Awhile back, some of us had a conversation about class in YA lit. And then e.lockhart posted a quiz about privilege and I read Liz's response to it just the other day.
I skimmed through all 31 question, and the quiz didn't hold many surprises. I didn't grow up particularly privileged, to my mind. The only 'original artwork' we had in our home was what we drew or painted and put on the fridge. Our parents didn't buy us cars, we didn't stay in hotels or fly anywhere. Some of the questions, though, are less about the amount of money and more about class. The question about the number of books in your home when you were a child made me wonder, is that privilege, really? In this day of libraries both public and private, bookmobiles and the like, doesn't every teen, at least, who really want books have access to them? Another question was having someone read to you -- does that denote privilege or literacy? Are the questions defining privilege in terms of literacy?
On one hand, it's good that the upwardly-mobile escalator isn't broken in most ways, but on the other, is a hand-me-down car, as is listed in question 21, something that means you're underprivileged? I didn't have a car until I graduated from college and bought one! Using public transportation is then classified as something for the underprivileged, despite the fact that if more people used it, both the privileged and the less so would be much better off. How bizarre what comes across as privilege.
Ignoring things like immigration status or family size/type, urban or suburban or rural settings, race, sexual orientation, or physical handicaps (there are studies that clearly show that people who carry something as innocuous as extra weight have distinct disadvantages) leaves this quiz less helpful than it could have been. Though it's inaccurate in terms of living, breathing people, in terms of characters in novels I read or write, I think it can be fairly telling. Are the characters you're writing always the three W's: White, Wispy (skinny) and Wealthy? Does your writing reflect reality or wish fulfillment? Does wish fulfillment always satisfy the reader?
I often think of this question when I read novels that name drop labels and brands. Does that say more about the author or the character? Hm. I haven't decided yet.
Now that the Cybils are over, many of us have tons of books and have to begin the task of digging ourselves out from beneath them. People, please don't forget your local juvenile hall. Check with your local branch or public library for information about kids in lockdown and the books they can use. Deborah Davis at Two Black Cats and a Cup of Tea has California and Seattle donation information. It's my privilege to pass along the books I've enjoyed to libraries and lockdowns. Things like THIS are what makes the difference between privileged and underprivileged...
Finally, the story of Diego Palacios made me smile. Monday morning, he glued himself to his bed. He figured gluing himself to the bed would mean he didn't have to go to school.
His mother, the paramedics and his teacher thought otherwise.
Poor Diego. Good try, though.