Changes And Gender Issues

Or: What I Learned From KidlitCon 13.

I kind of have some unformed thoughts that I’d like to put into something Grand and Introspective, but I think it’s just going to end up being  a jumbled mess.

One of the questions that was brought up in the Middle Grade panel was reader ages and appropriateness, and since we’re really blogging for the gatekeepers, rather than the readers themselves, what we, as bloggers, can do to help with that. And the thing that I got out of it was this: ages for books are Not Helpful. Rather, content advisories are preferable. So: one of the simple changes is that I’m going to do away with the age range on the books. Instead, I’m going to (briefly, I hope) mention anything I think is worth bringing up (ie, anything “offensive” or just general content), the general “feel” of the book, and where I’d shelve it in the bookstore. And then let the reader decide the age.

I hope that helps.

Also: the thing I took away from Lee’s panel was that labeling posts — not broadly, but specifically — helps reader find posts better. And that my general categories — middle grade, YA, science fiction/fantasy — are not especially helpful. So, I’m going to try to be more specific in my labeling. Hopefully, that will help readers better be able to find books.

And: I think I’m going to start a monthly list feature. It was one of Jen Robinson and Sarah Stevenson’s suggestions in order to get blogging groove back. And it came up again in Lee’s session. I’m going to try to, once a month, come up with a list of books on some topic that I think are worthy.

Which brings me to gender issues.

The question I asked in the middle grade panel was this: I find that I have a very hard time selling a book with a cover like this

to the parents/grandparents of boys. And sometimes, even, the boys themselves (though not as much, since I don’t really interact with kids that often.) Likewise, I have problems selling books like this

to parents/grandparents of girls, though less so.

I know a lot of it is the way “we” as a society raise our boys. (Granted: I don’t have ANY experience with this, having 4 girls, but this is what I’ve observed.) We are much more comfortable, for many reasons, with our girls being Masculine than our boys being Feminine. But, what I’m really asking is not how to Solve This, but rather, what can I, as a blogger (and a mother of girls and a bookseller), do to help people the truth that every avid reader knows: a good story is a good story! I’m not sure I have answers, but I am thinking about it, which is more than I was before.

Other people have brought this up in better ways than I can. Shannon Hale, obviously (I didn’t dig through her blog to find a specific post, but she often blogs about gender issues), but also go check out what Charlotte and Anne Ursu have to say about the AASL panels this coming weekend.  Either way, it’s going to be an ongoing discussion, and one I hope I can add to.

Which is all one blogger/mom/bookseller can ask.

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5 thoughts on “Changes And Gender Issues

  1. These sound like good ideas to me, Melissa. I've dabbled in tags like “female protagonist”, “male protagonist”, etc., but I could clearly do more with this. I don't think I'll drop age ranges, but I will try to talk more in the review about what I mean by them … And yes to reading Shannon Hale for general inspiration on gender issues.

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  2. Thanks for continuing the conversation (which I wish we had had another day or so to talk more about in person….) I guess what I am thinking of doing more of is confronting blog readers with my impressions of how the book is being marketed, and if it is a book that I think deserves to be read by all genders, talking more about what aspects of its story could be used to persuade the non-marketing-target audience to give it a try.

    (I'm also directly confronting my own 10 year old with the importance of not letting title and cover stand in the way of a good book–“don't you want to fight gender sterotypes?” and I almost have him ready to read The Runaway Princess).

    The problem with so many of the things that seem like good and useful things to do in one's blogging is that they take extra time….and goodness knows there's not much of it to begin with. But I guess that the more one thinks about adding more nuance and detail in a general sort of way, the more likely it is to creep into one's reviews….

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  3. I think age ranges are helpful because people can relate to them, and also know if their child is an immature 10, then something rated 12 and up won't be for them, but if they are mature, it might be fine.

    I still don't think the cover topic was anything revolutionary. I think it's valid and always been something that I address if I think the cover is counter to what is inside the book, and come to think of it, it's often in regards to gender stereotypes, but sometimes age — covers that look babyish but aren't etc.

    And I agree with Charlotte, and have been moved to change some things like you have, Melissa, just because I've been thinking more about them.

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  4. I think your points, Jen and Jennifer, about age ranges are good ones. Maybe I'll try the content for a while, or do both. Then again, perhaps doing away with the age ranges will enable adult readers to more readily pick up a middle rade book.

    I like your ideas for changes Charlotte. I do wish we had longer to talk about them in person, as well!

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  5. This is why I decided to evaluate every book I review with a movie-esque rating. Even though I use the MPAA's guidelines, it's still a very subjective thing. And yet, I think it gives an instant picture of the book's content and for what ages it might be appropriate.

    Also, one of the problems I've run into with really specific labels is that Blogger only lets you use so many of them. I'd like to label the heck out of every book, but sometimes I have to pick and choose.

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