If you came to this blog for the Leviathan fan art, maybe you should skip this post. But if you have a few minutes to kill, you’ll see what goes on inside the heads of writers when they deal with media kerfuffles about their books.

But first a little background . . .

Last week (decades ago in internet time) an organization called BitchMedia made a list of 100 YA Novels for the Feminist Reader. There was great celebration on the YA interweebz, because the list included many fine novels. Moreover, certain writers of a certain vintage always liked Bitch Magazine when it was an edgy west coast zine in the late 1990s, and being listed by it provided validation to our aging souls.

But then bad things happened. A handful of commenters on the blog questioned three of the titles: Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red, Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, and Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl. A weekend later, BitchMedia decided to yank them. A few hours after that some of us authors on the list (Maureen Johnson, Justine Larbalestier, Diana Peterfreund, E. Lockhart, Ellen Klages, and possibly more) commented to express our disappointment and request that our own books be removed from the list.

If you go to that post now, you’ll find several hundred comments of varying degrees of relevance, vitriol, and snark. I have waded in a few places, but it’s a red hot mess over there. So to better address all the questions directed at me (or not to me) in one place, allow me to share with you this dialog, in which I mercilessly decimate a straw man.

In other words, here’s all the stuff that goes through us writers’ heads while we are reacting to examples of not-quite-censorship:

Q: Why are you so crazy angry about this?

A: I’m more disappointed than angry. Particularly saddening was these words from the staffers at BitchMedia about one of the challenged titles: “This book came as a recommendation to us from a few feminists, and while we knew that some of the content was difficult, we weren’t tuned into what you’ve just brought up. A couple of us at the office have decided to spend the rest of our weekend re-considering this choice by reading the book.”

Hmm, by “reading the book.” A good place to start, and yet . . .

Just put your mind in this staffer’s place. You go out into the YA world and ask for recommendations for a 100-long list of books. You don’t read them all, of course, because you are an un- or little-paid staffer at a blog, not the frickin’ Printz Committee. When your list is posted, suddenly someone is accusing three of these books of being morally bankrupt and evil. So you hunker down and read 1000 pages over two days, with these comments lingering uppermost in your mind. You may not have a firm grip on why your original sources recommended the book, because you haven’t asked them specifically to respond to the disparaging comments. And you don’t have time to think about the issues raised here in comparison to those raised in the other books on the list, because you also haven’t read all of those either. So you cave into the tiny group of protesters, because that seems easier, especially having just read the books with those commenters’ objections in mind.

In other words, this whole process unfolded in much the same way that school library challenges do. A small group of people complain, and then people who haven’t really read these books before hearing awful things about them (and who, more important, haven’t immersed themselves in the entire set of books involved, challenged and unchallenged) have to make a snap decision.

This is what has disappointed me and many others, because we’d thought better of BitchMedia.

Q: But this isn’t like a library challenge, because the books aren’t being physically removed from anywhere!

A: True, my analogy here (Maureen’s originally) compares these events to a library challenge. But in analogies, some things are the same and some are different. If every point of comparison were the same, it wouldn’t be an analogy, it would just be the same thing—a library challenge. That’s what “analogy” means.

And yet despite its differences to actual library challenges, we believe this is still an important case, because we felt this list was important. It provided visibility for books we thought were great to a potentially new readership outside the normal YA world. Erasing books from this list was a way of making them invisible to that audience. And the people who work ceaselessly to make the books they don’t like disappear should be fought, whether they’re physically removing the books, removing them from databases or awards, or simply making them harder to find. Letting those voices win pisses us authors off.

Q: But it’s BitchMedia’s list. Don’t they have the right to change it?

A: They do. And I have the right to point out how pathetically they did so. This is about holding them to a higher editorial standard than they displayed, not claiming any legal or constitutional right.

Q: So you aren’t fighting censorship?

A: The answer to that question is long and boring and semantic. But without a doubt we are calling out wishy-washy editorial practices that mimic many of the same processes as censorship. (By using analogies. We love them!)

