I don't normally write personal posts, but this is a topic that I seemed to have attracted attention to yesterday and I wanted to clarify my thoughts and position on the matter. I hope you will bear with me and read the whole post as you might actually be surprised by the outcome.
Yesterday on Twitter I made a rather flippant comment about incest.
I felt that it shouldn't be a topic for YA fiction. That it was taboo.
This was my personal opinion.
I really put myself in the firing line, receiving some rather strong worded complaints and I did accept that my comment could have been worded better. I was surprised by the reaction from bloggers and Tweeters who wholeheartedly agreed with the inclusion of incest in books. I honestly couldn't see it from their point of view, especially as it was a subject that personally made my skin crawl. Why would anyone enjoy a book about incest, when it was illegal in society? We would be abhorred to discover it happening in real life, but we were happy for our children to read about it? I was utterly shocked by the response. Until I was reminded by a good blogging friend about a book that I had read in my teens,Flowers In The Attic by Virginia Andrews. Many of you would not have heard of this book, but I can tell you now it was full of incest and what's more I truly loved that book! In my twenties I must have read it three or four times and the fact that it was full of incest, didn't cause me any issues at all.
In consideration of that, I began to wonder why I was so against this subject matter in books now. Many of my trusted blogging friends have tried so hard to convince me to read Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma; I have been so obstinate about this book that I refused to even talk about it, let alone read it. Yet on reflection, I have to ask myself why I am so against it now yet I was happy to push Flowers In The Attic under everyone's nose to read when I was younger. On reading the summary of Forbidden, I can see that the situation might be considered mitigating circumstances in a similar way to Flowers In The Attic and I have heard nothing but immense praise for the book. Yet I still wouldn't read it.
So what changed?
When did my threshold of acceptancy drop so dramatically?
This really wasn't hard for me to pinpoint. The birth of my twin girls dramatically changed my perception of life and the safety of my children became paramount, perhaps even a little stifling at times for them. I can't speak for every other parent, but I found bringing up identical twin girls similar to living among paparazzi. They attracted a lot of attention, often too much and occasionally unsavoury. Instantly my protectiveness was thrust into being which unconsciously changed my reading choices dramatically. No longer could I read true stories where children were victims of abuse; anything dealing with children dying was a complete no-no. I found these subjects made me feel physically sick. I became a lover of fantasy and the paranormal.
Because it wasn't real. It wouldn't ever happen. I no longer had to feel uncomfortable. It was pure escapism.
Looking back now I can see why my issue with incest in books then grew so vehemently. I could see it occurring everywhere in the real world; the news was full of it, an abundance of true life abuse stories were on sale and I felt I needed to shield my children from reality. However after the discussion yesterday, I realise I was in the wrong. I cannot hide my children from the bad things that happen in the world and reading is a source available to enable them to discover the reality of the world we live in. I have to learn to sit in the middle of the scales between protective mother and occasional librarian. I have to guide my children's reading rather than restrict it. They may not be as shocked by these situations as I am; they probably won't be able to digest the reality of these situations that do occur in the world, but they will be more aware of them. I don't want to be considered a book banner because a subject makes my nervous.
My only advice to other parents is that perhaps you need to consider the maturity of your child before you place such books in their hands; will they comfortably be able to deal with the subject matter and be able to truly understand what they are reading. However you may be surprised by what they are actually capable of digesting.
So after digesting these thoughts, I vow that I will read Forbidden at some point, because I don't want to think of myself as being against certain subjects in books. I may not feel comfortable reading it, but it isn't anything I haven't read before. I have always considered myself quite open minded, but I now realise that perhaps I am not. I am still learning what is right or wrong and I doubt I will ever stop until I am on my last journey.
I would just like to make a final point to the bloggers who were very much for the inclusion of incest in YA books by sharing a saying my mother repeatedly tells me, 'I Once Stood Where You Stand Now'. In other words I once held the same strong beliefs that you hold now, but life has changed my opinions, something that you will find may happen to you as time passes and your life finds the direction it is supposed to take. With this in mind, I hope you can see why I expressed my opinions in the first place and view the situation from both sides as I try to now.
This was a difficult post for me to write, but I feel so much better that I have. I would be interested on your thoughts over this matter, so please feel free to comment.