Recently, I was asked what I’m passionate about. I paused to consider, but before I could open my mouth to respond, the asker continued, “Besides your husband of course.” Laughter, as if at the funniest thing ever said. I tried again, but was cut off by, “You really need to figure that out. You should be pursuing your passions, not reviewing those young adult books to fill your time.” Subject change.
We’re going to leave the derisive bits aside for the moment and focus instead on how I would have answered the question, given opportunity.
It’s not as if I’ve never thought about my passions before. Who hasn’t? It’s an open-ended thought project that everyone has to take up at some point. The problem is that I’m passionate about so many things–most of which the person in question probably wouldn’t have taken seriously–and my passions are ever-changing. I throw myself into whatever I’m doing at the time. In high school, it was color guard and musical theatre, followed by summer camp. In college, it was my friends and writing a memoir.
These days, it’s blogging and books and travel and hosting an elegant tea party, to name a few. I wouldn’t even list my husband–not because he doesn’t make the list (he obviously does), but because I don’t define myself by being married to him. I love Ryan more than anyone, but if my only identity is “wife,” isn’t that just as bad as a teenager defining herself as “girlfriend”? Ryan supports and encourages me, and gives me the freedom to pursue the things that I deem important. Most of all, he never makes me feel like my passions are frivolous.
I am referring, of course, to the last bit of what the asker said. The part about “those young adult books” and “to fill your time.”
The fact that we had already talked about why I chose young adult literature with my genre only makes the sentiment more insulting. I’ll paraphrase: young adult is a varied and important genre right now. A lot of young adult books are beautiful–well-written and about important topics, designed to make readers really think–read Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and tell me you didn’t think about what it means to be “human,” about racism, about war and plague, about whether sacrificing one life to save many is a valid course of action. But, as with any genre, there are some that are… well, smut. It is important for adults to be aware of what young people are reading, and to be educated well enough to respond intelligently. That’s the kind of feedback that any genre needs–intelligent and thoughtful, not dismissive and ignorant.
Not to mention that they’re just plain fun to read.
I could go on about how my writing degree qualifies me to make these judgements and so on, but that’s not the point. The importance and validity of the genre isn’t the point, either.
The point is that I care about these books, and that is why I chose to center my blog around them. I’m not filling my time; I’m investing it.