Q: But you didn’t just point out BitchMedia’s editorial shortcomings, you demanded your book be taken off the list.

A: I didn’t demand, I asked, using the word “please” and everything.

Asking to be removed from the list is a communication strategy. To point out the obvious, everything going on here—the list, the comments, this post—is communication. Asking to be removed was a way of displaying my strong feeling that the list was made less legitimate by their editorial practices.

For example, if a list had a few books on it that were paid endorsements, and my books were placed on it as a way to make that list look more “real,” I would make a similar request. The manner in which a list is compiled (or edited) matters, and it matters rather more to me when my name is used on it.

Q: But no one PAID to have these books removed!

A: Please look up “analogy” in the dictionary.

Q: Whatever. If someone’s book was removed from a library’s shelves, you would ask for your books to be removed too?

A: No, that would be silly. Again, the library analogy is only useful in regards to how this happened, and to some of its effects. Not in every particular.

Q: But isn’t it ironic that your response to a book being removed from a list is to try to have your own book removed from that list?

A: Not really. The strategy is explained above.

Q: But isn’t it ironic that your enemies in this affair wanted to change this list by commenting on a blog, and you also tried to CHANGE THIS LIST BY COMMENTING ON THAT SAME BLOG!

A: No, that’s just how discourse works sometimes. But you and Alanis Morissette should totally get a room.

Q: So you think you’re so great that if Uglies was taken off the list, no one would take the list seriously?

A: Most people wouldn’t notice the absence of any one book, but the demand itself is a useful rhetorical strategy. In particular, I pointed out that the Uglies series has many of the same issues that Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red was delisted for. But the BitchMedia staffers didn’t apply those criteria to Uglies, because they only applied those criteria to books mentioned in the first twenty or so comments to their original blog post. In other words, I was pointing out the craptasticness of their editorial process, in which the fastest and most vitriolic commenters are granted special powers over the books they dislike. (Just like in, you know, libraries.)

Q: So your request to delist Uglies is merely a symbolic gesture?

A: The list is itself symbolic. It wasn’t an award that came with money or superpowers, and it’s made of symbols (letters and punctuation marks). As I said, this is a set of communications, and asking to be taken off the list was a communication strategy. Symbolic is not a bad thing, it’s just what it is.

Q: But you haven’t been taken off the list. So your strategy failed!

A: Not if more people have been drawn to the discussion thanks to the rhetorical forcefulness of my (and others’) requests to be taken off the list. That was the actual point of the request, and it seems to have worked.

Q: But wait, you said that the folks at BitchMedia hadn’t read all the books in the list. So it wasn’t that illegitimate anyway, right?

A: They got recommendations from people who they believed to be experts in some way, and the results seemed pretty awesome to me and to many others. The folks who zipped through the challenged books over the weekend were staffers, who didn’t bother to get back to the people who recommended the books in the first place. In other words, a small ad hoc committee was convened and rushed a decision out in response to a tiny minority of complainers. This is the dynamic of small-town library challenges, and we expected better of BitchMedia.

Q: But didn’t asking to be taken off this list make you look over dramatic?

A: “Overdramatic” is one word, so I win this entire argument.

Look, this stuff happens all the time in YA lit. People come in and comment with varying degrees of expertise, odd and snarky assumptions about what it is to be a teen, and randomly assigned power (like politicians commenting on texts for teenagers written forty years after they were teens), and that annoys us.

Q: What I really meant was, you’re just stirring this up for money, right?

If you think that this controversy will materially increase my sales (or the sales of any of the other authors involved), you are confused about the relative scales of those things.

Q: You really think you’re awesome, don’t you, Scott?

A: I’ve had librarians scream when they see me. So yeah. Also I’ve read one of the books in question, unlike most people in the conversation.

