Teen literature takes a bold step forward
Themes like sexual abuse, sex, homosexuality and romance are breaking new grounds more than ever in teen fiction now
When author Ranjit Lal penned Smitten, a book for young adults, the story line was about sexual abuse with the father shown as the culprit.
However, he had to change the story line when the publisher sent the manuscript to some schools. “Some principals suggested the abuser should be changed to stepfather,” said Ranjit Lal, a winner of Ladli award for gender sensitivity in 2012.
“Though I didn’t want to step into the stereotypical line of stepdads being bad, I changed it for the sake of the book” said Lal, whose book, Face On the Water, deals with female foeticide.
Themes like sexual abuse, sex, homosexuality and romance are breaking new grounds more than ever. However, the debate on what is acceptable for young children is always a raging one. Author Paro Anand’s book — Like Smoke, opens with a line, “I hate Muslims”. The book, a collection of short stories tackles themes like riots, violence, death and love in a subtle way.
Remembering how Anand had a debate with children on this during a workshop, says. “There were a lot of arguments on the story where an young girl perceives all Muslims as terrorists because her father was killed by one. Some of them argued that all Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” However, the author felt that the only way to break the stereotypes is to keep the dialogues open.
Himanjali Sankar, author of Talking of Muskaan, a novel for young adults dealing with homosexuality, said that more than pulishers, it was schools which resisted her book. “Schools were apprehensive that parents would find the topic hard,” she said. However, authors admit that stepping into these delicate realms is a tricky business. The message has to be sent in a fair way without taking the high moral ground.
However, Sohini Mitra, senior commissioning editor with Puffin, said that publishers are more accomodating now. She says,
“We are dealing with dark themes now. We also make sure that the subject treatment is in a sensitive way for the target group. Here, we have lot of parental monitoring when it comes to books. ”
Though I didn’t want to step into the stereotypical line of stepdads being bad, I changed it for the sake of the book Ranjit Lal, author