Friday, October 17, 2008

What are your daughters reading?

Edward's Meadow? Hmmm!I loved reading when I was growing up--though it's rather amusing why. Someone that I looked up to recommended a book to me that was way beyond my comprehension at the time--Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke. (You might remember this from a post I made a few months ago.) It was an incredibly difficult book for me to read, but I read it anyway, and when I finished, I asked for more. I went on to read the next three books in what became a series. And my love for reading really took off, as I became so intrigued by the amazing stories of these characters. I was in 6th or 7th grade at the time, and to be perfectly honest with you, I was reading about some very adult themes, and I didn't even realize it.

I explored the science-fiction section of the library, found authors that I liked, and stories. And once in a while I would come across a book that... well, it wasn't written for an audience at my age. I didn't really care, I didn't focus on things I didn't understand and just went through them anyway. But I really wonder...

Movies today, and even TV-shows, have ratings so parents are aware of what could be inappropriate content. But you don't find ratings on books. But I really wonder if maybe there should be?

A good friend of mine was recently telling me about a book she was reading. I was actually getting annoyed because I expect if someone is going to tell me what they are reading that they will actually tell me what happens--5 minutes worth explaining the first chapter only might find me rapidly losing interest. But I picked up on a few things: "vampire," "Seattle."

CoverA few days later I was sitting in a Sunday school class listening to the girls chat about what books they were reading--and something started to sound familiar. So I took what I remembered from the first chapter my friend had explained and asked them--sure enough, the same book. It's called Twilight, by the way, and is followed by 3 more already in print, and a another still in progress. Now I'm hearing about this book everywhere, it seems--a film based on the first book will be released in December of this year.

I mentioned to my friend that some of the girls had expressed thoughts that something in the book (romantic in nature) might not be appropriate for them, and she scoffed that it was just because they are Muslim.

So I know that Muslims tend to crack down a little on movies and television, as well as music and often magazines. But I wonder if popular fiction also deserves some criticism? I think reading is great--it's been shown to improve vocabulary, spelling, reasoning... thinking! A friend of mine who teaches 7th grade says that the students at that age are vastly more prepared to think critically about the world if they are students who have been reading books. On the other hand, students who didn't had more difficulty thinking about the world in broader terms. So reading is important... but maybe we should be a little critical of what we read? Or not? Maybe if we raise our children right in the first place something like this won't be a problem?

I'm curious what people think. :-)

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amy,

I think that while reading should always be encouraged, because it helps expand childrens (and adults) minds, everyone needs to be careful about what their children are reading.

These books, for instance. The 'Twilight' series. I'm a fan of vampires, and everyone kept telling my how good they were, so I picked the first one up. It's not a book that I would want my child reading. Not so much for the romance aspects, which, in the first book, are minimal, but the portrayal of the relationship between Bella and Edward. The way it is written, I see it as borderline abusive, and at the very least, more controlling on Edward's part than I am comfortable with. And Bella, the lead female, has the personality of, well, nothing really. Maybe they get better in the series, but I sincerely doubt it.

A parent needs to watch what is getting into their childrens minds, because these things stick, whatever other lessons we might give, and I certainly would not want a daughter to read these and think that this is the way a relationship should work.

One would hope that the child could look to her parents relationship to see an appropriate way to interact, but in the case of single parents, this isn't possible.

-Amber

The Muslim Kid said...

Funny, I always see that book but with girls, I saw my guy friend reading and asked him why he was reading it, he said he knows a lot of people who read it.

Well you know, this really relates to a post which I was going to make right now so you should check it out when you get a chance, but you know I personally think that it depends on age. No I wouldn't my kids reading that in the case that their young.

Ill explain more in this post I will write soon..

-The Muslim Kid-

Lynn said...

Amber, did that book portray that kind of relationship in a good light? That is what makes the difference. Maybe the best thing isn't to hide realities but to show it and the proper responses to it.

Anonymous said...

Lynn,

Since I've only read the first book, I can't say for certain that it isn't addressed in a later book. But, in the first book at least, the problems with the relationship were not addressed. It was treated as completely normal and the way things should be by the characters who knew about the relationship.

And certainly, hiding reality from a child doesn't do them any good at all, and if the book did show the right response to that relationship? I'd let my child read it when I thought that they were old enough to understand, and discuss it with them. Just like I would anything else that caused me concern.

I'm one of those people who think that all knowledge is worth having, but you have to have the proper maturity and framework to understand it. And the providing of that is a part of a parents responsibility.

-Amber

nameseek said...

Salaams

I never read the book, probably is interesting, but the Twilight trailer makes movie seem really.. lame. If someone is interested in a deep vampire story, then Interview with a vampire would be it. Like the author says: "Its about humans, not vampires."

Anyways, Amy, just wanted to let you know my issue is resolved. Jazakallah-khair for all your thoughtful input. :)

Ws.

Grégoire said...

My daughter's read all those books (there are four or five of them).

Meyer is a Mormon and her books are filled with Mormon cultural themes. I've found the books interesting (have read parts) but not particularly compelling for anyone but the teenage crowd.

Amy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! Let me try to reply one at a time:

Amber--Thanks for your perspective, I hadn't heard that the relationship might by abusive. I did this weekend pick up the book and read a couple chapters and would have to agree that the main character seems to be missing some personality.

The Muslim Kid--Thanks for stopping by. I agree, any kind of material can always be better digested at certain ages.

Nameseek--Salaams bro, I'm glad if I could help you at all, and thanks for letting me know. May Allah bless and reward you.

Grégoire--Interesting, I didn't know the author was Mormon. Can you explain the Mormon cultural themes which come up in the book? I hadn't noticed the main character to be Mormon (or any religion in particular at all.) And they do seem mostly limited in interest to teenagers and young women, but that's why I said what are your "daughters" reading? :-)

Anonymous said...

Amy,

Well, I will be the first to admit that I am, occasionally oversensitive to some issues. Abusive relationships and alcoholism/drug addition being some of them. When I read the book, I knew which parts made me uncomfortable, and knowing my own "issues" I poked arount the internet. I'm not the only one who sees the relationship as abusive, and apparently it gets worse in the later books.

And the characters are very flat. I think it's (for me) a combination of poor writting and me being an adult reading a book written for teenagers. Which just hurts, cause I would hope even a teenager would be old enough to realize this wasn't very good.

re: mormon themes - Well, that does explain a lot, and more of my discomfort. Gonna have to look into that some more.

-Amber

Amoola said...

Assallamu alaikum sis,

Long time no 'speak' :) InshaAllah you are keeping well.

I think parents should be careful of what they allow their children to read, in the same way that they should monitor what they watch. If this means reading the book first, then they should do so! I really dont see the need for muslim youth to be filling their heads with vampire rubbish. Many of the messages in such books are unislamic and contain shirk. It does nothing for one's islam or iman.
May Allah help us to guide out children to the correct way, and protect them from deviation, ameen.

Grégoire said...

Grégoire--Interesting, I didn't know the author was Mormon. Can you explain the Mormon cultural themes which come up in the book?

It'd be impossible to explain if you didn't grow up in the era and location I grew up in. Follow the link below and see if you can pick out the hidden Mormon themes.

re: mormon themes - Well, that does explain a lot, and more of my discomfort. Gonna have to look into that some more.

Dear "anonymous": If it bothers you so badly, why don't you write a story for my frame narrative from a Muslim perspective?

http://lotfortynine.wordpress.com/index/

If you want your teenage kids to quit wasting time on the trashy, desublimated erotica which passes for literature these days, it ain't enough to simply start burning books.