But more important, I’ve had decades of experience as a teacher, textbook editor, and YA writer, in which I’ve seen various flavors of control over teen books exercised by parents, teachers, politicians, other teens, and concern trolls. I’ve corresponded with and met thousands of teenagers and talked about what and how they read, and have worked for twenty years in an industry in which lists of books are compiled, argued about, and in which they make a big difference. In other words, the authors in this fight are acting from long and deep sets of experiences, and we will be fighting this fight as part of our day jobs while many others moved on to the next Internet fisticuffs. Trivializing artists involved in a these kinds of fights as self-aggrandizing is one of the oldest tricks in the book, like saying “Oh, you’ll just sell more copies, so you must be LOVING THIS.” It is a way of avoiding the much more gnarly and unpleasant issues involved.

In other words, the possibility that I’m being a pompous git for asking that my books be removed from the list doesn’t make BitchMedia’s behavior any better, or the parallels between this event and library challenges any less unsettling.

Q: But if they put the challenged books back on the list, wouldn’t they just be caving again? This time to a bigger (and better connected) group of bullies?

A: I think they should go back to their original recommenders of these challenged books and have a real discussion, not one that takes place over a weekend with “a couple of us at the office.” And if they’ve added new criteria based on a few commenters who simply got there first, why not take down the whole list and look at everything from the beginning in light of the many, many comments and concerns up there now?

Q: Um, because they’re not the Printz Committee and don’t have time?

A: Well, then maybe they could simply ask the members of the Printz Committee why one of the books they delisted, Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels, was a Printz honoree. (SNAP!)

Q: But BitchMedia isn’t saying these are bad books, just that they are inappropriate for this list!

A: It’s not the exact adjective that matters here, but the process. Again, these books were singled out and subjected to an ad hoc first reading because of a few plaintive commenters. This is not the way to do things.

Seriously, even if those two office staffers had read everything in the list again that weekend, wouldn’t it still have the appearance of impropriety?

Q: This whole kerfuffle is really not that important. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?

A: If it’s not that important, why did you read this far? Why aren’t you off on some other blog fixing Egypt?

Q: But what if BitchMedia doesn’t want to ever do anything about YA lit again because you were mean to them?

A: If they cut and run because that seems too hard, they will not be missed.

But I suspect that they’ll think long and hard about how they approach YA in the future, and will do a better job. They’ve done countless cool things for the last fifteen years, and that’s why we authors got so riled up. We remonstrate because we love.

Also, check out Margo Lanagan’s excellent post on this matter.

51 thoughts on “BitchFest

  1. Okay so I think I understand the problem. These books were taken off for having triggers because a small group of commenters complained about their content. You and other authors felt this was similar to the way that libraries ban books (which is a fair analogy). Also, you and the others felt that your books had just as much of a trigger factor as the removed books and so, to be totally fair to the authors of the removed books and also to send a message, you asked for your books to be removed as well.

    Tell me if I have it wrong.

  2. I think was bothered me the most was some of the reactions, like those who insisted that Sisters Red had rape in it. They must have read a very different book than I did.

    Strong books make for strong, confident young women and men. Books like Wintergirls, Unwind, Valiant, and Speak to name a few help us to confront issues we may not otherwise be comfortable talking about. Other times it’s a relief to read a book and feel like someone understands exactly what you’re going through, and that your feelings are completely justified and normal. I just hope these shenanigans get more people interested in the three books removed from the list because they are incredibly worthwhile reads.

  3. Thanks for having your say. All good chewy things to consider.

    Any chance you could revisit the use of ableist language? (ie: lame, crazy) It would be appreciated while fighting one section of feminism in literature another intersection is not excluded.

  4. I read through the comments that were there yesterday after you and the other weighed in. If it’s a hot mess now, I don’t think I’ll go back.

    Quite frankly, I’m always impressed and delighted by the way kidlit/YA authors stick up for each other and for the ideas which are important to them. You guys fight the good fight on a regular basis, and you fight it together, which is super cool. (You’re like the Justice League, only without spandex!)

    Books matter. Ideas matter. And thoughtful discussions matter. Thank you for continuing to defend all three.

