Why are there no politics in YA fiction?
I can probably guess the first answer that comes to mind for most people (at least for Americans):
*gasp* Politics are taboo! You can’t put them in fiction!”
Up until last year, I probably would have been one of those people. As someone who was born and raised in the U.S. by parents of the Baby Boomer generation, I, too, was taught that politics (and religion) are taboo. You aren’t supposed to talk about them, especially in public!
Well… because you can’t! It’s just not done.
That, ladies and gentleman, is old, war-time ideology. Discussing politics or religion in public could offend someone. It could gain unwanted attention. It could make a scene. It could make me a target by those who think differently than me and who may be more radical in their beliefs. But, the thing is, I am not my parents and I’m not my grandparents.
They had a lot of nationalism, a lot of pride. My grandparents were brought together by WWII when times were hard and food was scare, and they learned to take care of their own. They then pushed this onto my parents who lived through the fight against communism. Both generations believed in helping neighbors, in supporting other Americans, in showing strength as a united front to the rest of the world. After all, America was the big brother, the enforcer, the police chief that was going to save the rest of the world, but…
I don’t live in that era.
I am not skeptical of the rest of the world. I am not afraid to travel abroad, which is why I did travel abroad. Last spring I went to Japan and S. Korea and I saw more kindness in a day than I may see in a month in America.
And, to be honest, I do not always have the same pride and faith in my countrymen and my government like my parents did. I do not trust them. I do not believe they have my best interests at heart, but I am American and I love my home and that’s why I have to be political.
But that’s taboo.
I can have an opinion. I can have thoughts. I can want change, but I can’t say any of it here in America. I can’t stand up for what I believe in without being ostracized by the older generations. Yet, I am not alone.
In graduate school, I made friends with other millenials who do not believe certain topics are taboo. We talked openly about politics, religion, money, science, mental health, and more. Every subject was up for discussion. Every one was allowed their opinion. And it’s about time!
Because other parts of the world don’t have ‘taboo’ topics.
While in Japan and S. Korea, I was often asked what my take was on the then upcoming American election. Who did I support? What were my thoughts? And those people would, in turn, offer up opinions on their own country’s politics. We would be a group of strangers discussing government and policies and what was best for the country and no one backed down. No one cast criticizing, side-long glances at anyone who brought up politics. It was completely open!
And that’s what needs to continue happening here. We need to stop being afraid of discussing certain topics because that’s what allows hypocrisy, corruption, and other foul things to continue. We need to start questioning the ‘status quo’ that our parents and grandparents set.
And we can do so through more than just protests.
We can do so through books.
I know countless young adults, teens, even children who have an opinion on politics and religion. I know some who have stronger, more educated opinions than adults. I know some who are more open-minded than adults.
These children are not too young. They are not too inexperienced in the ways of the world. And ignoring them and telling them to shush because you think they are not whatever you deem appropriate to have a political opinion, is silencing another generation that could make some serious change in the world. So is keeping politics and religion out of literature.
Authors have had many discussions about bringing new topics into YA literature as a means to educate teens and young adults because certain topics- ‘taboo’ topics -are not open for them in real life. They can’t talk to their parents about certain things. Society frowns upon certain things, which only leads to ignorance and I for one don’t want another silent, ignorant generation. If we’re going to offer young people guidance through literature, we should offer them guidance on all fronts, including politics.
But maybe you disagree?
Leave your thoughts in the comments!
And check out my discussion from last week:
“Altered History Historical Fiction“