Monday, November 23, 2015

7 Things: Faith in YA

1. I wrote way back when about how I found myself to be a UU, so no need to rehash that. I recognize that the US as a whole is becoming less religious and that would include current teenagers.  (Of course for anyone writing historical or fantasy, the numbers would be different.)  However, it is now noticeable if a YA character makes even a passing mention to attending some sort of place of worship, that a little like fesity red-heads, it seems out of sync with the reality of life for many teens.
2. I am not saying we need more conversion or inspirational stories.  (We may. I...don't know.) But certainly there could be more teens in fiction who identify as a part of something. 
3. In the years that I have been working with the high schoolers and now middle schoolers, the number of teens regularly attending our congregation has doubled.  Now that is clearly due to all sorts of factors, and not a representative or scientific sampling of teens.  I will also tell you I have spoken to teens who get their parents to drop them off even when the parents don't attend.  Who create their own teen gatherings, because their congregation doesn't offer them.  Who say that the teens they meet at multi-state or multi-congregational events are the only teens they know who get them. 
4. I'm not saying that every book needs to include a YA of some faith.  But off the top of my head, I can think of a few Christian, and a handful of Jewish, and that's it. Miranda Kenneally's Stealing Parker was the first YA I can think of that talked about the fact that different churches in the same town might have different approaches to the same issue. 
5. Some people have been very hurt by religious institutions.  I don't want to gloss over that.  But some people have found great comfort in them.  Or not.  Some people find formal religion not for them.  All of these experiences are valid and should be represented.
6. And atheism to.  Atheism isn't the same as being unchurched or none.  It can also be a destination for folks who have spent time thinking carefully about the world. And these things, whether a YA character has made the same choice as the people who are raising them or not, could be powerful motivators without being preachy. 
7. Religion is not necessarily in the same category of some of the other glaring omissions in the YA landscape.  But again, if the idea is to represent the breadth of experiences out there, leaving religion out more often than not seems problematic.