  5. Kaila- Pretty much.

    L- Sisters Red has been interpreted by some as using eaten-by-werewolves as a symbol for rape. (Like, “those pretty girls are just asking to be eaten by werewolves.”) But the people who haven’t read it (and are pretending to) wind up not realizing that, and are revealed for what they are/

    Amanda- “Lame” gone. “Crazy” still there.

  6. I agree with you 100%, Scott. I started following this story yesterday after hearing about it on your Twitter. I was horrified by the language they used to describe their reasoning for pulling the three books (“triggering nature”? Really?!). It just showed how little they understand about the purpose of books–of course there are going to be uncomfortable scenes and themes in books. A book with a rape scene doesn’t condone rape. In order for an author to show the journey of a rape survivor, they must obviously write about the rape. It makes me wonder if the people at Bitch Media have read ANY books, never mind the three in question. I was flabbergasted by the entire thing.

  7. I am so happy that so many people have spoken out about this issue, and I really can’t understand how people miss that this is a problem.
    The list is simply making reccomendations. They never said “hey, all this books are easy to read and downright cheerful”. When you pick up a book, even one that’s been reccomended through a medium like bitch media no-one assumes that that book won’t have some sort of conflict. It’s what drives a story. What that conflict is is up to the author.
    If Bitch media didn’t want anything with controversy on there list they should have been more specific when they asked people for reccomendations.
    And then, after listening to only a few comments, to pull those books was the wrong way to react. If they really felt the need to do something, that could’ve simply added a warning.

    In conclusion, I am indeed a teen who reads a lot and particularly loveto read about strong female characters, I hate the assumption Bitb Media is running with that teens are either too innocent, naive or stupid to understand what’s going on in this novels and make our own judgements based on what we read.

  8. I agree that in theory bitchmedia shouldnt have pulled the three books because of a handful of comments made on the first few days. Sure id there are contionus and numerous complaints over a period of time than consider pulling the books.
    However having not read any of the three books that were pulled (though oddly have read the three that replaced them amd o do think they are all brilliant) i dont think I can really comment further regarding the three books.

  9. My main reaction, from the posts I’ve been seeing peripherally all day, is that a) putting a blanket title like ‘essential feminist YA’ on *100* different books is essentially asking for disagreement and discussion, and someone doing that should realize and be prepared for that and b) some people are forgetting that half (the fun) of reading is in analyzing and deconstructing the text and the possibilities and implications of it, especially when getting into complex topics like these. Recommending books, not as ‘books with strong female role models’ or ‘books with positive messages’ or ‘books with a minimum of creepiness’, but as ‘feminist books’ definitely implies, to me, something more along the lines of ‘books which address feminist issues and are good for provoking thought/pondering/critiquing/analyzing/discussing/disagreeing’…

    Though, when I saw the list linked and read it a couple days ago, before this, I was a little surprised at the inclusion of Sisters Red, (which, I’ll admit, is the only of the three of the controversial books I’ve read), because, while I liked it well enough, there were some definite this-is-starting-to-remind-me-of-something scenes which stuck out to me, and bothered me in a bit of a ‘though I can see why this one character would think with that kind of logic, another generally more rational character agreeing with her makes it seem kind of endorsed by the text…’ double-take kind of way… I might recommend it to someone who likes evil werewolves or fairy tale re-tellings or sisters, but it definitely wouldn’t be one of the first books that would come to mind if I was recommending great feminist YA. But, you know (and apparently some people don’t), everyone’s mileage may vary…

    But, obviously, there are always going to be a billion disagreements in any debate of problematic vs. necessary vs. clumsy portrayals of difficult topics. The pulling books from the list was just a very strange move…

  10. I had no idea that this was going on at all. Thanks for your artfully written explanation and argument- I’m with you 100%!

  11. What annoyed me about this was the emergence of an all-too-common trend: often, the inclusion of certain types of content in books is taken by overzealous moralizers to be an endorsement of these things. Exploration of an issue is going to include multiple views. An author is not usually explicitly advocating any one of them. This encourages thought and discourse on the subject, and it’s one of the reason fiction is so interesting.

