OK, I just can't help myself. Have you seen LiLa's blog today? Their post about the F-bomb in teen lit sparked an amazing discussion about everything from parental rights to censorship. This is a touchy subject, but if I don't take it on I'm going to bite a hole in my tongue.
Let me get this out of the way first: I am a parent. I believe authors using the F-bomb just to shock are basically lazy, irresponsible writers. I teach literature for a living, sometimes to teens.
(Caveat over...here goes...)
On LiLa's post, I saw a lot of commentary mentioning parental rights, as in, it is my right to not buy books that contain the F-word for my teenager. Of course this is your right. But should it be the determining factor?
What is the motivation here? To shield a 13 year old from this word? Guess what? Unless she's been raised in an arctic commune in Greenland, she's already heard it, knows what it means, knows the variations of grammatical usage, and has probably, if not spoken it aloud, thought it when she dropped her cell phone on cement or missed a major homework assignment.
I can understand the powerlessness parents feel as their families are chronically assaulted by reality television, violent video games and predatory marketing. Because of this I can almost understand parents taking advantage of opportunities to protect their children from vulgarity and unpleasantness until they are old enough to take it on. Almost. My fear is this leaves the child wholly unprepared for that "real world" we're always telling her about. Art helps us learn about ourselves and the world around us. It helps us understand what it is to be human, and celebrate the qualities we share and the ones that make us unique. Denying exposure to great art because of one bathroom stall word is short-sighted at best. It denies opportunity. To me, that is a worse parental crime.
While reading the comments following the post, someone mentioned The Catcher in Rye as an example of profanity used within literature deemed classic. The first thing that came to mind was, there was swearing in Catcher in the Rye? I was fifteen when I picked up Salinger's book. I remember identifying with Holden's loneliness, anger, and almost rigid morality. I remember feeling a rush of relief, grateful I no longer felt like the only weirdo in the world. I remember thinking about the book for days, weeks, years.
What I don't remember, is any swearing.