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The evolution of YA: Invented by librarians

Learn how the Young Adult genre came to be in another of my favorite installments from PBS’s “It’s Lit!” series.

While we see the YA label everywhere now, it wasn’t put into use until the mid-twentieth century, partially because it wasn’t until around World War II that teenagers were even considered their own marketing demographic; before that, everything had been divided into two categories, Child or Adult.

“Books for Young Adults” was a term coined by librarians in 1944 as they gathered and made lists of books from both the Child and Adult categories that would appeal to adolescents—and “Young Adult” has stuck as a genre ever since.

TL;DW: “It’s a bit reductive to be dismissive of Young Adult [fiction]. First of all, it’s not just a niche genre. YA is remarkable for its wide appeal: 55% of YA books purchased in 2012 were bought by adults between 18 and 44 years old... Not only does YA shape younger audiences as readers, it is a genre that helps give its audience a lexicon for understanding that there is a complex world between childhood and adulthood.”

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The 74th Annual Hunger Games, sponsored by Uncrustables™

A hundred years ago in 2012 when The Hunger Games franchise was at the height of its popularity, SNL came out with this ridiculous sketch that I just remembered existed the other day because I spotted Uncrustables at the grocery store and laughed under my mask at the thought of Sofía Vergara plugging the sandwich sponsor and yelling that she’s “HUNGRY FOR MORE HUNGER GAAAAAMES!!!”

Vergara gives 100% as an overly enthusiastic Capitol reporter getting the scoop from inside the arena as kids drop dead around her, which is probably a fairly accurate representation of how Capitol people would’ve acted watching the Hunger Games at home.

And how can you not love these two:

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When you can’t go to Hogwarts, become Hogwarts

I’m a big fan of relaxing background noise for sleeping, reading, sometimes for working. And once lockdown started, I started playing this kind of stuff more and more, until eventually a YouTube recommendation led me to this: Hogwarts ASMR ambiance.

Creator ASMR Rooms has done her due diligence in recreating some of the most well-loved locales from the book version of the Potterverse, both visually and aurally— complete with fire-crackling, rain-pattering, quill-scratching goodness, and occasional, subtle onscreen action.

The artwork itself also reminds me of the style you’d see on Harry Potter merch in the pre-Warner Brothers days, or illustrations by the US books’ illustrator Mary Grandpré.

These days, I’m working from home in the Ravenclaw common room. Why not?

If you like the library video above, take your pick from the playlist of 50+ other Potter-inspired ambiance videos. Some of my favorites:

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Dear Stephenie Meyer,

Like a lot of girls circa 2005-2008, I read the Twilight series. I was a few years older than the demographic of pre-teens to fifteen-year-olds the series was marketed to, but I got aboard the hype train. And eventually, the hate train.

With its sparkly vampires, do-nothing protagonist, stalker-y hero, and predictable plot lines, Twilight was and is an easy target for criticism.

But so are a lot of things. So, why did Twilight and its author Stephenie Meyer get SO. MUCH. HATE. when other, equally mindless entertainment with equally problematic role models got a pass? In short, people find it easy to hate on teen girls and things teen girls like.

This video essay exploring the topic and offering an apology to author Stephenie Meyer by YouTuber and author Lindsay Ellis (okay, I know I’ve posted frequently about Ellis but idc, great content is great content) kind of blew my mind when I first watched it, and it opened my eyes to some of my own internalized misogyny.

Not that Twilight hate is super trendy anymore, but I can safely say I have jumped off that bandwagon, and I hope this helps folks, myself included, be more aware of jumping on any similar bandwagons in the future. (I mean, I’ll still enjoy a meme now and again, I’m only human.)

Let’s let teenage girls like things, without the heaps of shame.

TL;DW:After a while, the ‘it’s problematic’ argument starts to feel like a lazy excuse to hate on a popular thing teenage girls liked rather than good faith criticism. … Why was Stephanie Meyer so loathed? She didn’t do anything! She wrote a wish-fulfillment book. It’s not great, but it’s far from the worst of its genre.

Yes, Twilight is silly. A lot of pop culture is silly. Imagine the same level of vitriol being leveled at the equally silly Fast and the Furious franchise. Both are dumb cheese, but they are dumb cheese targeting different markets. So why is one dumb cheese the object of so much pearl-clutching over who’s a good role model, and the other [is just fine]?”

For similar content on why we should collectively ease up on teenage girls, check out my post on poet Olivia Gatwood’s piece “When I Say That We Are All Teen Girls.”

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“Watch me punk Stephen King.” -Maya Angelou

Somehow, this sketch gets funnier every time I watch it.

The premise: Maya Angelou has a prank show and she does it in a very … Maya Angelou way.

Juxtaposing Angelou’s gravitas and dignified cadence with a wacky prank show was a genius idea and I want to hug whomever in the SNL writers’ room came up with it.

Also, Bill Hader plays Stephen King in it.

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“I want to write a poem for the women on Long Island”

I’ve posted about the talented and unapologetic Olivia Gatwood before, and here she is again—this time with a poem from her “ode to” series, in which she writes odes to things that are supposed to be shameful (“Ode to My Bitch Face” and “Ode to My Period Underwear” are a few of the other titles).

Here, she portrays Long Island women not as the joke they’re often made out to be but as the fierce, take-no-shit survivors and protectors that they are. And she still manages to keep humor intact.

Excerpt from the poem in the video and her collection New American Best Friend:

Ode to the Women on Long Island

I want to write a poem
for the women on Long Island who
when I show them the knife I carry in my purse
tell me it’s not big enough
Who are waitresses and realtors and massage therapists and social workers
and housewives
and tell me they wish they would have been artists
“but life comes fast ya know?
One minute you’re taking typing classes for your new secretary job in the World Trade Center and the next it’s almost over
Life, I mean
but I kicked and screamed my way through it and so will you
I can tell by the way you walk
One more thing—when they call you a bitch, say, ‘Thank you, thank you very much.’”

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“Ugh, the book was better.”

PBS’s “It’s Lit!” series is great at boiling down huge concepts into a tight five, and this video is a case in point.

As someone who has a blast comparing film adaptations with their literary source material, this exploration of the topic nails what can sometimes be hard for book-lovers to succinctly express.

TL;DW:Books are, by their very nature, more personal. When you’re reading a book, your brain is essentially acting as director, casting agent, cinematographer—Is it any wonder that people get protective of the books that they love being turned into a major motion picture? No! It’s as if a middle man has stepped in between you and the literal movie of your dreams.

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Go Dog Go: A compelling and disturbing look at the canine psyche

One of my favorite childhood books was Go, Dog. Go! by P. D. Eastman. My dad read it to me often—I loved the ending, even though I knew what was coming every time—and, published in the early sixties, it was one of his childhood favorites as well.

So when I first saw South Park‘s illiterate cop Officer Barbrady do this book report on Go, Dog. Go!, it had me rolling. The rest of the book-centered episode is just as good, with Barbrady successfully learning to read but giving it up altogether upon completing Atlas Shrugged. But that’s a post for another day.

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“We will not be categoried!”

This fake trailer for YA phenomenon The Group Hopper from SNL drags some of my favorite (Hunger Games) and least favorite (Maze Runner) dystopian YA novels/films, and I am. Here. For. It.

Also, Bill Hader’s in it.

From the director of Maze Runner, the producer of Divergent, and a casual fan of The Giver, adapted from a YA novel written entirely in the comments section of a Hunger Games trailer, meet: The Group Hopper. Put him in a group, and he’ll hop his ass right out.