In Which Our Heroine's Head Floats

12 July 2004

It dried off enough for us to get our picnic in, although Robin's shoes were pretty muddy and the spots under the slides and swings were little ponds. It started raining when we were done eating and were just sitting around the picnic table talking, so I popped an allergy capsule and we went back to Stella and Mike's. Because I had taken allergy stuff and was not worrying about being around the cats, I took the opportunity to borrow some books. Like, um, a grocery bag full. Stella was worried that I wouldn't make it through the book ban (that's up until the 26th, for those of you who didn't hear: my birthday, July the 26th) with the books I had on hand; I was just going to take advantage of the cat-worry-free period. So. Many books. And Matt and Eleanor and I told emergency room stories about being taken there, and Stella told one about working there this weekend, so it was kind of a theme. But luckily not one that consumed the day.

The allergy stuff detached my head from the rest of my body, and my brain from the interior of my skull. When we got home, I faceplanted into a pillow for 45 minutes. I was not asleep. I was not awake. I was just kind of...there.

(This is not to be confused with [smooth hand gesture] there. [Smooth hand gesture] there is an expression I picked up from my friend Don in Toledo for when people insist that they're not drunk or buzzed, they're just...and then Don would suggest, "[smooth hand gesture] There?" And they would agree. I will do the hand gesture for those who need a visual, when I see them in person.)

Anyway, my head is not fully reattached to my body yet. Nor my brain to the interior of my skull. I've been gardening. Weeding, mostly: it's sufficiently brainless. It has firmed up the notion in my head that baking is the queen of all chores. Baking is the one that's notable in its presence. If you bake something, people will cry delightedly, "Oh, you made bars!" (A cake, some bread, rosemary buns, cookies, etc.) No one ever exclaims delightedly at how well-mopped your floor is or how weed-free your grass. And if they did, you'd probably be insulted, and rightly so.

I think I'll probably be ready to work on the book again after lunch. In the meantime, I set aside both the Finnish political history book and Libra and picked up Monica Hughes's The Keeper of the Isis Light, which is YA SF. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it was entertaining enough and well worth the quarter I paid for it.

I said this on Making Light, but I want to repeat it here: I think it's good for kids in secondary school to read about sex. Would I want my own kids reading about sex? Yes, I think I would. I think it's a good thing to read about sexual relationships before you're having one. I think it's a good idea to read about different ways people handle their relationships and different issues that arise in relationships before they've arisen and need to be handled. And I think it's better to have this sort of thing come up in the normal books the kid is reading anyway than to have some cheesy parent- or teacher-assigned anthology called Some Day You Might Fall In Love.

I think it was good for me to encounter sexual relationships in the SF and fantasy I was reading in junior high and high school, and I think the distribution of how much it appeared was good, too: sometimes none, mostly some but off-screen, a few on-screen love scenes. I think it would have been more distressing and more confusing if I'd been going through that time in my life and not running into sex in books. It's part of human existence. It's part of the adult world. It ought to be part of books sometimes.

And when people say that "the usual language and sex restrictions" apply for secondary school students, I wonder what they're reading in their English classes. Because I was reading Shakespeare and The Return of the Native and Walt freakin' Whitman and The Catcher in the Rye and all sorts of things that were chock-full of sex and swearing. What do kids read to avoid that?

I also really, really don't understand the idea that a high school kid will still be reading YAs any more than, say, I do. Someone on my lj friends-list requested YA recommendations for a 14-year-old, and I thought, "Huh? Fourteen is old enough for any book she wants." I mean, some YAs are good and worth reading in general. But if you're not also reading adult books at 14, when are you going to start? And some people were recommending Bruce Coville and Eoin Colfer and Lemony Snicket and Patricia Wrede's Enchnted Forest books. Which are good books, but they're children's books. If there's a faster way to lose a 14-year-old than by treating her like you think she's a child, I don't know what it is. If she asks for them, they're good presents. If she doesn' just wouldn't.

I guess I'm going on the assumption that most of you journal-readers read other things, too, or why would you care about what I have to say? So I'm wondering: when did you start reading "adult" books? Was it a sharp dividing line or a gradual easing-in? Did anyone try to force you to read something you thought was too old for you or stop you from reading something they thought was too old for you? How did you wind up feeling about it?

One of my friends recently talked about how her older brother took something away from her because he felt it was too old for her, and she thought he was right and she was grateful. And it was one of those moments when I listened to her and thought, it's a good thing you don't have to understand people to be their friend, because I cannot even remotely imagine reacting that way. Not in the slightest. Perhaps this is one of the differences between people who have older siblings and people who don't. But then I think about what I saw of Eleanor yesterday, and I think, no, woe betide the older sister who tried to take something from Eleanor, even at age 3. So it must be something else.

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