One Sunday morning in 1981, I came home from church and my soul was on fire. Not because anything exceptional had transpired during the 10:30 service, but because of the way my house smelled when I walked in the side door. My dad was making Indian dishes for the first time. Whatever was happening in that kitchen was weird and wild, and it twined into all my senses, drawing me toward the simmering pot and away from everything else I’d understood as food in my nine years on Earth thus far.
My mother had made most of our meals up to that point — dutifully, methodically and not unkindly, but as a means to an end, getting her husband and two daughters fed. Though she cares greatly for the communion of the dinner table, the artistry of its contents doesn’t especially concern her. It’s not a failing on her part at all — just a seed that had neither been planted nor encouraged to bloom by first-generation American parents who were grateful to have anything to eat at all.
It’s all John Green’s fault.
I’m not just talking about the strong likelihood that I’ll be ugly-crying in public alongside fellow fans of “The Fault In Our Stars” in a theater near me this weekend — I mean the fact that I’m reading much fiction at all these days. But apparently I’m supposed to be embarrassed about my love of Green’s books.
Says Ruth Graham, author of a recent Slate.com jeremiad that proclaims: “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.” Graham goes on to assert that realistic (i.e. non-supernatural, non-dystopian) young-adult-targeted books are somehow supplanting works of literary fiction in adults’ reading lives and how that’s a “shame.”
It’s the “should” (Slate’s italics, not mine) here that vexes me most. It implies that someone else’s hierarchy of taste and personal experience takes precedent over your own, when in reality, letting go of that is one of the great spoils of achieving adulthood.
Let me get anecdotal here for a second.
Read — Grownups: Don’t be ashamed of your YA habit