Only Tingles Before Marriage: Junior Novels in Post-War America with Dr. Amanda K. Allen
Junior novels were early romances for young readers, published in the 1940s-1960s. Learn from expert guest Dr. Amanda K. Allen how the didactic and heteronormative messages in these novels make a lot of sense when you consider that they were created to respond to demand from librarians and schools for “bibliotherapy” texts to “teach teenage girls how to be women,” which included winning that class ring and becoming besties with the popular girl who you’re not sure if you want to be or date.
Guest: Dr. Amanda K. Allen is a professor of children's and young adult literature.
Junior novels were early romances for young readers, published in the 1940s-1960s. Learn from expert guest Dr. Amanda K. Allen how the didactic and heteronormative messages in these novels make a lot of sense when you consider that they were created to respond to demand from librarians and schools for “bibliotherapy” texts to “teach teenage girls how to be women,” which included winning that class ring and becoming besties with the popular girl who you’re not sure if you want to be or date.
Guest: Dr. Amanda K. Allen is a professor of children's and young adult literature.
Guest: Dr. Amanda K. Allen
Amanda K. Allen researches American teen girl romance novels of the 1940s-1960s (known as "junior novels" or "malt shop books") in connection with the professional network of women (editors, librarians, booksellers, critics) who produced and distributed them. She also publishes on fan studies.
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Andrea Martucci: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Shelf Love, a podcast about romance novels, and how they reflect, explore, challenge, and shape desire. I'm your host, Andrea Marucci. And on this episode, I'm joined by Dr. Amanda K. Allen, professor of children's and young adult literature. Amanda, thanks for being here today.
Amanda Allen: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Andrea Martucci: So can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit more about what you research.
Amanda Allen: Sure. So I specialize in 1940s through 1960s teen girl romance novels, which are books that generally no one has ever heard of. So that's always good. And then in conjunction with that, I look at this network of women who produced and distributed these texts. So this is mostly editors, librarians, sort of critics of the time.
And so I look at them in terms of an all- female network that is surprisingly autonomous during the mid-century period and why and how they're producing these particular texts.
Andrea Martucci: One of the things you talk about in the chapter that you wrote on young adult romance in the Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance studies is, one of the things you're talking about is like the codification and sort of the solidification of young adult as an area of not only study, but an area of publishing.
It wasn't called young adult until a particular point but there were people writing and producing things that you can recognize now. But also it seems like in these wild west days before there were rules, things were a little bit more organically forming than later.
Amanda Allen: Yeah. So young adult literature has a really confusing history. And part of what makes it so confusing is that it does not really have one single definition. So if you look at most textbooks for young adult literature, for example they generally say YA came about in the late 1960s, early 1970s.
And they'll say usually that S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders is one of the key texts or any of Paul Zindel's books or that kind of thing. But that is a type of YA, but not necessarily the only form. So there's a much longer history, depending on what aspects you're looking at.
I study what's called the junior novels. So these again are texts in the 1940s through the late 1960s. And the difference there is that they tend to be very heavily focused on romance. And so our contemporary notions of YA, which are based on the later ones, right? What was called the new realism of the late 1960s, early 1970s, those books were almost going against the junior novels and against the romance that [00:03:00] came before.
So already, you've got this sort of questioning of genres and tropes and all of this sort of stuff in this early foundation. If you go back even further, and many people would say that earlier young adult literature doesn't exist and other people would say that, of course it does. If you go back further, then you're gonna see that there are other variations, depending on how you want to actually define young adult literature.
So Little Women, right? Louisa May Alcott. You could define that as young adult literature, if you define it based on having teen aged - and teen is again another problematic word because teen doesn't really come into use until the forties. But teen aged protagonists, if you look at your readership as being teenagers, but also their parents cuz it is also a family text, all of these suggests that this text, which is of course is, Civil War era is also young adult literature.
And of course you can go back even further to the very birth of romance literature. So Pamela Regis basically suggests that Pamela the book Pamela not Pamela person. Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: and this is by Samuel Richardson?
Amanda Allen: yeah. Richardson. Exactly. So just suggests that Richardson's Pamela is the first romance text, but you can also make the case that it's also the first text or one of the first texts of young adult literature, because it also acts as a kind of conduct manual for girls, but also young adult romance literature.
So it gets really not necessarily complicated, but just chaotic. And it's all sort of based on changing definitions of young people and what is considered to be appropriate for them usually by adults.
Andrea Martucci: I wanna get back to junior novels, but first, when we're speaking about the lineages that lead us to maybe like some of the different waves that eventually come through in young adult, when you're talking about conduct novels so bildungsroman is a coming of age novel, right?
