Monthly Archives: June 2021

Defeating the Empire of the Vampire

Kenny Brechner - June 24, 2021

One of the laws of bookselling physics is that if a book by an established author has the material to reach beyond their usual audience, it needs a cover which will both lure the perspective and reassure the established audiences. The case of Jay Kristoff’s new epic dark fantasy, Empire of the Vampire, is a peculiar one in that regard.

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A Devaluation of Young Adult Literature

Kenny Brechner - June 18, 2021

Shana Youngdahl, author of the young adult novel As Many Nows As I Can Get, is an exceptional writer. Having an author of her widely recognized ability and rising stature on the faculty of the University of Maine at Farmington has been a remarkable asset to both the university community and the community at large. Shana was hired as an English professor. Her ability as a novelist surfaced during her time here and was akin to having a rare jewel fall from the sky and land in the community’s lap.

Shana is leaving to take a new position as Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the MFA Program at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. This occurred not because she wanted to leave UMF or the Farmington area, but because her contract was not renewed and she was let go. Her departure speaks to a broader issue, the profound undervaluation of children’s literature by academic institutions and the literary community in general. There is a strong gender bias at work in that, equating children’s books and bookselling with child-rearing and women’s work.

I suggest that this is a spectacularly ill-advised bias. There is nothing more central to the human experience than the maturation process known as coming of age.  It encompasses the navigation of a changing relationship to agency, from being a subject of the world to being a creator of the world. The nature of responsibility, justice, love, personal identity, and morality are all intrinsically centered in young adult novels exploring the coming of age. What could be more important than an engagement with these issues? What could provide more of a bridge to adults working with teenagers and young adults than reading their literature? What could be more important than opening up to the persistent relevance of these issues to an engaged adult?

In my opinion, the failure to value young adult literature by academic institutions is a failure to appreciate the nature of their own mission. I’ll miss Shana deeply on an array of personal and professional grounds, but it is the needless nature of the loss and what that says about our social and cultural values, that I mourn most.

Which Famous Books Were Written by Aliens?

Kenny Brechner - June 11, 2021

I’ve been given to understand that aliens are having a moment. With secret government agencies set to deliver The Disclosure, which will go way beyond the government’s recently released UFO Report, it seems a good time to me to hone up on our alien knowledge so that the shock of the revealed truth won’t be too overwhelming.

Consider too that in the wake of The Disclosure, aliens may soon gain even more traction in children’s books, dethroning unicorns and narwhals.

Find out now if you are under, over, or well prepared by taking the 10 question quiz I developed. Just click on the image of the first three questions below to take the real quiz.