Anyone who knows me knows I’m a total evangelist for my cultural tastes, and I’m not always very polite about it. You don’t get why I loved the first season of VERONICA MARS? You’re going to hear about it.* You have a different ranking than I do of the best coffee shops in Madison for hot coffee, iced coffee, food with your coffee, music with your coffee, and meeting over coffee, respectively? We’ll discuss, but I already think your judgment is dubious.**
For kids and their books, this does not apply.
Like, I buy a lot of books for my seventh-grade cousin Alex — this is one of the benefits and responsibilities of having younger cousins, right? — and I’m not the least bit offended if he doesn’t like what I bought him. I just want to know so I can narrow in on his taste a little better next time.
Likewise, I don’t want him forced to read what I bought, even if I’m reasonably sure he really would like it if he tried. My bookcase is full of books that lived unopened on my shelves throughout childhood, some of which I’ve finally read in my 20s (including a few that are really good — CELINE by Brock Cole, I’m looking at you). Such is the peril of being, or buying, a book.
I had this friend Ivan growing up, who let his parents pick out his books for him. I liked Ivan, but even when we were fifth-graders, he lost a lot of respect for that.
I’m really serious about this; I think kids should read whatever the hell they want. I mean that a kid could not like Ramona, and inwardly I might be all “…Whoa!” but I’d accept it. No joke.
Maybe it’s some romanticization-of-childhood crap on my part, maybe it’s just residual bitterness at how much justifying of my Sweet Valley habit I had to do when I was growing up, but for me, a kid’s taste is an inviolable fact.***
* My boyfriend was a total TV snob when we first started dating, which he had to quickly get over. (This was pre-Veronica; our fight was more about FELICITY.) But he helped me get over my previous movie snobbery, so it’s been an equitable relationship.
** It has recently occurred to me that this obsession with ranking cultural products along rather precise dimensions — and doubting the sanity of anyone who disagrees — runs in my family. I was home for Thanksgiving, listening to my dad declaim on the top three non-anthology Neil Young albums, and suddenly it clicked and I shouted, “You’re where I got it from!” Yet my explanation that this is a personality trait we share was met with puzzlement, since “these are just obviously the top three non-anthology Neil Young albums.” Like, duh. So all I can say is, at least I’m pretty self-aware about this trait.
*** Despite the harsh parental judgment that was passed upon some of my choices, I was raised with a near-total lack of censorship; when my friends couldn’t see PG-13, I couldn’t see G-rated movies, only because no one in my family would disdain to take me. With movies, though, there is a limit, and it turns out to be taking your second-grader to see HOUSE OF WAX in 3D, as my dad learned the hard way.