Amanda Allen: Mm-hmm
Andrea Martucci: Is it a Venn diagram with conduct novels? Are they the same or are, is there overlap? Like how much of bildungsromans are conduct novels and maybe it just has to do with like how much moralizing the author wants to put in there.
Amanda Allen: So that is that is a big question. Okay.
Andrea Martucci: you have one minute. I'm just kidding.
Amanda Allen: Okay. So let's break that down. Okay. So bildungsroman, coming of age, as you said. So it has its own big fancy history right now. What gets interesting when you put that into conjunction with young adult literature, in particular young adult romance, is that the history of the bildungsroman has been gendered male traditionally.
So you'll have various, you'll have Tom Jones way back in the day. You'll have let's say [00:06:00] James Joyce, a portrait of the artist as young man, as a very famous example of a bildungsroman. So traditionally, I'm leaning heavily on that word, it is gendered within a, a male scope, whereas equally traditionally young adult literature, and particularly young adult romance, has been positioned in a female area.
And these binaries are obviously problematic in the way I'm putting them is problematic, but they have been traditionally very heavily gendered as the binary specifically.
Andrea Martucci: I mean, This is a problem with our culture. That then is reflected in how these things are constructed,
Amanda Allen: exactly. So you bring in the conduct book and this becomes extra complicated.
So the conduct manual has various different forms and it is also gendered. And so the conduct manual for men, and this is gonna be particularly in the, oh, don't quote me on this, mostly 18th and 19th centuries, the ones for men are usually just about boys going out, exploring things, finding what is often called their new passions.
And lots of warnings against following up with those new passions, which is basically do not go sleep with prostitutes is what is one
Andrea Martucci: What it boils down to
Amanda Allen: Exactly. But it's like young man leaving his pastoral setting, going into the dangerous city and seeing how the world really is.
Conduct books for women are extremely different. And I should say really for girls because they're very much focused on, of course, the inside space of the home. The girl generally is not going to leave her home until she's married. And the conduct book is usually given to her before that time. She's often told to avoid the dictates of fashion and be careful about guarding, who she spends time with, this sort of thing.
So it. It's a very different area. And so the reason why I'm going on about all this gendering is that when you put together the traditionally male bildungsroman with a traditional female conduct book, you get a kind of, don't wanna say strange, but a very different version of what coming of age can be, because it's one that has to be not always, but is often going to be set within the home.
And I should say that this is a very English version. There's an American version and a German version that, that does things differently. And I'll just tell your readers, if they're interested in that there's a woman named Julie Pfeiffer who has a phenomenal book about what's called The Backfisch Girl. And that's just super interesting if they ever wanna read more about girls who actually do go out and change things and make lots of mistakes.
but what I'm getting at is really that you can say that the bildungsroman, and the conduct book come together, but it's [00:09:00] not necessarily a traditional fit.
It's more of a fit that we would, I would think often put on now, looking back retrospectively saying that someone who studies the 18th and 19th centuries is gonna know this way better than me. So I will just put that out there. Go speak with those, anyone who is interested in that kind of area.
Andrea Martucci: My initial impression of the junior novels from, so I saw you do a presentation at PCA but like, I have never read one. I'm not super knowledgeable about it. So all impressions I have are from what I have seen you talk about and what I hope you will talk about shortly.
But my impression of it is it feels like part of the lineage is these category romances that would have been prevalent at the time, very different from our current contemporary categories and single title romances. But there was like Harlequins and Mills and Boons that were coming out. It feels like there's a little bit of lineage there, but then there is a little bit of that conduct manual of that, this is how you come of age and deal with these things that are gonna start happening, like potential romances and thinking about what you're gonna do after high school and like how to work through those things.
So it feels like that. But then it seems like maybe these junior novels had less of that adventure strain that some later series went into more. And maybe that adventure strain is more along the lines of bildungsroman genealogy, but maybe I'm wrong. These are my takeaways from hearing high level examples of what these things are. How accurate does that feel to you?
Amanda Allen: it all makes sense. So I, the biggest difference here, I think is that once you move away from the 19th century into the 20th century, you get a very different type of teenage girl. And part of that is of course, the rise of the teenager as its own consumer demographic in the forties.
So an example of that would be oh, you get Seventeen Magazine is suddenly invented, right? And that's always an easy touchstone to look at. I think Seventeen came about in 42 or 43. And so it's this recognition that not only is there a market in terms of writing for teenagers, but also in terms of ad sales to them, advertising of products and all of this. You'll also see it in the development of department stores. Whereas in the past, maybe there was a women's department and a men's department. Now there's a men's department, maybe a boy's department, but you're going to have a girls department, a junior, junior miss, a senior miss, and then a women's.
So you've got all of these categorizations. They were also known as the Debs and the sub Debs. So you've got these different terms depending on where you are within the country. But it's basically separating the teenage years away from the child [00:12:00] years and the adult years and selling things to it.
