Saturday, November 28, 2009

Titillation for the Tiny Tot

Check it out! My niece has already ditched the G-rated books in favor of steamier romance reading. And she's not even 2 years old yet... I'm so proud!

My brother and I couldn't stop cracking up when his daughter made a beeline for the bodice-rippers. It made me wonder when she'll actually start reading romance... a question that already has my sister-in-law nervous.

I am not a parent yet. As both a high school English teacher and an aspiring novelist, I'm a big fan of free speech. I'm against censorship. I was also a pretty lucky kid with a truly awesome mom who never told me I wasn't allowed to read something. Consequently, I always felt comfortable telling her what I was reading. I wasn't forced to hide my romance novels under the bed. I never thought of them as soft-core porn or something shameful.

And yet... I'm not sure how I'd feel if I had a precocious 9-year-old daughter who wanted to read erotica.

So I want to know... what was your first romance novel? What are your favorite books to reread, and why? And if any of you are parents, how do you feel about your own children potentially reading romance someday?


Christine said...

I was reading Danielle Stelle and Harold Robbins when I was about 13--I'd already exhausted the "children's/young teen" section of the small library in my small mining town. I had read everything in my Dad's library including the BLACK PEARL, Tolkien's books, all the Agatha Christies, and more before I hit the "hard core porn." I also read an amazing amount of HQN. First there was only PRESENTS. So I read them all. Then they added more lines. And I loved the Historical Romances and the Regencies.

Sigh. My parents had no clue what I was into at all. But they were European so couldn't care less anyway.

My DD is now 15. She's also a very prolific reader. She was in an accelerated school program for gifted kids from 3rd grade on. I read her LORD OF THE RINGS and she did a PowerPoint to it comparing it to the movie when she was in the 3rd grade. In 5th grade, she had an insane teacher who insisted they read and analyze 6 books a quarter (deep analysis--her 10th grade honors English isn't nearly as much work!). My kid knew the teacher jazzed on figurative language. I'd go to the bookstore and look for books that were challenging and offered her the language she needed to get her A from the teacher. NIGHTMARE.

She was, and is, pretty much a prude (I write erotic romances!) so her first question is always about the sexual content. I'll read it first, and I'll tell her if she can overlook the content for the story. I read pretty much all she reads as I love the YA authors out there. And thank God for them as there weren't that many when I was growing up.

Now she/we are into TWILIGHT (I not so much), she's read the Clique books and Gossip Girl (I tried them, bleh), and Sara Dressen, Meg Cabot etc. She's also reading grown up authors like Dan Brown's books. I plan to write a YA series and have talked to her extensively about it -- she likes the idea so we'll see if I can pull it off (one day)...

Okay--sorry for the lengthy response--but in a nutshell, I have no objections to her reading ROMANCE in all its forms. And the YA books certainly are grooming her for that type of reading when she is a young adult.

Sam M. said...

In my experience, your 9-year-old niece won't want to read bodice-rippers. She'll pick them up, maybe start them, and then get either bored or squicked and put them down until she's older.

My younger students (I teach 6th-12th grade) are remarkably good at self-censorship. If something makes them uncomfortable, they'll bring it back and get something else. And they're more likely to do that rather than powering through it, I bet, if it isn't excitingly Forbidden -- if it isn't set up to prove something about their adulthood.

Christine said...

I love the comment: if it isn't excitingly forbidden..." Oh so true. I find that is the one thing about the American culture that blows my mind. why censor it? why rate it? Of course that ups the ante and creates desire. Even Paul wrote about it in his letters: that which I should not have or want or crave--I want all the more. (greatly paraphrased since he wrote about it endlessly and I have my theories about his real issue). As soon as we go on a diet, we want what we aren't allowed to eat.

That's why I have never censored or forbidden movies, books and shows from my daughter. She is very self-aware, knows her values, is quite certain of her direction and it doesn't include mucking around with sex and boys and all the distractions those elements bring into a young girl's life. But she's been treated to a wide plethora of materials--with me by her side. We TALK about the decisions these people make--why they're smart or not smart. The consequences of the choices--the sheer stupidity of some of their choices.

But if the historical bodice ripper is well-written (as many of them are), she may not put it down at all.

Kate Diamond said...

I agree about the sexy forbidden thing. This is one of the reasons my mom is my hero. She didn't forbid things. There wasn't a certain age I could have a boyfriend. There weren't books I was forbidden to read. She just wanted in the loop and, since I knew she'd listen to me, I didn't mind talking to her about my life.
And yes, that includes the sexy books I read! (Hey, she's the one who loaned me "Valley of the Horses" when I was 13.)

Should I ever have children of my own, I want to handle things like my mom did.

Kate Diamond said...

Oh, and Christine? Your daughter's 6th grade teacher makes me feel like an epic failure because I don't even make my AP juniors reading that much! :)

Mary said...

My very first romance book was Once in Paris by Diana Palmer. I was 25 years old. i mostly read Horror or Sci-fi type books before then. My mom gave it to me in a large box of books she had and i was hooked from then on.

My book shelves have been stocked with romance and horror novels for years. My daughter who is now 18 has never wanted to read any of them but if she did I would have let her when she was 14 years old probably.

Christine said...

Kate, it was her fifth grade teacher and she was insane... truly insane. No child, teen or otherwise, should have to do that amount of homework for ONE subject (14 hours a week!!). I kept my DD home at least once every other week just so she could have a weekend off LOL.

You sound like a nice, normal and wonderful AP teacher and the perfect balance. Smart doesn't mean more, it means deeper. And if you plan to give your children the gift of your ear, your support and the willingness to converse (albeit loudly at times LOL), you'll be a fabulous mom!!

Vivi Andrews said...

I was probably about thirteen when I started reading romance, but I came to it from SF/F where there are often romantic elements. And I'd been watching romantic movies all my life.

I think the reader brings so much to the experience that you will have a different understanding of the book at different ages. When we censor, we are assuming the ten year old is going to understand a reference aimed at an adult - which is rarely the case. I don't think books corrupt kids. I'll let mine read whatever they want.

Anna Richland said...

My mother never censored what I read, with the exception of I think it was Wifey?, but boy-o-boy did she try to stamp out how much I read. I read waaaay too much in jr high and high school. I would walk to my small town library and walk home with 12 or 13 books. Every 3 or 4 days. I would hide 6 or 7 in the garage, stuff 3 or 4 in my pants (the 80s - baggy sweaters were in), and carry in only 2 or 3 romances and one "good" book. That would be some sort of hardback Cold War or WWII thriller, like Helen MacInnes or Key to Rebecca or Boys from Brazil. Then when she was working I would sneak out to the garage and retrieve the rest of my Harlequins.

She was right, I did read too much. My word verification is frustie. Is that what happens to a voracious reader when their fun-ability gets rusty?

Mollie said...

My first romance wasn't until I was in college. But I distinctly remember a well worn copy of Judy Blume's FOREVER circulating through our 4th or 5th grade class.

I too never had my reading policed. I spent every summer going to the library several times a week. Now, my mom and I trade our "trashy romance" novels... :)