Alas, Pavarotti and Madeleine L’Engle Too

7 09 2007

From her 1998 speech accepting the American Library Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award For Writing in the Field of Young Adult Literature (the Margaret Edwards Award):

We live in a fantastic universe, and subatomic particles and quantum mechanics are even more fantastic than the macrocosm. Often the only way to look clearly at this extraordinary universe is through fantasy, fairy tale, myth. During the fifties Erich Fromm published a book called THE FORGOTTEN LANGUAGE, in which he said that the only universal language which breaks across barriers of race, culture, time, is the language of fairy tale, fantasy, myth, parable, and that is why the same stories have been around in one form or another for hundreds of years.

Someone said, “It’s all been done before.”
Yes, I agreed, but we all have to say it in our own voice.

There are many distinct voices in the world of YA literature today, and the chief thing they have in common is their honoring of the human spirit. Their protagonists are always subjects, and never objects. One definition of pornography I was given is treating people as objects. In most YA novels we are able to enter into the subject, to feel empathy, to be willing to be part of the story. . .