Andrea Martucci: Like they have more independence, but not the same responsibilities of an adult?
Amanda Allen: Yeah, so it's this tricky period because of the war. So they definitely have more independence and there's more money available. So that's gonna be something that's happening, but you also have a record low in the age of marriage because of the war. So you have now people who are regularly getting married at the age of say 18.
And so if marriage is traditionally seen as adulthood for girls, that adulthood hood is, now very, is early again. So it's a really strange time because you have contradictory elements happening simultaneously. So you have very conservative values that are coming in. And that are again, bringing women back into the home and keeping this focus on girls becoming the homemakers girls growing to marry this kind of thing.
But you do also somewhat have more availability for girls to get jobs, not in terms of necessarily working the same jobs as boys. So they're not gonna be like, working at the malt shop, but they're gonna be babysitting. They're gonna be learning typing skills and want to become secretaries.
So there's this slow movement, hidden movement that might allow a little bit more leniency in terms of girls being able to support themselves, not as much as the twenties and thirties, where they were actually better off , but it is, it's still there a little bit.
Andrea Martucci: Getting into the junior novels and AKA malt shop books, what's like a, what's like a typical synopsis
Amanda Allen: So most of them, and particularly the ones by Anne Emery and Betty Cavanna, who were two of the more popular ones and Rosamond du Jardin, most of them will be set in high school perhaps on summer vacation too. That's another sort of popular area, but high school is involved and you'll have this usually a very hierarchical high school, social milieu.
So your protagonist for example, is going to be pretty. But not usually absolutely beautiful, right? She's not the absolute top tier, that she's actually quite pretty and she's gonna be popular, but not the top popular. She's awkward. And she's not actually awkward, but she feels that she's awkward.
She's wondering why the boys aren't interested in her, the way that they're interested in the popular girls, she wants to be friends with the popular girl. She wants to essentially be the beautiful, popular girls, this kind of thing. So a lot of the narratives are about girls learning, how to become women, in whatever that means, through these high school social interactions. But with both popular girls and with boys. [00:15:00]
And so it's actually really fascinating because the romance, the romances are always, about the boys, but in many ways, the romances are actually also about the girls. So by the end, you're happily ever after, or you're happily for now is going to be the girl accepts the class ring from the boy or, the class pin, whatever version it is, but is also in now with the popular girls at school. So it's a weird sort of double marriage in a way.
Andrea Martucci: When you hear how you've just described this, like the initial takeaway one could have without reading the texts is, and you said this earlier, how girls learn to be women. And it's like, how do you learn how to fit in and succeed and get social acceptance with other women?
Because you have to perform womanhood in a particular way that will make you accepted by your peers. And also, how do you demonstrate your value as a romantic partner proven by the fact that you win the ring, the class ring. And it's about figuring out, at the beginning, there's this internal and external dichotomy of, she's not doing too bad socially, but internally feels very awkward and out of place.
How does she integrate. How does she mitigate that conflict and how does she deal with that and then unify like her internal and external self to then solve those problems and become like a full woman.
That's what it sounds like. Is it more nuanced than that though?
Amanda Allen: No,
No, I shouldn't put it that way. No, I don't mean to be putting these texts down, but in some ways they are terrible texts, right? There's no getting around that. Looking at them today, they are very disturbing. But in the time period, they were doing some very specific work.
So to get to your question there, what usually happens is some sort of outside influence coming in now. With Betty Cavanna, for example she will usually incorporate two additional aspects. You might have another boy and he's gonna be the wrong boy. And so the protagonist is first going to go with him and then through a bad experience, she's going to recognize, oh, he's not the right one.
And usually the good boy will be there throughout and, they'll end up together at the end. The other thing that Cavanna does is that she gives her protagonist skills. Not all of the junior novelists do this, but quite a few do. This is a common thing. So Cavanna does, Amelia Walden, definitely all of Walden's protagonists are amazing athletes. So they are skiers. They are baseball players. They are horseback writers. Cavanna will give a bunch of different skills. So they might be athletic. She also has a lot of skiers. But it might be artistic. One of my personal favorites is one that has a girl who learns how to fly an airplane, which again, for the time period is really quite fascinating, [00:18:00] right?
So it's through earning these skills and the sort of the narrative hardships that come with that, that they have to overcome, that these girls basically develop a kind of confidence in themselves. And therefore at the end of the text, the boys are now responding often to that confidence. The tricky thing is that the girls often don't recognize that their confidence is about the skills.
And instead they, or I would read it as they misplace it. And they put all of their focus on the fact that the boy likes them. So in the novel I was talking about the girl does her flying lessons. She learns how to fly on a plane, which is amazing. It's not that she doesn't care, but the end of the novel doesn't even show her receiving her final license.
