Friday, July 25, 2008

LDS Fiction: Please Define

By Rebecca Talley

As of late, we've been having quite a discussion about how to define LDS fiction. You can read the discussion here.

Since I like to write for children, I read a lot of children's literature. Well, maybe I should say I start a lot of children's books. I've been surprised at the themes and the language included in books for kids as young as 9 years old. It isn't at all unrealistic to find the Lord's name used as an exclamation in many of these books. Though I hate to ever throw books away, I have found some books so offensive, I've tossed them in the trash. And, these books have come highly recommended.

I've gone the rounds with English teachers at our high school about books. My son was required to read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for his English class. He attempted to read it, but finally came to me and said, "Mom, this book has the worst language. I'm trying to get ready for my mission and I can't do it with these words in my head all the time from this book." My daughter decided to take a lower grade in her English class because she just couldn't read an assigned book because of its content. This same daughter was enrolled in honors English this summer. She started Catcher in the Rye, a book recognized as classic literature, and after trying to read it for a few days decided to disenroll from her honors class so she didn't have to argue with her teacher about this book. I've been very disappointed in our English program at our high school for recommending some books and then hassling students who refuse to read them.

Because of these, and other, experiences, I've turned mainly to LDS fiction, or fiction written by LDS authors that I trust will not have any inappropriate material. I feel like there's enough evil in the world assaulting me and trying to vie for my attention, I don't need to purposely go out and fill my mind with it.

So I find this discussion on LDS fiction interesting. I guess what I find interesting, or disappointing, is that some would like to label books LDS fiction that clearly do not fit in that genre. I have certain expectations when I pick up a book advertised as LDS fiction. I want to feel comfortable telling my children to read LDS fiction. I want it to support the gospel. I don't want to begin reading a novel and then find out it twists gospel principles.

Yes, everyone has the right to write whatever they want. I will certainly not dictate to anyone how or what to write, but don't advertise it as something it isn't.

What do you think?

7 comments:

  1. I'm with you. I have a certain expectation for LDS fiction. My fav genre sci fi/fantasy has been undergoing its on downward transistion. They claim it's only for teenage boys. First, I don't think that's true and second if true why would you write that to a teenage boy. Some times I have to laugh finding myself so "innocent." I once read a fantasy for about 100 pages until I realized it was basically bondage sex. Ok, I didn't catch on that quick. And kudos to your kids for choosing wisely. Frankly, there's enough good out there to keep me reading for years!!!!

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  2. Hoorah for you and your kids, Rebecca! We have had similar battles with films the teachers have insisted my high school students watch.

    Our RS education counselor chose a few books for our book club. I am familiar with most of the books she chose and I know that one of them has several swear words in it. It is considered a classic (recommended by many educators...including George Wythe College) and is written by an LDS author. The Bishop has asked us not to use the book in our book club because is is sponsored by RS as part of our literacy program. Some of the sisters in the ward are a little offended, but others are grateful. I am grateful. While I don't want to offend anyone, I more than anything don't want to offend the innocent. Does that make sense?

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  3. I stayed up way past my bedtime last night, reading the online discussion you refer to, Rebecca. I agree that, at least in my mind, I differentiate between what I consider LDS fiction vs fiction with LDS characters (which may not uphold LDS values) and fiction by LDS writers that upholds values, but contains no LDS elements. (My writing falls in the last category...at least, I hope it does!) I think the book being discussed on the link you include sounds like a fiction book with LDS characters, which is NOT necessarily the same as LDS fiction.

    And let me add my congratulations to your kids for standing up for what they believe!

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  4. No matter what our children or we read, fiction or non-fiction it seems we have to be on guard. Just because the author is LDS doesn't mean they use LDS standards for writing. I have found some excellent non-LDS authors I feel safe with.
    I think we need to participate in school board meetings, read what our children are required to read so we know what is going on.
    Margaret

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  5. Rebecca, that is just sad that your educational institutions 1. wouldn't ask the teachers to come up with alternate assignments, and 2. wouldn't listen to your concerns as a parent and do something about it. Like support your decision to have standards at home that your children are required to adhere to.

    I mean geesh, if you don't use that type of language at home, why would you allow your children to read it? And then on top of that allow the school system to come in and say it's okay to read in the in name of education?

    That just seems really stupid to me. I know that if my school system does that to my children, I'll be making a very big stink about it. I'm not going to change the rules of my home, nor to I think it fair for the school system to try and tell me what is good for my kids. Meh!

    I'm probably in for a battle then. But hey, it's unacceptable for the education forum to stand in place of good active parents. They don't financially support the kids, but our taxes pay for those schools? Right? Shouldn't we have a say then?

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  6. Hi, I'm always on the hunt for great children's books and have recently discovered Bayard and their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks and DiscoveryBoxBooks (which is a special Olympic edition) They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days: http://www.storyboxbooks.com/potatoprinting.php, http://www.adventureboxbooks.com/macaroni-picture-frames.php, http://www.discoveryboxbooks.com/skittles.php Enjoy!

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  7. Congratulations on generating a wonderful discussion. Excessive and gratuitious sex are not the only problems with contemporary literature. Two of my sons had to read the short story "The Yellow Wall Paper," one when he was only 14, and have feminist English teachers talk about women's issues and how bad men are. I groussed about it but didn't get very far. This was a few years ago.

    I think this debate is echoed by the "in the world but not of the world" discussion that crosses generations and different forms of artistic expression besides writing.

    As a physician, I have often felt context to be a key in deciding if something is appropriate or not. Things that happen in a physician's office, might be considered abusive somewhere else. And, to be somewhat contrary, I believe we should be careful in judging the work of others who do not have the influence of gospel teaching and the companionship of the spirit in their lives.

    THere is a saying that it is human nature to seek the forbidden and the unattainable.

    Again, Rebecca, thanks for the interesting and stimulating discussion.

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