Young Adult Lit in the College Classroom and Beyond

I was looking forward to an article in the paper about Yong Adult (YALit) and was disappointed that it really didn’t offer anything new. I’ve been reading YALit for years, as  a matter of fact probably before it was given the moniker. I think it’s filled with theory, politics, messages, and more than just entertainment. It is literature.

Young Adult  (YA) Literature as a genre is not new; however, its popularity has sustained the weakening publishing market. The  YA genre has kept many a publisher in the black, as the genre has a wide crossover appeal. Frankly, we have witnessed the genre balloon during the last ten years. Many have thanked J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter Series for this. I thank her for the great series and more. And, I look forward to her next project.

I never really stopped reading YA lit. I think I dove into the genre more so once my eldest daughter became interested in the genre. Here my interest was really two-fold: my love of reading and want to discuss literature with her. Win-win. However, as an educator I have to say that I have found YA lit useful in the classroom. The genre has politics, gender, class, race, sexuality, nation, democracy and more discussed within its pages. And, the students really enjoy re-reading a book with a different theoretical lens. I have also had a chance to meet new people online and in real life (IRL) and have had great conversations about YA lit.

In my Women’s Studies and Political Science courses, I have actually offered a paper option that required students to read pre-approved YA Lit books and discuss course concepts in the books. Depending on the class, these assignments have been popular. The best part for me is the assessment of the assignment and reading how a student has reassessed a much-loved book in a different fashion and has a different feel for the book.

I have also spoken at Political Science conferences and in my local community about YALit and politics. I am repeatedly energized by the positive reception by colleagues and youth. People are reading YALit and noting the messages, politics, feminisms, and more. My fascination with dystopic YALit is not unique and I have had animated discussions with middle school students and high schoolers about protagonists we like or the way in which Lord of the Flies is germinal to many a plot. Connecting over books never gets old.

How cool is that?

Parts of this post ran in Oct 2010 I was compelled to revisit it based on the article about YALit being a new thing.

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