It's all about the fact that she's at this graduation with the boy and that he gets some big award and she's busy crying because she is so happy that he got the award. And so it's this almost displacement of pride about the skill is instead instilled into the romantic figure of the boy.
Andrea Martucci: She's subsumed her own interests and skills into like now I am just part of him and his success is my success
Amanda Allen: exactly. So the texts are fascinating because they are both feminist and of course I'm using that out of not within timeframes that would be using that term, but they're both feminist and anti-feminist simultaneously,
Now not all authors do this. Mary Stolz is probably one of the more famous junior novel authors. And she's also the one who is the strangest in terms of what she allows for her protagonist. So the others tend to have a lot of girls who are in very typical scenarios that you would expect in high school. They're just doing their thing. They have some interiority, but there's really not actually that much characterization.
So the novels tend to be somewhat formulaic which you know, is a lot of the reason why they were so popular. Stolz's novels are outside of things in many ways because she refused the formulaic. And because she inserted a lot of narrative devices that you don't normally see in frankly, either YA or romance narratives of the time.
So she, she includes a lot of allusion to modernist poetry constantly. She'll include a lot of stream of consciousness. These, again, are things that are they're pretty sophisticated in terms of texts for younger readers. So Stolz's novels are often pushed into another area, but they're interesting because her romance narratives are, I think, some of the best at really refusing not refusing, but they're less anti-feminist.
And they tend to provide more, frankly, for her protagonist. So they do usually end up with a boy at the end. And they're very [00:21:00] happy about that. But Stolz's focus is almost always on how the romance is allowing the girls to understand themselves. And so it's less about the girls wondering what the boys are thinking, and it's more about the girls growing in and of themselves and therefore by the end of the summer or whatever it is emerging as stronger women essentially.
Andrea Martucci: So what you're saying is that if the New York Times interviewed her at the time, they would frame her writing as transcending the genre, transcending junior novels, and how she's not like other junior novel writers, because she's deeper.
Amanda Allen: yeah, it's exactly it.
Andrea Martucci: Is she the Sally Rooney of
Amanda Allen: Yeah, it's so true. And in fact, you'll find that in the actually in the New York Times, because in that time period, the New York Times end the Herald Tribune and a bunch of the big newspapers were still running reviews that didn't always separate young adult from an adult. The reviews would actually go into that specifically and yeah, definitely.
Andrea Martucci: Oh, it's so funny how the more things change, the more they say the same.
Amanda Allen: I should add though, that was also a criticism against Stolz because her books were seen as being too sophisticated for many teen readers. And so there were questions of, were these really considered to be appropriate for teens or were they something else?
Andrea Martucci: That's super interesting because a lot of the criticism that I saw and I was mostly reading criticism from the eighties was, these are so basic and formulaic, and this is not good for people to read, but it sounds like then when you are too sophisticated, it's not for children. So I mean, can you win
Amanda Allen: no,
Part of this is the changing notions of didacticism And why and how the texts are being used. So by the eighties, for example, none of the category romances are ever going to be used within the classroom. They might, in terms of extensive reading, which is just this idea of, you read on your own for fun and that counts for something, but not in terms of actual classroom use or anything like that.
The forties through sixties, you are actually using these texts. They're not going to be used in the high school classroom in the same way that say Hamlet is because they're considered to be outside of the canon of literature required for the College Entrance Examination Board, for example, for these sorts of things.
But what they are being used for is for what was called the Developmental Tasks of Adolescence, which is a very funky title. And basically it's coming from a man named R.J. Havighurst, who was a developmental psychologist of the time. And he was suggesting that teenagers had to fulfill specific tasks as teenagers in order to become basically happy and responsible members of society.
And if they did that, everything was [00:24:00] good and they would be happy. And if they failed to develop or to achieve their developmental tasks, then they would basically be social outsiders for the rest of their lives.
Andrea Martucci: And this list included having sex with a sex worker right? Oh, no. Okay. All right.
Amanda Allen: I wish that would a much better story.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Or I'm sorry avoiding doing that. If you can pass the age of 17 without doing this you're golden.
Amanda Allen: That would be awesome. Yeah, no, those were the conduct books of the 18th and early 19th century. Unfortunately by the 20th century, we're back to being like, whoa, no, we do not talk about sex at all. Like big, no. And instead his developmental tasks are gonna be things such as, ah, achieving proper relations with, as he would put it, members of the opposite sex.
And by proper relations he just means that you're dating. You're going out, you're interacting with each other, achieving your gendered social role. He's not gonna use gender, of course, in that time period. But girls perform femininity in one way, boys perform masculinity in this other way.
So it's very much hegemonic masculinity.