    Admittedly, the only one of these books I’ve read is ‘Tender Morsels’. Ironically, it was precisely the horrified reactions of some readers online, such as in Amazon reviews, that intrigued me enough to want to read it.

    Margo Lanagan’s post on the matter is more concise than I could be in explaining why the comments specifically decrying her book were somewhat ludicrous. As someone who initially saw the list and thought it was pretty great, this whole thing has saddened me. I don’t know why Bitchmedia didn’t speak to the people who recommended these books when they were questioned, instead of, as you said, making a snap judgment. Bitchmedia posted the recommendations of these people as the list initially, and they were the ones who actually read the books, so it only makes sense that they would be involved in the question of a book’s removal.

  12. wow!!! alot of stuff has gone down…
    Im not going to pretend that i totally understand the situation.. because i dont really, but even though I just quickly scrolled through the post I can see that some of those comments people have left you have been really harsh.
    Dont let them get you down Scott 🙂

  13. I heard about this as a direct result of you (and Justine and Maureen) requesting your books be removed from the list. So you certainly succeeded in bringing a wider audience to the table.

  14. I agree with the answers. I blogged about this yesterday since it was such a large issue and I can’t help but blog about anything in my industry. It wasn’t the revising of the list that upset me or made me question the titles; it was the way the list was made without actually reading the books or, it seems, having specific parameters to use as guidelines for choosing. The falling out due to comments and the subsequent removal of titles is a shame considering their reasons are those that could be applied to many other titles on the list.

    I commend those authors who have asked for their work to be removed as well. I didn’t see one single “demand” in the comments from authors; rather, they were polite requests with explanations that justified their decision.


  15. niceness scott! ok i have a question for you. are you aware of an author named James Dashner? he has written two books in a series (The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials) which i have fallen in love with. the third one comes out nine days after Goliath, but until then could someone tell me if they have enjoyed any of his other work? to much appreciation. and scott i have named you my favorite author in a post so if you wanna check it out,, it has that sweet steampunk picture of you!!!

  16. I don’t understand how you would ever publish a list that hasn’t been vetted first, ie, how the books weren’t ones read by staffers. If my name is going on that list as the author, I’d want my backside covered in that way, at the very least. I understand underpaid and overworked, but that’s a risk I didn’t think anyone would willingly take.

  17. Oh, and Scott, I appreciate this Q&A because it’s trying to show that the books themselves are not the issue here, the process is. Good job on that. It’s much too easy to get mired in the discussion of the books when it’s irrelevant at this point. 🙂

  18. You are completely right in this situation. I understand that BitchMedia editors may not have had the time to read every book on their list, but if they wanted to make a list of feminist YA lit then they should have at least researched why the books others recommended to them were indeed feminist lit. They could have taken the time to have discussions about the books so that the entire BitchMedia population agreed that the books belonged on the list. If you are going to stamp your name on anything you publish you want to be sure you stand by it no matter what.

    The fact that a few comments, which may or may not be true (perception is reality to most), made the authors pull titles that some people (especially those BitchMedia turned to for advice) felt were important made those editors look weak and made their list a joke. Honestly, I saw maybe two or three comments against Tender Morsels, and out of all the people who read the list, those editors decided those two or three comments were completely correct so goodbye books? ugh.

    I just want to say Thanks, Mr. Westerfeld, for sticking up for those books, for your book, and for pointing out that acts of censorship and bigotry exist everywhere and that YA authors and readers do not want to take it.

    As for BitchMedia, I hope you look closely at the next list you put out, and stand by everything you put on it, because once you take one thing back, you discredit all the rest.


  19. I’ve been following this because of both you and Maureen on Twitter. I agree with everything you and Maureen and a bunch of others have said over the past few days.

    I’m curious did you read the executive directors response in which they don’t want to remove books because they’ve been asked to?

    I find Ms. Falks response just digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole they can’t climb out of just yet.

  20. Pete, you do realize that Bitch media is a feminist website, and they use the word Bitch as an empowering term? And if we’re going to mention them, one has to use their proper name which includes the word Bitch.

