There is a big similarity between Etienne St. Clair of Ms. Stephanie Perkins‘ Anna and The French Kiss and I. I am not talking about his gorgeous looks and smooth charisma. I am talking about not driving. As a consequence, I travel two hours via bus to go to school. It is very difficult, but since CSUN promised me an inspiring campus to study at, I create the sacrifice of spending 4 hours inside the bus almost everyday (2 hours going to school + 2 hours going home)
I am a junior in California State of Northridege or CSUN with a major on creative writing. Why did I choose that when I can easily attend other universities closer to my apartment? The answer is simple. I always wanted to be a YA novelist. When a representative talked to me about how CSUN had the ability to give me a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing unlike other school that I was considering to attend, I was beyond intrigued. She showed me this promising English program with a promised that CSUN English professor were there to inspire me everyday, but these last two weeks, my english professor made me feel like I was wasting my time in CSUN.
ENG 300 is a required class for me to complete my degree. I was actually happy to go to that class, because it requires reading contemporary American short stories and writing journals as part of the homework everyday. We were on our last two three weeks before the finals. We were gonna start reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Sir Jonathan Safran Foer. I started reading the novel early, for I was assigned to do a presentation on it. Before dismissing the class, our professor said that there were critics who said that Oskar Schell, a 9-year-old main character of the book, was a unrealistic character. She said it was bullshit (unfortunately, that was the exact word she used), and the she asked us who already started the novel. I raised my hand, and she asked me how was it. I gave her my honest opinion as person with a book blogger spirit on my blood. I said, “I believe Oskar as a narrator but I am having a hard time with her voice, especially he is a child narrator. I have read a lot of children’s book, so I know a child’s voice when I read one. He is believable as a character but the author’s writing style is really hard to get into.” My professor looked at me with a crease between her two eyes. She said that the book is not a children’s book. I said that I know that, but a child narrator is a child narrator, so the author should be able to deliver that. The class ended with me looking forward to still finish the book.
But as I flipped the pages, my struggle to get into the author’s writing style was getting harder and harder. I know that my opinions about books are not universal facts. I believe that what is true for me about a book is not true for the others.
So I finished the book. Because it contains real pictures, I decided to create an introduction using Sir Ransom Riggs‘ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Ms. Tracy Holczer’s The Secret Hum of a Daisy, so I could say how a child’s traumatic experience was now very well portrayed in fiction. When I showed the books to the class, she kept interrupting me to skip the books. I was baffled to know that presentations could be interrupted when the professor did not like the way you started. I hid my shock with a smile, and continued.
The next meeting, we were still discussing the book. A classmate mentioned that the pictures in the book are not well placed. He said the pictures threw him off, because they were placed like very randomly. I backed him up by saying that I had the same experience. I mentioned that Ms. Morgan Matson’s Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour used the same method of fictionalizing real pictures. I continued by saying that a lot of YA authors have accomplished a good job by using real pictures too, but Sir Foer did not do a very good job in his book. The discussion continued and we talked about children’s traumatic experiences. I said that kids become very curious in fiction whenever they experienced something traumatizing. To back up my claim, I used the assigned text and Ms. Holczer’s book. I guess that was when she blew up. She told me that YA and children’s books are merely design for entertainment. They are not designed for reader response analysis.
I just nod and nod. I was in no position to argue, especially I was ready to cry. My heart was ripping into pieces. I was there knowing my professors would inspire me everyday, but there she was making me feel like I was only wasting my time in CSUN. After the class, I excused myself and went to the restroom to cry.
I believe in the magic of YA and MG literature, but for that one moment. I felt my whole being was stepped on.
Maybe CSUN is not really for me. Maybe I don’t need that BA degree. Maybe what I need was an MFA. But right now, I really don’t know. I am laughing about this, but when I am alone in my room… Before sleep visits me, the memory of how she threw those words about how YA and MG literature are nothing but mere entertainment, I cry.