So it's basically reinforcing those sorts of social norms is what it comes down to. And so Havighurst sort of put these out there in the early 1940s, and they get taken up by two key groups. And the first group actually is the librarians, and they look at them and they're like Hey, these suggest that young people need to use literature as a way to possibly solve their developmental tasks.
So they bring it into the realm of what's called bibliotherapy, which is basically therapy for reading. It's just like what it sounds like. And then later on that same idea comes into the education system. And so they're also going to look at these texts and be like if girls read these, then they're going to be helped in solving their developmental tasks of adolescence.
And that's a good thing. And you don't have a lot of people questioning whether or not those developmental tasks are valid a, good B, or also whether or not, reading a book can do that. Right there, there is just this assumed thing that tends to go with children's literature that people just assume that because they think a text can be didactic that a young reader will just read it in the way that they want them to read. So there's no recognition that readers can read against adult values or any of that kind of stuff.
But, so anyway, you've got the junior novels and they're coming out at basically the same point in time as RJ Havighurst Developmental Tasks of Adolescents and as this rise of the teen, as the consumer commodity and as the rise of teen reading rooms [00:27:00] happens, and this is the other weird historical moment that comes into play because you suddenly get librarians recognizing that teenagers need their own space, but they don't have any books for them.
They're like what are the books for teenagers? Cuz they're not books for children and we don't want them reading too many adult books or at least not the sexy ones, like no DH Lawrence here.
Andrea Martucci: " Sexy" ones. Heavy air quotes.
Amanda Allen: right. So they're like we need books. So they go to the editors and they're like, we need books for this in between grouping. Cuz we've got some and we've got some adult ones and we've got some classic children's literature, you know like Robinson Crusoe, everybody can read, but there's nothing for this specific group that talks about their developmental needs or what's actually happening in their lives in this period. And so the editors bring in the high school setting, the writers do, but it's the editors really, who are generating a lot of this. And so all of that comes together and the junior novels are used in some ways to fulfill all of these different things that are mandated, frankly, by adults.
Andrea Martucci: Interesting. So I did not realize that it was coming almost as a direct request for almost like we teach this class, we need a textbook on this. These are almost the textbooks okay, we've got the girls going into home ec and they're gonna learn how to cook and they're gonna learn how to take care of babies.
And then they're gonna have bibliotherapy and they're gonna learn how to conduct romantic relationships in this new, strange world where they need to conduct their romantic relationships in a particular way. That is probably gonna be different from the way their parents embarked on romantic relationships.
Like I read Carol Dyhouse's book, Hearthrobs, which is talking about the rise of the heart throb, and talking about how, like, how much dating had changed from kind of courtship in the home to now young people are going out in public, they have cars, they can go to movie theaters and And it feels like when you're explaining the plots of these, it's they're literally like laying out, okay, this is how you date. This is the appropriate thing. If you do go to the movie theater, this is what you do. If you go to the malt shop, this is how you conduct yourself in these places without parental supervision.
Amanda Allen: Yes. That's exactly. And I think one of the most fascinating things is if you look at what is considered to be the wellspring text of the junior novels, which is Maureen Daly's Seventeenth Summer
It's a vicious little book when you actually read beneath the surface. And one of the moments that always really stands out to me is something that I call the checkers scene.
And it's basically where the protagonist Angie is explaining her social setting of her town in terms of the teenagers. And she comes straight out and she says basically that the teenagers in her town have a system. And I'm just going to read from it directly because it's just really fascinating.
Daly writes: "The younger fellows in our town have a system. To an adult [00:30:00] or to someone from out of town, it would mean nothing to see a group of young boys standing in front of McKnight's or on the nearest street corner, but I knew what they were there for. And all the other girls knew too. These are the checkers. They are the more popular crowd at high school, and every evening, about half past seven, they gather to stand talking together with elaborate unconcern while in actuality, they're sharply watching the cars going by to see what fellows and girls are out together. They watch to see who is having a Coke with whom and to report any violations on the part of the girls who are supposed to be going steady."
So Angie, our protagonist lays out this sort of I, I tend to see it as a panoptic system of surveillance, essentially.
Andrea Martucci: That's what it sounds like. Exactly.
Amanda Allen: yeah. And what I find the most fascinating, but also disturbing, is that Angie wants to be part of this.
So here's another little quotation just later in the page. She says, "it is almost like a secret police system. No one escapes being checked on, at least no one who counts. The checkers also keep their eyes open for new prospects among the young sophomore girls who are growing up and show signs of dateable promise. They only watch out for the very pretty or very popular girls. So it is the most serious catastrophe of all not even to be noticed by the checkers. They can start or stop any of the younger girls in town just by passing the word around."