  21. I hadn’t heard of this until your blog post. Their reasons for taking them are a little ridiculous, especially the triggering response. Isn’t that the point of a well-written book? To evoke an emotion in a reader? To realize that you’re not alone, even if the character isn’t true, that the experience is true? If you take a book off because it has a “trigger”, then they you have to take every book off.

    I’ve only read one of the three books they took off, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, and it’s one of my favorite books. There needs to be more books like Living Dead Girl, and Speak, and Wintergirls, which are still on the list, so society doesn’t try to push the issues of rape, eating disorders, and all other “though stuff” to the side and pretend they don’t exist. Those issues needs attention if there is any hope of the people who have been through those things to recover. Books like Living Dead Girl get people thinking and talking, just as any good book should do.

    It always seems this happens with YA books. It’s ridiculous that two or three complaining people can wield so much power.

  22. This is how I think you should all solve this.

    Bitch Media:

    Restore old list including 3 new titles making a new top 103 YA Feminist book list. Round numbers usually don’t work out well for you people anyway. Doing this you admit your mistake and bear the shame of it publicly, like you should, humbly. 


    Revel, less wordily, in the joy of having three new books join the ranks of yours on what is, so apparently, an awesome list.

    Petitioner for List Change:

    Start your own feminist media magazine, because you’re feminists. Right? Then, read a bunch of books dealing with feminist issues, because that’s what you like to do. Right? Then compile the names of these books into your own list of what you think are the one hundred finest. You do this because you regard them highly and are inclined to like round numbers.  Right?

    You authors wrote some wonderful books that are worthy of acclaim. Bitch Media staff and subscribers read a lot of books and made an amazing and useful list. Petitioners? I’m still wondering what exactly it is that you thought you were doing.

    Just know this.  If my solutions are used, there will be three more books on the list receiving acclaim and gathering notice. This will benefit everyone involved. On the cautionary side of things, reading all those books might lead to learning more about things and gaining new perspectives. It might actually turn some of you into feminists and spoil your inclination for round numbers.

    What did I learn? If I didn’t want to be involved in something like this I shouldn’t be following Maureen Johnson’s twitter.  

  23. I think removing the books in the first place was stupid, and they where asking for trouble! The people who said the books had something wrong with them had THAT opinion on them it’s like people who hate

  24. I would go through I read all of these posts and see what everyone else is saying…but I’m being lazy and just post this instead. ^_^
    I pretty much agreed with everything you said. It’s not so much that they where removed but the fact that they read the books after the accusations and with a swayed point of view. That’s like making a list of famous art but never even googling the pieces! Also it seemes rather undemocractic that they would yank the books off the opinion of the view, this is a democracy right?
    Also another thing that stood out to me, you where a teacher? I seriously didn’t know. “OTL

  25. I think the whole issue is like Justin Beiber (not that I am a fan I’m more of a Led Zeppelin, Frederic Chopin girl), no one really cares, but people for no reason will enjoy making fun being petty and causing trouble. Its like that Dutch racist Muhammad. Could’ve been easily avoided if ignored. In the meanwhile the book was on the list for a reason and its going to do what a book does, be a reflection of the person that wrote it, don’t like it, don’t read it. And finally, don’t be so touchy or take your self to seriously.

  26. Mr Westerfield, honestly, the word choice “morally bankrupt and evil” is strawmanning at the very least. The list was meant to be of the best 100 YA books, as it turned out that a few of them, upon closer consideration that while some were still good, they had some flaws; they had triggery content of victim-blaming aspects. Still not evil books, just not on the 100 best.THAT IS ALL. I am glad the Bitch staff considered, and then removed those books, to keep the list as good as they could. I am also glad that they kept the integrity of said list by keeping yours’ and other’ books, as the books are still good even though your attitiudes clearly could use some improvement. I liked the Uglies books fine, even though I am about a decade too old for them, but with your petulant behaviour in this matter (“oh noes, I don’t like a list I am on, I am going to ask to be removed, ha, that’ll show them never to be ideological ever again!”) you have assured that I will never pick up or recommend a book by you ever again (not, I realize a big deal, or even a deal at all, but it’s worth mentioning.) Bitch is a feminist organization, to not remove books for being faux!feministy would be rather an incompetent move of their side.

