I was at work yesterday, and a couple came into the store. Roughly mid-20’s, I would say? For the uninitiated, I work at an indie bookstore, which is where this all unfolded. Anyway, they’re looking around at the books – mostly *he’s* looking, while she’s talking and checking out more of the *stuff*. He picks up a book and mentions something along the lines of how interested it looks – and the response of the girl with him KILLED ME. She looked at the book, looked at the section where it came from, looked at him and said, “That’s a book for TEENS. You’re in the TEEN section.”.
Guys. STOP BOOK SHAMING PEOPLE. Seriously, does it *matter* what section the book comes from? I have had adults buy board books, not because they have any kids, but because the pictures and the story are just so lovely that they couldn’t help themselves. I read middle-grade novels, young adult, and adult books – fairly interchangeably. In fact, I just finished a Kobe Bryant book last night (Review to come!), and it was quite lovely. I’m in my mid-40’s. And honestly? Sometimes the YA and middle-grade novels seem like they’re better, in that the authors have to work just a bit harder to keep the attention of kids and to make sure things make sense – because kids WILL call you out on that.
Now, in this particular case, the guy went ahead and bought the book anyway. But IMAGINE how many people wouldn’t, because they would start to feel silly after someone close to them says something like that? Imagine how many WORLDS they could have found and loved, but lost due to Book Shaming. Imagine how many lessons learned, how many different viewpoints heard from, and how many fabulous stories get put back on the shelves because someone made fun of someone else for their interests? Worse, imagine if that person who was shamed put back that one book that may have helped them in some way – the book that told them they too would be ok?
Listen folks – reading is reading is reading. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you’re choosing to read (YES GRAPHIC NOVELS ARE INCLUDED. A post on THAT another time.), or what age group you’re reading from. Whether you’re a child like my daughter, reading WAY above her age level, or an adult like myself and *so* many others, enjoying the lessons and literary escapes provided by books for a “younger audience” – it LITERALLY doesn’t matter. What *matters* is that people are choosing to spend their time with characters that are important to them, that tell a story meaningful to them, and that maybe – just maybe, if they’re lucky – they’ll walk away having had a truly impactful interaction with the words on those pages. Like the individual in the following article, who read Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant *while he was in prison* and learned more than he ever would have imagined. (Book censorship in prison is a WHOLE OTHER TOPIC, but also bad in many, many cases.):
So, let’s stop with the Book Shaming? People are different, and just like with the clothes they wear, need to have choices that appeal to them in whatever way they’re feeling at that moment. What matters is that they’re reading, and since studies have shown that those who read fiction have better “social cognition” – and will often feel more empathy for others, we should be encouraging that REGARDLESS of whether they’re reading manga, young adult, graphic novels, middle-grade, or adult novels. OR YES, EVEN ROMANCE.
Book shaming is only shameful for the shamer, that they feel it’s acceptable to try and control someone else’s reading. Honestly, I feel like #BookShamingIsBad should be a thing, so I’m going to start here. Have any of *you* ever been shamed for the book(s) you choose to read? What are some of your favorite titles that seem to bring out the worst in others’ shaming tendencies? Maybe someone will feel that connection and know that it really IS ok to read what you choose.