So this is theoretically the beginning text of the junior novels. And it's one that has these moments in it that at least reading it in the 21st century are so incredibly disturbing but are also so very gendered. And which suggest that the girls are not only learning, how to become women in terms of these social norms, let's say, that Havighurst is suggesting as developmental tasks, but in a more disturbing, I think I'll say, sort of social hierarchy Milia
Andrea Martucci: It's normalizing not only the surveillance aspect and that some people are qualified to make these judgements and that is good and right. But also that it is good and right to want to succeed in that system. And also you can read between the lines, what qualifies some of the sophomore girls as being worthy of noticing, I assume the development of certain physical attributes. In a particular way that are deemed desirable. It's not like they notice their sparkling personality.
They might notice that they don't give a crap about pleasing the checkers, that would probably turn them off. Yeah it's very much this, this is how you survive in this system, by wanting to succeed in the system and buying into the fact that these things have value.
Amanda Allen: Exactly. And later junior novels will tone that down a bit. They're not quite like this one. Maureen Daly herself was between 18 and 21 when she was writing this. So it's she was writing it as an adult text. This actually was never [00:33:00] published as YA although it quickly became known as YA.
So the later junior novels do move away a little bit, but they still have everything that you just said as underpinnings for a lot of stuff going on. And when it comes to physical attributes, for example, you will never read the word breast, for example, there'll be no actual discussions of that, but there will be a ton of description given to dresses. So it's not necessarily how the protagonist looks in the dress that will be described. It's how the dress is described. And yet, that's actually the same thing, right? It's giving the same sort of information without actually stressing sexuality, quite frankly.
So these protagonists are often sexualized without being sexualized, if that makes any sense. So it's,
Andrea Martucci: Covert?
Amanda Allen: Subtext comes out. Yeah. There's and most everything in these texts are coded in many ways. And so I think readers of the time were able to decode many of the codes and to know exactly what these things meant. If you're wearing saddle shoes versus wearing flat black Oxfords, you're in two different levels of the popular hierarchy, because one is going to be accepted and one is not.
And no one needs to say that, you just say what the shoe is and that's automatically recognized. So there's a lot of stuff like that happening as well.
Andrea Martucci: right. And so this entire premise is based on these very hegemonic ideas of gender, and I assume also class and race. And I assume these mostly take place in very white dominated, suburban areas.
Amanda Allen: Yeah, very much so. Stolz again, is the exception. Because Stolz goes into cities, she goes into poor communities and she does bring in diversity sometimes. Although it tends to be- usually she might have Black characters for example, but they will be secondary characters.
There's only, I think, five novels out of hundreds that I've ever come across that have any sort of character of color as the protagonist. So it's very white, as you say, it's usually the middle class suburbs. Exactly what you would expect from the 1950s. So they are very heterosexual and yet subtextually I think, in actually many of them, you can read queer narratives. Um, But they are definitely subtext.
Like you it's, it would never be read overtly. And again, they tend to be coded.
Andrea Martucci: Mm-hmm
Amanda Allen: it's, whether or not that was intended. I doubt it quite frankly, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not there.
Andrea Martucci: Is it like how in Jane Eyre, like Jane has these like really intense friendships with particular women or girls?
Amanda Allen: This is exactly it. Yes. It's the exact same thing. Like the protagonist who is just enamored with [00:36:00] the popular beautiful girl and just follows her around and talks about her constantly and is almost stalking her in a weird way, like it's. Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: Like, Do you wanna be her or do you wanna date her?
Amanda Allen: that is exactly what the question always comes down to. Yes, exactly. So you're always like interesting. And again, when you come to the end of the text and your protagonist is with the boy, she's usually also by that point, besties with that girl as well. There's again a kind of double HEA concept happening there. So yeah, again, it's probably pushing it, but I think you can actually do really interesting queer readings of them.
Andrea Martucci: And so how are these being published? Are these like, almost like pulp, paperbacks? Are they in series or are they all standalones? I guess how do they show up in physical form?
Amanda Allen: Yeah, that's a good question. So basically the majority of these are going to start as hard back and they're hard back because paperbacks are coming out, but they are being targeted or marketed most of the time to libraries, not to girls themselves quite yet.
You will have some in some bookstores. But this is a course before you're able to get like books in the grocery store, like that kind of thing. Right? So the market for the majority of these at this time is going to be one public librarians and two, as schools start to develop their own libraries over the fifties and sixties, you will get some of that market as well.
So they're hardbacks. They are not cheap. So if you were a girl buying them, they were not super expensive, but definitely not cheap. They were a little bit of an investment.
Andrea Martucci: The follow up then is given that the primary consumer of these is librarians who need to get books for bibliotherapy, what do you know about the audience response to these? I'm assuming these were primarily given to and read by girls in these settings. What do you know about, did they enjoy them? What did they take away from them? Did they have different responses than the intended response?