  27. “Q: You really think you’re awesome, don’t you, Scott?

    A: I’ve had librarians scream when they see me. So yeah”

    I lol’d.

  28. Wow. People are so annoying. I went to go read some of these posts on BitchMedia and they really all just seem like enraged eleven year olds arguing about Robert Pattinson or something. But, I digress, I agree whole heartedly with your decision to ask (politely) to be removed from the list, not only do the issues with the list reflect BitchMedia’s shoddy editing process, but also their willingness to crumble to a few (probably ill formed) opinions.

    Anyways… Thats basically all I have to say.

    Good job sticking up for yourself and the integrity/taste of YA writers and readers.

  29. I work at a library, and you are definitely squee-worthy. On a more serious note, thank you for bringing this up. I’ve seen posts on this in the past few days, and this issue really has affected a lot of people. What a great way to encourage discussion too!

  30. Very interesting. I learned quite a bit. Like the word “kerfuffle.” (even if my Safari spell-check squiggles under it; it was in my insta-dictionary)

  31. As an adult who is a huge fan of yours, who remembers my YA years through your books, I move that if we’re to deem books as triggery because of real life themes, then we must begin to shelter our teens from real life. Because wow, you know, if they can’t handle fiction, how will they handle the news? Or TV shows like Law and Order? (Do YA people watch that?)

    I’m glad I’m not so far removed from my own teen years as to think teens need to be sheltered. I love reading the comments on your blog because the teens who post here give me hope for my future when they’ll be the ones taking care of me and running my country.

    That’s what I took from this whole debate, that we have people over here saying that oh! Teens can’t handle this content! And then we have people over there who have faith in the strength of our young people.

    Bravo Scott, and all you feminists and strong young men, keep reading, keep learning and keep being strong. You’re our future and I think you can handle reality as well as so called evil fiction.

  32. Scott,

    While I have “Leviathan” in the cart for my next Amazon order, I have not yet actually read any of your stuff, and was wholly unfamiliar with your work until following Scalzi’s blog into this week’s interwebs maelstrom.

    However, after that Morissette crack, you are my new hero.

    Also, I agree with you on all points, and admire the way in which you have made them. So while this kerfuffle may not *materially* increase your sales, I can say as a father with a ten-year-old daughter on the look out for the next few years’ of reading lists, you’ve got at least one new customer you might have gone without otherwise.

  33. Wow… This makes so much sense to me. If I triede to explain it to my friends they’d scream and tell me to shut up and stop ranting. They do that when i explain anything that make sense to me.
    This reminds me of how I feel about banning books.
    BitchMedia shouldn’t base their entire list (or even small parts of it,) off of comments made by some random people who have something againtst presumably great literature. (I haven’t read any of the books but assume thta if they made it onto the list in first place, they had to be special.)
    Why make such a quick, shallow desicion when they probably know it’ll cause problems?
    People need to learn to think before they act.

  34. This reminds me of my high school years. Let me compose the scene.

    Monday morning: “Crap! I forgot to read my lit assignment, and I have to do homework on it! How in the world am I going to pull this off?”

    Cues lightbulb.

    “I’ll fake it. Better yet — I’ll read Spark Notes, read the first and last pages, familiarize myself with the characters and that will be enough.”

    In class:
    Teacher – “Tell me about what you read and how it relates to the other things we have reviewed lately.”
    Me – “Crap. I should have read the book. Sorry, Teacher.”

    Lesson: Not reading or reviewing the information properly before discussing can lead to bad endings.

    The end.

    Seriously. Go Scott and other YA authors! There were reasons why those books were written, whether to comfort or inform a reader. And there was a reason why they were recommended for the list. To remove them is to help hide the information and much needed help.

