Religious Authors and Children's Fiction
In response to yesterday's post about Stephenie Meyer and Mormonism, Pooja Makhijani asked an interesting question:
Don't you agree that an author's religious worldview MAY somehow shape his or her fiction and this is worth a critical--but non-offensive--discussion?An author's religious worldview definitely shapes his or her fiction, but I worry about assumptions that drive such a discussion in the realm of children's literature. A story has always been a dialectic between a storyteller and the one who hears or reads it. When it comes to life-changing influence, I'd even make the case that the person on the receiving end has more power than the one who tells it -- even when the teller is an adult and the receiver is a child.
In the world of children's literature, a critical discussion about an author's faith tends to devalue the role of the child or teen reader. This can lead to talk of censorship. But a human being old enough for story is no tabula rasa. Even if a storyteller is trying to be powerful and didactic, the receiver of the story retains the right to interpret and synthesize it.
Does that mean I'd let my eleven-year-old (hypothetical) daughter read the Clique novels or Gossip Girls (which also reveal the authors' religious world views)? Or Stephenie Meyers' Twilight for that matter? If my darling, grazing here and there during her weekly library visit, ends up clutching those novels, so be it. She might hate them. Or find them boring. But if she re-reads a story or craves the next book from a particular author, I'd definitely hope to engage her in a conversation about the themes, issues, and world views possibly driving the stories and shaping the author. A reading of Twilight, for example, sounds like good material for a long car-ride discussion about femininity, masculinity, romantic relationships, and even religion.
Let's face it -- in the parent-child dialectic, or even between teacher and student, the power swings to the adult end of the relationship. Children love stories because for once they sense equality in a relationship with a grownup. It's rare to seek therapy because an author forced a world view on us through fiction.