In which I describe the pain and suffering I endured to open myself up to a different genre.
Recently, I was plugged in to a newly-discovered book podcast while I was picking up books from my (fantastic) local library. The podcasters, two adults in their mid 30s, listed off several very literary YA books that they loved. One title in particular really grabbed my attention, so I decided to pick it up and give it a try. Why not. It isn’t my preferred genre, but I’ll read the occasional YA that catches my attention.
Now, I don’t think there is something shameful in reading YA as an adult. If certain authors or books get people who don’t normally read to pick up a book, I’m all for it. Often some of the most buzzed about books in a year are YA, and people want to be in on the conversation or at the very least read the book before they see the movie (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Eleanor & Park, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, etc). If it isn’t your thing, great. Don’t read it. There isn’t something wrong with you if you roll your eyes at the sometimes overly sentimental romance and short-sightedness of teenagers, or if you find the prose and themes too simplistic for your taste. But If you love it, great. Read it. There isn’t something shameful in feeling drawn to the nostalgia of youth or being swept along in the adventure or characters of YA. C.S. Lewis famously said “a children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”. (For more on this, see the dedication in Chronicles of Narnia or read the full essay). There is a different blog post for a different day about the importance of stretching yourself as a reader–but embarrassed and ashamed of reading children’s lit or YA? I don’t think so.
Alright, lengthy side rant concluded.
But in spite of my “take pride in your reading choices” stance, I hate going into the children’s or YA section, which in the case of my local library are completely separate rooms. With glass walls. I feel like the cool young moms and sassy teens see me approaching and stare me down as I enter and do my book browsing. There is judgement from the patrons, even if the library itself promotes diverse reading (they even have a teen books for adults book club).
This particular day, the library was hosting some sort of anime/movie watching event for teens in the YA section. Kids were dispersed throughout the different shelving areas, sitting on the floor, leaning against shelves, laughing at the film. So when I opened the door to their tower in the library, 30 or so heads snapped away from the mounted screen to glare at me for interrupting their film. I ducked my head and stepped over a pair of teens to get to the shelf with my recommendation on it. I tried to be unobtrusive, but two girls noticeably pointed at me and giggled behind their hands. My heart rate sped up and I actually started to sweat. Y’all, it was completely ridiculous. I’m an adult woman and I felt slightly paralyzed by the opinions of a few teenagers. Not only that, they are bookish teens. My people! But I was still inexplicably mortified.
I found my book, grabbed it, clutched it to my chest, and darted toward the exit of the YA section for the refuge of the main stacks. Unfortunately, I lack the standard amount of depth perception and I crashed into the giant librarian’s desk in the center of the room on my way out. The force of my impact moved the desk, spilling a cup of pens onto the seated librarian and jarring some teens leaning against it who cried out, “HEY!” at my rude disruption. I also dropped the stack of books I was holding. While I scrambled to pick them up, the teens murmured angrily among themselves. I then walked as fast as possible to the library exit with my collar up and headphones still in without looking back.
Though the immediate embarrassment has faded, a deep black and purple bruise on my upper thigh the size and shape of an EGG (I held many items up for comparison) reminds me of my shame. Next time, I’ll request the book online, pick it up from the hold shelf, and check my books out without encountering any judgmental humans or embarrassing situations. I’ll wave my book flag high and proud…from the privacy of my home and the internet anonymity of this blog.
Have you ever injured or horribly embarrassed yourself in pursuit of a book? Or am I alone in this?