In a Guardian article last November, Tanya Gold condemned the Twilight franchise and the paranormal progeny it has spawned, calling them sado-masochistic “disempowerment fantasies” masquerading as fairy tales, normalising abuse in the name of risqué romance. But her argument – though apt – hardly goes far enough. To focus criticism of the now-ubiquitous “YA (Young Adult) paranormal” genre on the relationship between its heroines and their “bad boy” lovers is to ignore the more insidious, perhaps more dangerous message the genre sends to teenage girls: that romantic desirability is the proof of, and the reward for, individual worth.
The author of this piece, Tara Isabella Burton, claims to know whereof she speaks: “I paid my way through university by ghostwriting YA romances for various publishing houses.” Read why she condemns books that suggest that a girl can find fulfillment only by being the object of masculine erotic desire.
Hang on, you can make it until spring. And English professor Gina Barreca explains why these books can help:
- Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson (Bloomsbury, 2012)
- Kipling and Trix by Mary Hamer (Aurora Metro Books, 2012)
- The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee (Ballantine Books, 2013)
- Habits of the House by Fay Weldon (Macmillan, 2013)
Novelist Peter Dimock declares:
During the past one hundred years, many novelists, poets, and others, have found themselves trying to puncture the confident grand historical narratives that the nineteenth century delivered to the twentieth and to the twenty-first. [. . . ] Here is a list of 10 works of literature, written or published between the 1927 and 2001, whose authors seem intent upon jolting their readers into radical distrust of the conventional history that they had been given through which to experience their present. The authorial voice controlling each of these novels, in one way or another, speaks in such a way that in surrendering to the book’s spell the reader finds consciousness enlisted, persuaded, seduced—aesthetically tricked—into experiencing emotional and psychological life jaggedly at odds with the conventional historical narratives on offer.
Read why he has chosen these books:
- The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
- Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- JR by William Gaddis
- The Prose of Osip Mandelstam (especially the essay Conversation about Dante)
- Times Square Red, Times Square Blue by Samuel R. Delany
- The Collected Poems of Elizabeth Bishop (especially Casabianca, Sestina, Over 1,000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance)
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- The Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin
- Beloved by Toni Morrison