deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[personal profile] deborah
I'm thinking more about why I am upset about the history of the Margaret A Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement. (I want to thank [personal profile] astern for helping me work this out in my head.)

Four authors who are not primarily known as authors for children or young adult have won the Edwards award, and all of them are F&SF authors -- and I think this is wrong. I'd like to state for the record that there are plenty of books by McCaffrey, LeGuin, Card, and Pratchett on my bookshelf, and there were a hell of a lot more when I was a preteen.

I think this is nerds (i.e. librarians) giving book awards to the authors they loved as preteens, and not paying attention to the requirements of the award, that it be for books that are for a wide range of teens. It contributes to the (now ridiculously outdated) stereotype that only nerds read for pleasure. It rewards the authors of crap books which had strong effect on geekery (Anne McCaffery) and ignores the authors of books which had broad effect on everyone else.

And if you think I'm wrong, ask yourself if Ann M Martin or Francine Pascal or R. L. Stine or Zoey Dean will ever win an ALA lifetime achievement award.

Or, hell, Stephenie Meyer. JK Rowling has at least a snowball's chance in hell, which is more than you can say for any of those others.

The point is, If you're lucky, you can give the award to high-quality authors who are heavily praised by book mediators AND have wide readership. If you are less lucky, you can give the award to the high-quality authors who are heavily praised by book mediators, but who might not get as much wide readership. Or you can give the award to books which really do have wide popular appeal and effect. But giving the award to books which have never been part of the young adult mediated readership AND who don't have wide appeal/readership outside of the very specific subculture? That's pandering to yourself and your own interests, and that's just embarrassing.

(I don't think it's impossible for adult authors who are popular with teens to write books which should win awards for spectacular young adult fiction. But that "mere marketing category" that differentiates books popular with teens from books marketed to teens is something that's really important and shouldn't be elided. Part of being a successful young adult author is negotiating the gulf between the book he or she wants to write, what the gatekeepers think is acceptable, and what teens choose to read. That's incredibly difficult, and part of what the youth media awards are designed for is celebrating the books that fall into that space. That doesn't mean books that don't fall into that cannot be wonderful, worthy of praise, and praiseworthy SPECIFICALLY for being beloved by adolescents. But it does mean that maybe they shouldn't be winning awards specifically for rewarding an underserved, well, marketing category. There's a genre difference between The Colour of Magic and The Wintersmith, and that marketing category has something to do with it.)

Date: 2011-01-10 07:11 pm (UTC)
libskrat: (Default)
From: [personal profile] libskrat
Hrm. Pratchett is one of the few authors (Douglas Adams is another) who might genuinely have made it out of that nerd subculture.

I could be wrong, I guess.

Date: 2011-01-10 07:32 pm (UTC)
ambyr: my bookshelves, with books arranged by color in rainbow order, captioned, "my books are in order; why aren't yours?" (Books)
From: [personal profile] ambyr
In the UK, certainly. In the US, I'm not so sure.

Date: 2011-01-10 08:09 pm (UTC)
astern: illustration from Lane Smith and Dr Seuss's HOORAY FOR DIFFENDOOFER DAY (Big Brother is Reading)
From: [personal profile] astern
Whether he is or not, though, I don't think it really changes Deborah's point- even if we accept as given that PTerry is popular with a wide variety of people (which I don't necessarily believe), he still wasn't writing specifically for or marketed directly towards teens.

Date: 2011-01-10 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] kumquatmay
Ann M. Martin, yes. BUT that would most likely be despite the babysitters club series, and not BECAUSE of it (which is should be). Had she not already tweaked her rep with A Corner of the Universe? No way in hell.

I can easily see Rowling win in the future, But then she's the rarity that is loved by mainstream and geek culture alike.

Date: 2011-01-12 07:50 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] kumquatmay
Agreed. You don't even want to get me started on the lack of respect/acknowledgment of popular commerical fiction. Judy Blume didn't even really become JUDY BLUME, BELOVED AUTHOR until what, at least a decade after her true heyday, and even then, I wonder how much of that comes from her vocalness and work on censorship and banned books.

Date: 2011-01-10 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] writinghood
Yeah. I was thinking this about Ann M. Martin, but you said it at least as well as I would have, probably better. I remember reading her non-Babysitters stuff even pre-Corner (like Ten Kids No Pets, Me and Katie the Pest, Bummer Summer) but agreed it's really the reputation-tweaking stuff like Corner, The Doll People, and A Dog's Life that has potentially changed awards-committee perception of her overall achievement.

Date: 2011-01-11 02:41 am (UTC)
jeshyr: Blessed are the broken. Harry Potter. (Default)
From: [personal profile] jeshyr
That's really weird... there is nothing wrong with nerds having a "authors most loved by ex-teen nerds" award, but this is not for that. I am generally not somebody who pays any attention to awards but this seems very very odd.

And I say this as an ex-teen nerd who loved 3 of the 4 winners and never read more than one A M Martin, and I still think it's wrong :)
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