Earlier this week, the Best Fiction For Young Adults committee members received an unexpected email from our diligent chair informing us of a YALSA policy we had been neglecting. Evidently, selection committee members are not permitted to nominate from pre-publication copies of books, but must read and evaluate only the finished final product. I, for one, was surprised, since I have done pretty much all of my nominating from galleys and ARCs. In fact, I had been viewing it as my responsibility to stay ahead of the publishing curve, trying to read ahead books that may not come out for a few months. And this information came to me on the same day as an ARC for the new Corey Doctorow book Pirate Cinema, a book I was really looking forward to reading and evaluating.
I don’t know if it was the dizzying prospect of having a part time job, or feeling flattered that someone I respect would suggest that I do it, or simply thriving on being over-committed, but I’m serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee 2013. Throughout my year of service, I’m going to try to provide a window into my experience sitting on the committee, showing you how the BFYA sausage gets made and hopefully interesting some of you in joining in the future.
When I was formally accepted as a member of BFYA2013, it started to really sink in what I’d gotten myself into. I hadn’t really read a book since the birth of my son in December, preferring to spend my time sleeping or staring at his fuzzy head. I’m used to reading 3-5 books over the course of Shabbat if I don’t have too many social commitments, and 1-2 during the week, so this steep decline was worrying. The email from the chair welcoming us all to BFYA2013 said we would read an average of a book a day for the year, and to see our friends now, because we wouldn’t have any time for them in the future. I pruned my RSS feed and YouTube subscriptions and pulled ARCs that fit in the brief (September 1, 2011 through December 31, 2012) off the shelf to start reading.
I came back from the February break schools get up here in New England to a surprise: they had updated the firewall. I discovered this when I sat down to do my morning routine on the computer: log in to GMail, open up my GoogleCalendar and GoogleDocs, and log in to Twitter. But thanks to our newly robust firewall, Twitter was blocked.
I never thought I was going to have such a serious problem with a popular book that I almost didn’t put it on the shelves. I’m a cool, gay, sex-positive, pro-teen agency guy, I thought to myself when I was getting my MLIS, the parents may have problems with my selections, but too bad! I’m here to advocate for the students. And then I read Twilight.
I almost didn’t buy the Twilight books for my 7-8 school library. I don’t hate them because I’m a guy, or because of the excruciatingly bad prose, or the corruption of vampire mythology without acknowledging or commenting on the original, or even because Bella is such a waste of space. I hate them because of the sexual messaging they impart to teens, especially teen girls, robbing them of agency and normalizing stalking and abusive behavior.