nothing special. That was disturbing.

    I decided that if the television people were going to be that clueless, they didn’t want my money. So I cancelled the cable subscription, set the iPod on shuffle and Young Relative happily watched DVDs and VHS instead. Years later, Young Relative actively avoids the dark places of the internet, or so I am told.

    I am of the opinion that there are an awful lot of perverts out there these days. They are becoming bolder and bolder, seeking access to children through entertainment media. How else does one account for YA books that include sex and torture? That is not good for adults to read, how much worse for a 13-15 year old?

    So, do I censor the Internet and TV/radio etc. for Young Relative? You better believe it.

  23. Birthday Girl

    My father reads only non-fiction and biography. My mother was never a reader. Why then were there hardback Stephen King novels in the household? I still don’t know. That is one author I banned entirely from MY household because I still wish I could un-read those things. In elementary school, I was a subscriber to a book club that featured The Happy Hollisters, etc. kind of group-of-kids-solve-a-mystery books. Those were good. I began reading SFF from the Jr. High School library, and it just took off from there.

    For my own kids, I did restrict some things. I banned the Unfortunate Events books entirely because after reading 3, I still did not see any redemption or hope. I made my kids wait a couple years longer than their peers to read Harry Potter because of the lying/disrespect issues, and when they did read them, we discussed those aspects. Then my 9yo wanted to go see the LOTR movies she had started hearing about. Start laughing now. I said she could see the movie after she read and understood the book. The Fellowship of the Ring was read within the month, and I quizzed her on it and found that she really had read and understood it. Gobsmacked is the word. We rented the movies with lots of warning about the violent scenes and it worked out. That kid is a math genius and university major now.

  24. mrsizer

    I read two books as a child that I wish had been withheld from me. I read far too much for my parents to keep up (I was limited to no more than one book per day). They learned to trust my judgement, which was generally fine.

    One was Fear No Evil, which is way to grim and torture-y for a sixth grader. The other was some Steven King book with four stories in it. One was about a kid (high school age, iirc) that discovered his neighbor was a former concentration camp guard; it’s very graphic and doesn’t end well.

    I still – thirty years later – wish I could unread those.