There was a mass purge of bizarre branded items, review copies and other freebies where I work a few weeks ago, and I spent most of my time at the books table, where, among other things, I got this:
I just thought: what self-respecting children's book blogger would pass this up? Not that I'm exactly a self-respecting children's book blogger, but I try to be. It's a lot of memoir-type writing by male authors.
It came home with me and went to live on the coffee table, which is essentially our holding pen, where things wait to be blessed or damned. Did I read it? Of course I didn't read it. I've been too busy feeling sorry for myself for an array of ordinary-life trials and browsing aimlessly in the internet to actually read anything. Who did read it? Diana.
What a strange cognitive dissonance it is to see a girl reading a book that cries out on its cover: Guys Read.
She came at it fairly pissed off: "What do you mean guys read? Are you saying I can't read this?" She soon transitioned to irritation and suspicion: "This isn't a novel at all. It's not even fiction? WHY would you have Garth Nix, who is so awesome at writing fantasy, write something that's not even fiction?" Which gave way to absorption. She just read it. And read it. And then she read it some more. It migrated up to her room, where it lives happily shuttling between her desk and her dresser, a much-sampled, confusing new genre.
She did want to know why there would be a book just for guys, the very concept rubbing her the wrong way, and gnawing at her easily triggered injustice reflex. I talked a little bit, and probably none too coherently, about the covers that a lot of YA and middle-grade books have, and how they might be embarrassing for a guy to carry around, and the general stereotypes of who likes to read etc. She took it under consideration.
She feels that books should have no gender. I feel like that's sort of akin to saying there should be no racism. Of course there shouldn't be, but given that it's there, it's better to acknowledge it and try to eradicate it? Right? Maybe?
But really, what I thought would end up being about gender, instead ended up being about a kid reading authors she loves, but reading them in another genre—reading their memories, their actual voices. It's been strangely earth-shaking for her, at least that's how it looks from the outside. When you read a novel by Garth Nix, he's there on the cover, but other than that you're inside his mind. He vanishes from sight, because you're looking through his eyes. When you read his nonfiction story of his youth, he's there in front of you, inescapable, a person. It's like the end of the Wizard of Oz when they lift the curtain.
Did you guys ever read memoir type stuff when you were kids? What do you think?