Amanda Allen: For the most part, they follow the path that you would expect. So they were read by girls usually by girls who didn't necessarily have to be the best readers, but they were generally reading through them, growing up with them. So they might, for example, read a Janet Lambert and a Rosemand du Jardin, which are slightly easier to read, and then they might graduate to say Betty Cavanna and Anne Emery.
And then as they're getting older, maybe Mary Stolz. So there's a bit of a kind of graduation of reading, I guess you could say there. But it does get tricky because let me put it this way. If I looked at Seventeenth Summer, I once went into an archive and I looked at all of these letters that had been written to Maureen Daly.
And I was really surprised because I think of Seventeenth Summer as this sort of quintessential junior novel for girls. And it's still [00:39:00] endlessly quoted as is her short story, Sixteen, which I know, you know about. That's still anthologized even today. And we are, quite a while later.
But always for girls generally. And so I was really surprised because I found out that the majority of the letters in her archive were actually from men. Um, yeah, I was like, wait, what? And when I say men, I mean like men, not boys.
Usually in their twenties, actually twenties and thirties. But they were mostly priests and pilots of all things. And a lot of it was pilots in particular during the war who were writing to her. And so I've written a different article about this, and I have a lot of questions about what was going on with that. What was it that they were identifying with in this text?
Because they did really identify with Angie in a way that we often, even today don't tend to either perceive or allow boys to identify with female characters. Often we still have this idea that boys and men just either don't want to, or for whatever reason are not able to identify in the way that girls and women have been conditioned to read, through multiple genders.
Anyway, with that particular text, but if this is like the ur text of girls' literature in the mid 20th century, what is with all these men reading it, like what is happening? So all of that is to say, yes, the junior novels were definitely read by girls, but I don't know if they were only read by girls and whether or not a lot of our kind of categorization of that as girls' literature is in some ways also a retrospective categorization.
I just don't know, because obviously the men had no issue with reading this text. Again with the caveat that when it first came out, it was advertised as an adult text. So that is another sort of difference there. So yeah, and I've never seen any letters from boys to any of the other authors. So again, it does suggest that the majority of the readership was girls, but you never know.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah there's so much that's interesting about this, but one thing that is pinging for me is that, so Ann Reit, who was the editor at Scholastic prior to the eighties, but in the eighties, she's doing Wildfire and Sunfire, and she seemed to be very influenced by Maureen Daly, to the point where she brings Maureen Daly, essentially out of retirement to do some writing. According to some, not very successful writing, like in the eighties, like she's no longer a teenager, she's not in her heyday of writing from recent experience.
Ann Reit is a big fan of these junior novels and malt shop books and Maureen Daly. And then how that influenced what she seemed to be advocating for in the books that she was editing and acquiring for where, speaking with Candice Ransom who worked directly with Ann Reit, she said that she got a lot of notes and she was literally reading from her letters about, what you were talking about [00:42:00] earlier with the female friendships.
In Sunfire, they seemed a little bit more like conflict, as opposed to this girl, I want to be her.
It was more like I am in conflict with this girl. And then how over the course of this book, how do I get to a place of harmony with this girl? And this girl may demonstrate some attributes of the non-ideal girl of the eighties. And and also there's the love triangle of the right boy and the wrong boy. And how do you construct that in these books?
There do seem to be a lot of echoes, but in my opinion, by the eighties, first of all, you're seeing that influence of second wave feminism of the I think in particular, the kind of act like a man to be a more evolved young girl.
Do you know what I mean? Like, Reject gender stereotypes by acting more traditionally masculine. Be independent, it's okay to have a romance, but also, yes, very much ascribing to these 1980s ideas of womanhood. But again it's still constructing how should you act as a girl?
Amanda Allen: Still the didacticism.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. How should you judge, which partners are going to support you according to your needs as the ideal girl woman?
Amanda Allen: Yeah. I mean, It's interesting. If you look at the politics of the eighties and the politics of the fifties, or for that matter, the economic sort of aspects going on, there's a lot of parallels there. And I do tend to wonder if some of that is informing the parallels between these texts, because I think you're totally right.
There's there's a kind of- I'm just gonna keep using the word parallel, because it really does seem to be, here's what's going on in the junior novels. And then here's, what's going on in the eighties category romance in particular, and how they are doing a lot of the same things, with these changes that you mentioned, but a lot of the similar things, and you can find that in particular, if you look at again, category romances of young adults in the eighties and the non standalone series versions of junior novels in the forties and sixties.
So this gets back to a previous question you asked that I think I forgot to answer this bit, but basically the majority of the texts are split between two categories. So one are standalone books and that's Mary Stolz in particular, the majority of hers are standalone. She only has a couple that have a kind of sequel-esque quality, but they're pretty much all on their own, and same with Betty Cavanna.
