fiction theory

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Another note on "new" adult
default3, writing!wench
fiction_theory
So, I've seen a lot of people who are very excited about the prospect of there being a "new adult" genre in bookstores as some kind of extension of YA, meant to cover a supposed age gap between the under-18 YA genre and 20-somethings.

My reaction has been decidedly negative, because I don't see that the category is necessary. I think it's pure marketing, and I think it's going to cause problems for authors who get caught up in it. I think it's going to cause actual YA readers to be deprived of books that are meant for them because "new" adult can afford to be sexier. I think it's going to cause adult books to be wrongly revised or aged down, giving YA readers books that weren't really written for them and thus books that may not be what they deserve and may not respect them completely.

More than that, it worries me that this "new" adult, this sort of adult-lite genre is focused on women. That it's females telling other females of a certain age that we're still not adults. Even when we live independently and support ourselves economically, we're still not really adult yet. Even when we're moving up in our careers and doing incredible things, we're STILL NOT FULLY ADULT. Because we're "new" adult.

It worries me that this "new" adult is targeted toward a largely female audience and touched up with female sensibilities, with covers and stories meant to be targeted toward women.

And it has my feminist alarm bells going off. For centuries and centuries, women were basically considered slightly larger children who the head the house - the father/husband - was expected to rule over. Husbands were given varying degrees of control over their wives, and were sometimes expected to spank them as they would spank children for misbehaving. Women were considered unfit, naive, innocent, unworldly because of their gender. Unlike men who could be trusted to handle the serious adult things of the world. Things like voting or owning land or being trusted to go outside with an escort.

So anything that tells me that I'm more immature and hints that it's because I'm female that I'm supposed to be lost or not settled or insecure or less certain of myself than a man or a person older than me really gets me angry.

I'm not seeing a lot of books targeted towards males of the same age, nor male sensibilities. I'm not seeing a lot of 22-26 year old men jumping on the bandwagon and agreeing that they're still very immature and don't know their place in the world.

I see a bunch of young women who apparently want to be branded as slightly larger children just because they like a certain genre.

Let's get this straight. If you're an adult who reads YA, that's NOT a measure of your maturity in life. If you like reading that genre, more power to you. There's some awesome literature there. But what it does not mean is that if that's your preferred method of getting literary joy is that you're anymore lost or uncertain or less adult than people of a similar age who read "adult" books.

While we're at it, can we please make this idea that YA books are always fun and whimisical and more enjoyable and adult books are always stodgy and serious DIE IN A GIANT FIRE? Please, can we get together to do this. Because it seems to me that these "new" adult proponents are trying to say that if you're not writing about a teenager or 20-something protagonist or not writing for those sensibilities, that your works are dull, staid, too difficult to understand.

I resent the idea that somehow, you're only fun until you're 30 or 35 or 40 or whenever the hell you become an "old" adult

Most of the reads I have enjoyed were adult reads. They weren't staid or stodgy, they weren't "new" adult either. They were just good frickin' literature. I don't see the problem with keeping it that way.

I'm not a large child. I'm a woman. An adult. I may not always feel like I'm measuring up to society's standards of what an adult female should be. I'm not particularly thin, have no interest in bearing children, and shopping bores the sweet hell out of me. But that means that there's an issue with society's expectations. It means that society needs to wrap it's head around the diversity of women.

Not that I need a new label because I was born in 1984.

So to all those who are touting and promoting and thinking that this "new" adult thing is a great new idea: it isn't. Especially if you're female. It's just another patronizing voice telling you that instead of owning who you are, being firm in it, and making your way through the world with pride, dignity, and a demand for the respect you are entitled to that you ought to feel immature and not ready yet. That your anxieties mean you're not fully adult yet.

This new category is a patronizing pat on the head that say, "Oh, there dear, I know the world is so big and hard and you're just a wittle bitty girl. Here are some books about other wittle bitty girls, go over in that corner and read them until you're old enough to feel grown up. Leave all this hard adult stuff to us boys and older people."

Because you know what? Adulthood is not really all that much harder or worse than childhood. I remember childhood and my younger years and I really WOULDN'T ever revisit them. High school was miserable, my college years were forgettable at best.

I ENJOY being an adult, I ENJOY that I can take firm stances, that I can completely own myself, my beliefs, my actions, and my life.

And I don't need anyone telling me that because I'm 25 and I've got a vagina that somehow, it's supposed to be otherwise.
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"More than that, it worries me that this "new" adult, this sort of adult-lite genre is focused on women. That it's females telling other females of a certain age that we're still not adults. Even when we live independently and support ourselves economically, we're still not really adult yet. Even when we're moving up in our careers and doing incredible things, we're STILL NOT FULLY ADULT. Because we're "new" adult."

THANK YOU.

More than anything, I've been wondering if this "I don't feel like an adult and don't refer to myself as a woman" mantra I keep hearing is stemming from the experiences of an actual age group or if it's gender specific and patriarchically induced. I have yet to hear a man comment that he doesn't feel like an adult or that he doesn't refer to himself as a man. Our culture perpetuates this contrast: on one hand, we call men MEN but call women GIRLS. It's infantilizing and stereotypical, and I don't appreciate being clumped into a movement that supports it.

