Connecting Religious Teens with Literature, YALSA YA Lit Symposium, November 6
Presenters: Sarah Holtkamp, Jennifer Lowe
Holtkamp and Lowe, librarians from Tinley Park Public Library, Illinois, explained their library, and their community, and how that led them to this topic. The books that were discussed were varied. In the links below is Holtkamp’s and Lowe’s blog for this presentation, including all books mentioned (plus some other titles!). So, instead of noting all the books they mentioned, I’ll give a brief overview of just how varied the books are that can meet the community need.
Religion is something personal and can mean different things to different people. So, too, can “clean books.” Religion (and the request for books that include religion) can make people anxious and nervous, especially because it can mean so many things.
Holtkamp and Lowe concentrated Evangelical Christianity and Muslims, because those are the two groups in their library.
What is Christian Fiction? Here, the focus was Evangelical Christians and Holtkamp and Lowe defined that for the audience (conversionism, activism, Biblicism, etc.) and then noted that the books in this area expound and illustrate that particular worldview.
Some of the books are by secular publishers, for example, EVOLUTION, ME & OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE by Robin Brande: “this isn’t negative towards religion; it is a beautiful portrayal of and exploration of faith.” Others were familiar Christian fiction authors, such as Melody Carlson “the superstar of Christian fiction. Fantasy books were included, such as HEALER’S APPRENTICE by Dickerson, which is “magical” but it is all done in the name of Jesus Christ, with the characters praying to God.
Next, Holtkamp and Lowe discussed the difficulty in finding titles for their Muslim booklists. They addressed common misconceptions (that Muslims and Arabs are interchangeable, for example) and that it was difficult finding books featuring American Muslim teens. One terrific nonfiction book they highlighted was THE AMERICAN MUSLIM TEENAGERS HANDBOOK, written by two teens and their parents, which was full of both information and humor. Most of the fiction titles ended up being about Muslim teens in countries other than the United States.
Finally, Holtkamp and Lowe presented a “clean reads” booklist. They noted that “clean” means something different to everyone and emphasized the need for a good readers advisory interview to know what the patron means by “clean.” As with the other titles, Holtkamp and Lowe went beyond the “obvious” clean titles. For example, they included YOU by Charles Benoit. Yes, there are serious questions and themes, but it illustrates the consequences of choice and does so without using four letter words. Some people who want “clean” want books like YOU, they just don’t want the language.
Connecting Religious Teens With Literature website with resources related to this presentation, including Holtkamp’s and Lowe’s booklists and links to other applicable booklists
Thanks to RIF for making it possible to attend the Symposium.