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Role models in young adult and youth writing

June 20, 2013

There used to be a basketball player named Charles Barkley who starred in a commercial for basketball shoes that had the tag line I am not a role model. Barkley’s point was that if your kid is looking to Charles Barkley for a life model, he should maybe be guided to look elsewhere.

Anne Hawkinson recently blogged about creating a heroine in youth and young adult fiction. She talked about the process of creating that heroine, and the qualities that make a literary heroine.

We also recently blogged about whether writers have a responsibility to write about the larger issues, about whether we have an obligation to use our work for positive social change.

The equation might be a little different when it comes to fiction aimed at children and teenagers. In short, do authors have a moral obligation to create youth and young adult fiction that has positive role models for kids–or should the story take you whatever way you go?

What about a version of Wicked set in Harry Potter’s world, where Draco Malfoy is the focus of the book and Harry Potter is the villain? What about a story written from Judas’s point of view, in which Jesus is sacrificed not out of greed, but out of a desire to keep the Romans from crushing the Jewish culture of the time (a new king of the Jews, after all, could be bothersome to the Roman empire)?

What about a story in which the main character is a bully, where there’s no ultimate payback for his bullying? Is there an obligation not to do that if the work is aimed at younger readers or there’s a decent chance a lot of kids and teens could read the book?

What do you think?

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One Comment
  1. June 20, 2013 8:11 am

    It’s a tough call. The desire to exercise your imagination and see where it takes you is strong. Personally, I strive to stretch my readers’ imaginations, take them on an adventure, and have my characters model qualities and traits worthy of emulation.

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