{DISCUSSION} Politics in YA Fiction

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!

Why not?
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


15 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Politics in YA Fiction”

  1. I keep my politics to myself, in life and in my writing, because nobody seems to WANT to discuss things. They want “yes men” and echo chambers where everyone agrees and pats themselves on the back for walking the one true path. Most issues are way too nuanced for simple answers and pointing those out often end in being called a fascist or racist, I know because it’s happened to me until it confirmed my disgust in humanity writ large and I moved on. As for the nationalism, I love my country and think its the best place there is. Not perfect, but the best option in a complicated world. I would hope other people would think the same of their country, and it makes me sad that ANYONE would not think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is a shame that nobody wants to discuss politics, and I think that’s why we are facing so many issues in our politics right now. We’re hushing everyone up by teaching them it’s wrong to talk about it. However, change doesn’t happen through silence. Change happens through voices, through challenging the way things are done, and the people in power fear that. But the people in power are majority of the older generations. I am hoping my generation and the generation after me will be the ones to say ‘no,’ to say ‘this is wrong,’ and to start making change and speaking out. What’s the point in freedom of speech if societal rules are silencing us on certain subjects anyway?

      Ah. Nationalism. Sad to say, I don’t think America is the best place to live. I think it’s great. Definitely. And every country has its flaws. However, I see the flaws of my country because I live here and while that isn’t so much an issue as everyone having no desire to change the issues. We swept them under the rug and continue to boast that we’re the best country in the world, putting on a mask, but I don’t see the mask. I see the face underneath and I don’t like it. I want it to improve. I know it can, and I hope it will.


      1. American IDEALS are the best. They are what we should strive to live up to as a nation, and the genesis of our founding. Do we always live up to them? No, but that doesn’t diminish the value of the ideas. That is what makes us unique, we were founded on more than geography, we were founded on ideas. Ideas that still ring true, even in these modern times.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I live in the Southern U.S. My boyfriend and I are getting really tired of older people blowing off our political opinions by saying we are “young and naive.” I think the “politics and age” intersecting taboo is a way to keep the older generations in political power. Bringing politics into YA would put the ball in that age group’s court, so to speak.
    I’d like to see more politically-minded YA involving the slow descent into dystopia rather than skipping right to the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! I fully understand where you are coming from as I, too, have been shushed because I am ‘too young.’ Excuse me, at what age does one become politically aware? At what age are our opinions allowed to be heard? I think this is a HUGE issue right now in our government because so many of the politicians are in the older generation and they aren’t leaving. They’re working well beyond the years that working class Americans would work, they’re not changing their opinions or adapting to the modern world, and they’re not allowing any room for new, younger politicians to join and offer input. Really, it just makes the older generation look stuck in their ways and stubborn.

      Oo! I think that would be quite an interesting novel/series to see how society would crumble as the government became too powerful. I don’t think I know of any that do that at the moment. They all work from the established dystopian. Perhaps that’s why it’s becoming so easy for us to fall into a dystopian in the real world. We aren’t seeing the signs even though we know the ending. (Am I making any sense? :p)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I disagree that Americans would say that politics can’t be included in fiction, especially right now. And a lot of dystopian and fantasy novels/series include politics anyway and a lot of times those series end up being the most popular.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that you almost always disagree with me, Rae! ^.^ And I would agree that some fiction novels have introduced politics, but I’m not sure if it ever truly reaches an extent to promote speaking about politics. A lot of the dystopians involve hush-hush political talks and usually result in a rebellion or something. However, I think it’d be more interesting to have the politics be more forefront and open because I think a lot of them still broach it as a bit of a taboo topic. Perhaps you have examples to prove me wrong, though?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, I see what you mean with it not being the main topic of the novel. Maybe it’s just the type of person that I am that even with stories like The Hunger Games and Divergent, I feel like the political aspect in those can’t be ignoted you know?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hmm… I can see your point. They are political in the sense that they are going against the government, but I suppose I am looking for something more obviously political because I want us to be allowed to more openly speak about such topics instead having to beat around the bush. Additionally, those are hard dystopians. I’d like to see politics in something less dystopian. Perhaps contemporary? Like politics before our government loses its mind?


          1. I see what you mean, but I still don’t think that they are political simply for the fact that they are fighting back, there’s more to it than just that. On the other hand, I feel that there are plenty of novels that talk about topics such as race, religion, etc and how those things affect politics

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I find this so interesting. I had to pause a podcast about politics co-hosted by a YA author (Maureen Johnson) to read this so it’s not that politics aren’t discussed by YA authors it’s just that many times they don’t overtly put them into their books. It’s discussed on social media and things like that but for the most part kept out directly mentioning it in novels.
    Much of it is subtextual. Take for example The Hunger Games, that is about government control; what can happen if government power is unchecked. Harry Potter is can be seen in a political light. I think that many people who grew up reading about how Lord Voldemort’s takeover of the wizarding world and his views on muggles are seeing many parallels to the current situation in American politics. That was actually one of the things Harry and the Potters talked about at the concert I went to on Saturday.
    I think that with the current political climate we may start to see books that are overtly about politics, but I think that more than likely we will continue to see it more in the subtext than the overall theme.
    Very interesting topic this week I look forward to seeing what other people have to say about this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that there is some semblance of politics in YA fiction. At least in the books that come to my mind: dystopians with rebellions. After all, a rebellion is a form of getting involved in and challenging politics.

      However, in the current state of the world, we are trying to focus less on wars/battles/violence and more on peaceful protests, which we don’t often see in YA fiction. Nor do we see young adults getting politically active by speaking out (unless they are the figurehead of the rebellion). I think this is what I mean when I want to see more.

      Don’t get me wrong! I love fighting and action as much as the next person, but it’s a lot more gruesome and nasty than many of the YA books are currently making it out to be.

      Liked by 1 person

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