  35. As a Bitch magazine subscriber for about a decade now, I have read with interest many of their articles about censorship or (perhaps more of a problem) the chilling effect of the possibility of censorship. The magazine and its associated website have exposed instances of this in books, TV, movies, video games etc. Frequently this is the result of a publishing company or network failing to stand by artists it previously supported. They have also published some great articles in the past about the need for strong females in YA lit. So while I would be disappointed to see this sort of behavior from any magazine or website, the real reason that this upsets me so much is that it was the very people that I count on to expose and criticize this sort of thing!
    As a high school media specialist, I have my own list and didn’t expect to agree with Bitch on every single book. But it was the fact that they would put themselves in the position they have so often scorned that really makes me want to not renew my subscription.

  36. Part of Bitch Magazine’s problem is that while it would appear easy to play at being a librarian, there is a certain skill set involved. Assembling a list without having a reason for the inclusion of every title and then jumping around rhetorical rabbit holes when challenged simply makes you look silly. Not expecting emotionally charged challenges and being ill-prepared to deal with them also makes you look silly.
    Their list should have been annotated, perhaps by one of the people who recommended each title. The annotation could have mentioned why the book was included. That is where the challengers should have been directed – to a well-reasoned explanation of why the book was included.
    Good books do challenge our comfort zones, can be transgressive and make you think – including YA books.

  37. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for this great post explaining your thoughts about this controversy. Now that BitchMedia has announced a book club and a further discussion of the three titles in question (plus two more, as scientific “controls”?) I wonder if you have any new thoughts about their new statement?

    I’ll be participating in their book club, and debating the debate over at Fiction Writers Review. I invite any of your commenters to join me!

  38. Oddly enough, my renewal invoice to Bitch arrived a couple of days before this whole thing broke…and you know what? I don’t see why I should spend $25 to renew my subscription at this time.


  39. Hi Scott,

    I know this is late, but I wanted to thank you for posting this. I had never even heard of the three books in question and I probably wouldn’t have if you hadn’t posted this. While I printed out the list, I added the three books that were erased and checked those out first. I’m reading Sisters Red currently.

    I think people forget that these are just books. If you find them too traumatizing or too difficult to read due to the subject matter, you can choose to continue the book. You can choose to go back into that world. You, as a reader, don’t have to go back if you don’t want to.

    However, I hate that of all the words they used, they had to use the word “triggering.” Ugh, I hate that word! My mom and I are both survivors of many of the issues described in many of the books on that list. I would never use the word “triggering” for one singular book; you might as well say more than half of the books on that list are “triggering.” That word is just a bad word to use. (Personal rant: We went on about this and it got to the point where we said, “The red pillow is triggering!” Yea….we really hate that word.)

  40. Honestly, it has been years since I have read the Uglies series or the Peeps series, and just by your responses, I’d have to say I’m dying to reread them. You are absolutely hilarious!

    Now, back to the important topic. I realize this is late, but I completely agree with your view on this! Why should anybody even care if you want your book to be removed? It is, after all, YOUR book! You are just trying to be fair to the other authors who were taken off of the list. Why is that so wrong?

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m too young to fully grasp why everyone is getting so worked up, but as a fifteen year old who spends most of her time reading author’s blogs, I’d think that authors would be grateful that you are just trying to sort of balance out the writing communitiy. Why can readers not understand that?

    Okay, that is all. I still love your responses! I kind of forgot how great of a writer you are 😀

  41. I suggest you visit the blog of the original commenter and hear her take.
    Young adult authors or so clique-ish its horrifing. Uglies does not have the victim-blaming issues that Sister Red does. Have you read the book?
    And, despite what you say, censorship is different from this. The post was about FEMINIST YA. If something was not femnist on that list it should be removed. Think of it like this-what if it had been a great list of
    travel guide books for people taking trips to India, and The Lord of the Flies and The Love ofThe Last Tycoon were on there?

  42. Hello.This post was extremely fascinating, particularly since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week.

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