Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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What’s in a name?

Posted by lpearle on 7 January 2013

The past few weeks have seen a lot of discussion about the term “New Adult” as it refers to books (Angela and Liz do a wonderful job summing things up, with Crossreferencing chiming in).   I recently read a book, The History of Us, which seems to fit the guidelines for what New Adult is, which got me thinking.

I’ve never like the term “Young Adult” when talking about the 12-18 age group.  Sorry, but teens are not adults – they’re teens.  To me, YOUNG adults meet the requirements of NEW adults, those 19-30(ish).  I’d even include 17/18-year-olds, if you want to make the criteria “could be college age” or “graduated from high school”.  But somehow, someone decided that 12-18 was “young adult” so, well, my thoughts don’t really matter.  Perhaps the definition comes from the idea that at age 13, young Jews are considered men (and women) as they make their bar/bat mitzvah?

Anyway, it brought to mind the discussion Jack Betterly led with his first philosophy class, back in 1978.  How, exactly, should he greet our class each day?  As juniors and seniors in high school, we would be insulted by “girls”, but he felt that we weren’t quite “women”.  “Students” felt wrong, because he was as much a learner in this class as we were.  Ultimately, we settled on “philosophers” and every day he would start class with a hearty “Good Morning, Philosophers!”

The connection?  I don’t feel comfortable calling readers in the so-called New Adult group “new adults”.  To me, at 50, they’re “young” adults, but definitely adults.  Anyone still in high school is – to me – not an adult.  So what to call them?  What about simply “readers”?  As for segregating books under that rubric?  Let’s stop.  If a reader can’t find a book they’re interested in, will labeling them by age group help?  Maybe the better idea is to take much of what we now call YA and just move it into the genres it naturally lives in, exposing readers of all ages to other authors.

4 Responses to “What’s in a name?”

  1. Wendy said

    Bravo…I don’t understand the obsession with categorizing books, especially in ways which have the potential to limit their readership. This granular distinction seem to be a convenience for librarians and booksellers rather than readers.

  2. Alice said

    Putting “age distinctions” on books tends to create senseless boundaries. Many adult (as in over-50) book groups have discovered “YA” titles are great reading and make for intense — and wide-ranging — discussions.

  3. lpearle said

    Wendy and Alice, that’s what I’m struggling with: why are publishers trying to divide books in this way? I can understand genre distinctions (mystery, romance, etc.) because that can lead people browsing shelves from one discovery to another. But by age? And who decides what age is right? Twilight was read by many teens – is it YA? NA? Adult? It’s a mess! And I can see conservative parents going into schools and public libraries, asking why “NA” books are on shelves meant for YA readers…

  4. [...] up on my post about What’s In a Name, @mytweendom pointed me to this link ‘Girls? Ladies? Folks?’ Here’s A Visual [...]

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