I had to stop reading the S Jae-Jones blog because I wanted to plant my fist in that WOMAN's face. And like I said in another entry, I so do not need to get arrested for that crap. Because that's what it is, crap.

If someone wants to infantilize themselves, that's fine, but trying to do it to ALL women of a certain age is just. Well, frankly, I want to say, "Ms Jae-Jones, your shackles are showing."

Plus, it presumes that you're supposed to feel like an adult. I know people who are in their 40's and 50's who don't know what they want to do with their lives (my mom is still contemplating going back to school and what career to be part of and whether she wants to take a new tack and what's her identity. She's had two damn kids, worked in HR for 20+ years and been married twice).

What the fuck is adulthood supposed to feel like anyway? Is there a little timer that goes off and says, "Ding! You're done! Immediacy over!"

I have yet to hear a man comment that he doesn't feel like an adult or that he doesn't refer to himself as a man.

Women still get this problem to THIS DAY. A 22-year-old male is a "guy" or "dude" or "man". But NEVER a boy. Yet women still get called a girl when they're 28. I've heard people say, "This 28-year-old girl". Seriously? Almost thirty and you still don't get the respect of being labeled a full adult?

Women of color especially have to fight this. One big racefail that went down a couple of months ago was a white woman who kept referring to two African-American ladies at a panel as "girls" - EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN THEIR LATE 30'S.

Because that's one thing, especially in the South, that whites did to keep people of color (namely blacks, but also sometimes Latino folks) down. They would call them "boy" or "girl", despite age. So that an 80 year old grandfather of eight would still be boy. And it was derrogatory and oppressive.

And seeing her want to pigeonhole women into that (because OBVIOUSLY THEY ARE ALL WHITE WOMEN) and think that the girl/woman dichotomy doesn't have some traumatic associations for people really makes me want to dole out knuckle sandwiches.

Personally, if she or anyone else wants to refer to themselves as girls, I'm not going to refer to her as anything different out of respect for their choices. But basing a genre off a few people's feelings about how they view themselves or, perhaps even worse, off a social norm? No thanks.

I've been reading your criticisms of this category and you certainly make very valid points. I apologise for using "we"--I can, after all, only speak to my own experience and those of my friends, who are in this demographic. I will try to be more mindful of it in the future.

However, please bear in mind that I am working for a publisher and that I have no power to make executive decisions on whether or not a book gets published or where it gets shelved. This lies in the hands of the editorial board and with the buyers in bookstores. Yes, labels are problematic and genres are problematic, but I'm afraid this is a function of the industry. My blog is a platform for what my publisher wants, and while my own feelings certainly align, I did not intend to "pigeonhole" people. Other publishing houses have turned down manuscripts with protagonists in this age demographic, asking writers either to "age down" or "age up" their characters to place the book on shelves. St. Martin's is trying to give these manuscripts a home. My thoughts on the subject are mine and I'm sorry if I have offended you.

Also, please do not make assumptions about me either. I am not white. I am a Korean-American. I am not single. I am engaged to be married, but I am not heterosexual. I am not thin. Thanks.

-S. Jae-Jones

My blog is a platform for what my publisher wants, and while my own feelings certainly align, I did not intend to "pigeonhole" people.

I understand that there are realities to blogging as part of a position within the industry, and I certainly understand that you're not the person to speak to if I truly wanted to hold someone accountable for this idea.

But you do very much have power over what assumptions you do make and what words you use when speaking. Just as I have power over my assumptions and my words. Speaking of, I apologize for making or sounding like I made any assumptions as to your race or body type. I did actually know you were engaged to be married as you mentioned it in on your blog. I was absolutely wrong if anything I said made you think this. While it wasn't my intent, my intents aren't important, only my results.

I hope you'll take from this that my anger is shared by others, and I'm sure that St. Martin's doesn't want to alienate any potential readers/buyers. So perhaps, in the future, you could focus on "new adult" being about the stories and leave off making statements about readers.

Because I think you'll find that these in-between stories are beloved by more than just 20-something readers. I can show you my 55-year-old uncle who loved Twilight and my 36-year-old friend who regularly recommends books like Ash by Malinda Lo because they're just too good to pass up.

So think about these readers. And think about the precocious younger readers who may only be 13 or 14 and reaching upward in their reading. They exist, and more importantly, they buy. So don't forget them and don't alienate them and try, if you can, not to make statements about them.

Point taken. I will definitely try and be mindful of it in the future. I am grateful for your input and your thoughts about it and I will most certainly take your concerns to my superiors.

I know in-between stories appeal to more than just twentysomethings, just as YA is read by all ages. (I myself prefer YA stories.) Again, I apologise for making generalising statements about readership--this is how "the market" as a whole is discussed in many houses, unfortunately. A lot of generalisation, which I must have absorbed subconsciously.

-S. Jae-Jones

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