Saturday, February 4, 2017

Have No Fear. You're Safe Here

I was heartbroken last week to read several threads on Twitter in which teens and young women (all readers and bloggers) spoke up about their current discomfort in the YA book community. These threads were then discussed at length by many others who acknowledged feeling the same way. Most stated, in one form or another:

Diversity matters. Politics matter. The conduct of the publishing community matters . . . but the current climate in our YA community had made them feel like they didn't matter.

The worst part? Of the six threads I read, all were high school or college students, and:

- Four were written by young women of color.

- Two stated outright that they didn't feel comfortable even asking questions about books because of the way they'd seen friends, bloggers, and authors treated if they phrased a question "wrong", or the question implied they disagreed with leaders in the community.

- One had stopped blogging completely because she was afraid a wrongly worded review might make her a target.

As a YA author, this left me incredibly disturbed. All of us in the YA community (yes, even those who may intimidate you) got into this arena because we want to connect with young people. We want to be a support and encouragement to young adult readers. We all believe that books, and access to information, are a critical freedom, even for minors. Helping young people feel empowered, learn, and grow is why we're here.

So, if you've felt targeted, de-powered, or threatened in our community, I'm sorry. And I want you to know: You're safe here.

As a teen and anti-bullying advocate, a mother, and a citizen, I want you to know that you're allowed to make mistakes here. If you're under the age of 26, your brain hasn't even stopped developing, let alone your personality, heart, and opinions (I'm 40, and still changing my mind...)

You're allowed to disagree. You're allowed to be resolute in your choices -- even if your thoughts, feelings, and opinions don't match mine. In fact, we can be diametrically opposed, and I'll still welcome your questions and discussions. Because I know the only way to learn and grow is to be allowed to ask Why and How? The only way to influence or be influenced, is through calm discourse that analyzes the issue (not the individual). And the only way we can truly stand alongside each other is to accept that sometimes we won't see eye-to-eye. And neither our persons, nor our mutual relationship, is devalued by that.

If you know me, you know I'm not scared to disagree. I'm rarely cautious about sharing my opinion. But I can also tell you, unequivocally, that I'll always make my conversation about the issue, not the individual. And I genuinely believe there's no such thing as a bad question. Especially for someone who hasn't -- or has only barely -- reached legal adulthood. Not only are brains still developing so cognitive reasoning abilities may still be somewhat limited, but there's a lot of life left to learn through experience. None of us understood as much when we were 18 as we do now.  (Gosh, if you'd known me at 19 years old . . . *shudder* The mortifying stories I could tell about things that came out of my mouth, or decisions I made . . .)

So, I'm making a commitment to you: If you want to discuss a book (any book), you can ask your question here. I've placed moderation on the comments so no one will be able to answer your question rudely, or with insults. Every opinion that's worded respectfully--even those I disagree with--will be published. If no other readers can answer your question, and I'm not able to, I'll find someone in the know to do it with respect.

MY COMMITMENT: You will not be insulted, ridiculed, diminished, or marginalized by your conversation here, on any of my personal social media platforms, or in private correspondence with me.

If you have a question about any book or issue in the YA community that you don't feel comfortable asking publicly, either comment anonymously, or email me. My contact details are available in the header of this page.

If you find yourself in the middle of an online storm that you didn't see coming, tag me, tap me, or ask for my help. You don't have to weather that alone.

And if anyone is abusing you--verbally, emotionally, or physically--that's never okay. No matter what issue is at stake. Talk to me, or another adult you trust. You do not have to accept that. Period.

Have no fear. You're safe here. 

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