AGE (IN)APPROPRIATENESS

Yesterday, I sold books at the Collingswood Book Festival, which was my first public selling/signing appearance ever. Huzzah! However, something happened that I can’t stop thinking about, so I’ve come here to work it out.

At one point, a girl wandered over to my table with her mother. By my estimate, the girl was probably early middle school. She picked up my book and read the inside jacket. Her mom asked if she wanted it, the girl nodded, and they bought the book.

It probably all looked fine from the outside, but inside I was experiencing a little moment of panic in my head that went something like this…

YAY SOMEONE WANTS TO BUY MY BOOK OH NO SHE LOOKS YOUNG MY BOOK IS MEANT FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS IT HAS “STRONG” LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL “THEMES” SHOULD I WARN HER BUT SHE DID READ THE SYNOPSIS MAYBE SHE’S NOT THAT YOUNG EVERYONE ALWAYS ASSUMES I’M YOUNGER THAN I AM BUT STILL SHOULD I WARN THE MOM BUT IF SHE WERE WORRIED ABOUT THAT WOULDN’T SHE ASK OH NO SHE’S HOLDING OUT THE CASH AND I HAVEN’T FIGURED OUT WHAT TO DO OH NO SMILE.

Yup. Good times.

So, did I do the right thing in letting this girl purchase my book?

Yes and no.

I say yes because of my own experiences growing up. I read adult books (Stephen King, Michael Crichton, etc.) when I was in middle school that definitely contained content kids of my age “should” not read. Because I was a tiny Filipino boy, people always assumed I was several years younger than I actually was. And beyond that, I was mature for my age. I hated whenever a teacher told me I was too young to read something. I could read it, I did read it, and it didn’t transform me into some violent, perverted sociopath. And the world did not surprise me when I grew up.

I say no because I probably should have given the mom a heads up. Based on the interaction, I’d assume she lets her daughter read what she wants, which I generally agree with. But still. Maybe she would have appreciated knowing and still bought the book anyway. But I was flustered and awkward, as I didn’t expect a younger kid to pick up my book (let alone anyone).

Live and learn, folks. Live and learn.

4 thoughts on “AGE (IN)APPROPRIATENESS

  1. Congratulations, Randy, on the publication of your book and on the success that follows! I read your blog and thought of all the times that the librarian at the Camden City Public Library called Dudley Grange in East Camden told me that the book that I was taking out was too hard or too adult for me. I always pushed for the books and took them home. Once a kid had brought the eighth grade report card marked PROMOTION, a kid could use the adult library. I had waited so long for that day–I wasn’t going to give in and not take out the books that I wanted. I remember she said that EXODUS by Leon Uris wasn’t right for me and also LEAVES OF GRASS by Walt Whitman. I never could find out what was the problem with either book. However, I did notice that many of the poems in the LEAVES oF GRASS had been razored out!

    When I had the flu in Grade Seven and was home for a long time, I read my mother’s copy of GONE WITH THE WIND. My dad had bought it for her when he took her to the movie in the1940s. I told our school librarian that I loved that book. She said that book was too old for me. “Perhaps you can read the words, but not the meaning of the book.” Oh well, I loved it, anyway.

    However, I understand your concern. That young customer could have been sixteen. The mother didn’t ask if the book was age-appropriate. Maybe she lets her daughter read whatever she wants. I read your book and loved it and I thought it was for older high school students, too, but I don’t know if I would have forbidden my daughter to read it if she was younger.

    The only time that I censored my daughter’s reading was when she was about four. We were in the Rite-Aid and I splurged and bought a paperback with a beautiful black and good embossed cover and a picture of a woman described in the book as Eurasian. Kim could read pretty well then, but this was an adult historical romance and not preschool stuff. I certainly wasn’t going to read it to her.

    When we got home, Kim took it out of the back and said, “Read it to me?”

    “No, it’s for grown-ups.” And, believe you me, she had plenty of her own books.

    “I’ll read it myself,” she said and I laughed.

    “Go ahead. Open it up and read it,” I said, knowing full well it would be too difficult.

    She opened the book and put her finger on a sentence, “He took her into his bed. ”

    Oh.

    “You see, I can read it. Can I have it?”

    I paged through the book. That one random sentence was the heaviest of anything else in the book. “Okay,” I said.

    She took it to her room and she laid in bed, trying to read it. She couldn’t plow through it, of course. However, she kept it under her pillow for a week.

    I later wondered if the attraction had been the face of the woman on the cover, a face that showed the beauty of blended races?

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  2. Sorry for the typos—my pets were running in and out of my closet. I pressed SUBMIT without proofing my comment. The book was black and GOLD . My daughter took it out of the BAG. Anyway, don’t worry about that girl who bought your book. But, you’re a good person to be be concerned. Remember, the mom was THERE. The kid read the synopsis and she wanted it so that means that book is something she wants to read and needs to read. Good to see you at the book fair.

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  3. It’s up to the parents to determine what their child should read. I also read books beyond the advised age-appropriateness as a preteen/teen. It hasn’t damaged me and saved my parents having to give me “the talk” *shudders*

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