The other day one of my Inkshares pals (Evan Graham, author of Tantalus Depths) posted a vlog on his Inkshares page titled “Writing Women as a Dude and Not Sucking at It.” In the vlog he talked a little about the book Twilight and the ‘paper thin’ character of the female protagonist. By all literary standards, the Twilight Saga was a complete and utter train wreck (I won’t even BEGIN to expand on the sexism perspective) but what can’t be denied is its extreme popularity. In my opinion, the whole Twilight phenomena was one of those cases of lightning strikes, which happens to about .01% of authors (they just happen to be in the right place at the right time and they become international best sellers – it has little to do with the literary quality of their work), and the trope of 1 girl+2 dangerous boys in a love triangle. This trope holds ENDLESS APPEAL to certain readers. (Another example with this trope – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which is really a pretty good work of fiction IMHO).
But, I digress, I have a different take on this particular trope, and is has to do with where I live (East Tennessee).
Sadly, I live in a place where functional illiteracy is as high as 20-30%. Many people I know have a hard time reading a basic set of instructions – i.e. how to operate a blender, or mix ingredients for a recipe or instructions on how to fill out a form – and I mean a BASIC form, not an IRS form, which are designed for maximum confusion of course. They can’t even write down a phone number – they need help with it.
So, as far as books go, ANYTHING that will get people reading I support, even if it is ‘bad fiction’ (or bad non-fiction as the case may be).
Without an ability to comprehend the written word, any real ability for critical thinking just goes out the window and people become dependent on being TOLD what to think (and aren’t we seeing the fallout from that RIGHT NOW during this presidential campaign!)
In the mid 90s, I lived in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and at that time, a Washington Post reporter, Leon Dash, wrote a serial piece called Rosa Lee’s Story that completely changed my entire concept of both poverty and illiteracy. Mr. Dash won won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for this work.
I highly recommend anyone who is interested in the true impact of poverty and illiteracy read this series. It will stun you.
More information on the impact of illiteracy overall. https://proliteracy.org/Resources/Adult-Literacy-Facts