My name is Julianna Paradisi, and I am a recovering medical fiction addict.
I am one of those nurses with whom other people refuse to watch TV medical dramas, because I watch them as if I'm playing Jeopardy.
I shout out the answers, instruct the handsome actor doctor that he must intubate now, and make diagnostic recommendation. Anyone unfortunate enough to watch with me chides, "It's only a TV show."
I don't read books about cancer for entertainment either, but John Greene's young adult novel, The Fault in Our Stars, is a story about living. Told in the first person by Hazel, a 16-year-old who lives with stage IV thyroid cancer (which has made its home in her lungs since she was thirteen), it's a fictional representation of childhood cancer so true to life I will not add further commentary except to urge you to read it.
The poetic title is a bon mot of Shakespeare's famous line from Julius Caesar:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
While researching this blog, I was surprised to find an article accusing this wonderful book of being an over-sensationalized addition to the writing genre dubbed teen "Sick Lit."
Huh? What's Sick Lit, and why have I, a writer of health-related information, never heard of it?
Sick Lit refers to memoirs, novels, and nonfiction books about dying from, or surviving, disease, either physical or mental in nature. Cancer is a hot topic in this genre -- I have no idea why I've never heard of it.
The above article's author complains:
It's not just the fact that these books feature terminally ill teenagers that makes them so questionable -- they're also aimed at children as young as 12.
Are books about their peers dying of cancer harmful to teenage readers?
In my opinion, they are not. No matter how adults try to protect children from the harsh realities of life, we cannot.
Many children have parents, siblings, or classmates living with cancer or other terminal illnesses. By deeming books that realistically portray the challenges and social stigmas accompanying childhood cancer, is society protecting children, or avoiding its collective discomfort with the topic?
Do you think children should be exposed to stories of childhood cancer? How do you think it may be harmful? Do you think this topic should be banned for children under certain ages? Why?