But when Cavanna writes under a different name, she does a lot of series. And then you've got Ann Emory and Rosamund du Jardin and Janet Lambert in particular who are doing a lot of more traditional series books. But in this case, they often will slowly let their protagonist grow up. So you might start at junior year and end at senior year over the course of six books or something like that.
So it's in [00:45:00] that side of things, the series novels, where you can particularly see these parallels because they tend to use the formulas much more than even the standalone books use.
Andrea Martucci: When thinking about how these books are using romance, but then also considering that they are being created for younger readers, there's this very interesting thing that I'm trying to understand better where on the one hand, I mean, you talked about this in your chapter about how, because these are younger protagonists, this is their first love, not necessarily their HEA, that we would conceive of in romance where it's like, and then they ride off into the sunset forever.
And, you can have an optimistic feeling of, oh, that was a nice first love, and we're not gonna watch them break up, but like maybe they do it's okay. And so it's interesting because so much of adult romance is on this idea that I think readers really like this idea of this is forever and they want it to be forever.
And so then you go into these young adult and it's like, there is romance, there is an optimistic ending, but not meant to be forever necessarily. They're too young for it to be forever and maybe it isn't, but we're not gonna think about that. So it almost feels like the romance is used more as a way to work through issues of identity, which I don't know if that's different from romance novels for adults but much more like blatantly
Amanda Allen: yeah.
Andrea Martucci: And usually using the romantic partners to sort of like, which direction are you gonna go in? Who are you gonna be? And who are you going to see as having value, according to how you identify
Amanda Allen: I mean, quite frankly, sometimes I look at the junior novels and as much as I call them romances every so often, and I'm like, are these actually romances? Because they don't fit the type of traditional tropes that we associate with romance, including the HEA obviously.
Now this is one difference between the junior novels and the problem novels of the eighties or the romance series novels of the eighties in that. Whereas I think in the eighties ones were sort of like, yeah, they're teenagers, it's sweet that they're together, they, it's not really an HEA it's, they're happy for now. And that's all that we can expect because they're teenagers and we would be disturbed if they now are married and having kids at 17.
In the forties and sixties ones, there is a lot more of a sense that once they're going steady, they are getting married. So we're not going to see a marriage, but we are getting that feeling of this is a first romance, but it's also gonna be the only romance.
Andrea Martucci: It's your first and last, unless he goes to war and dies,
Amanda Allen: also that
Andrea Martucci: but we're not gonna talk about
Amanda Allen: No. The one that's outside of all, this is again Mary [00:48:00] Stolz and that's because Mary Stolz is the only one who includes teenage divorce actually, and teen marriage, I should say.
She's really looking at teen marriage with sort of threats of teen divorce coming in and out of things. And part of me is I still think that part of all of that is because she herself went through that and was married very young and divorced and had a, from what I can tell a much happier, longer term romance later on in her life when she was a fully fledged adult.
But yeah, so that's again where Stolz is a little on the outside of things, because she is showing negative ramifications of actually getting married. Whereas all of the other ones are sort of like, (gasp) he's finally given me his class ring, we're now going steady. I am happy. We're basically gonna get married.
Everything is set for the rest of our lives. So as much as it's not an HEA it really is an HEA. So I think that is one of the difference between the kind of eras of the young adult romance as we proceed and start to have a different sense of what is appropriate for teens in terms of age and marriage.
Andrea Martucci: Right. You know, what's interesting is so I was saying to you beforehand, that for some reason, the series I've been doing the most deep dives into are the historical romance series and in Sunfire and in the Avon True Romance lines, they're not actually always that much older, like Sunfire, sometimes the characters are 15, 16, 17. The um, Avon True romances, they're like maybe a little bit more 17, 18, 19.
They end in engaged and getting married
Amanda Allen: true. You're right. I forgot about that entirely actually, but yeah,
Andrea Martucci: I mean, because I think very much this idea of like it's historical, people got married younger, which is not always true necessarily historically, but there is, I think to modern readers, they're like, okay, I can believe this.
Amanda Allen: yeah. Yeah. So therefore you can insert it in these ones that are looking back into the past. Yeah, I totally, yeah, that makes sense.
Andrea Martucci: And some of them, I do think that, the nod to the fact that they are younger is they'll do this like, and I'm gonna do blah, blah, blah for another year and save up money and then we'll get married, but it's like, they're engaged, but they're also kind of like, and we're still a little bit young to actually get married and bang,
Amanda Allen: They actually recognize that.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. Yeah.
Amanda Allen: The eighties are a little too close to 1970. Okay. So the big deal in YA in 1975 is Judy Bloom's Forever. And it's a watershed text because it's really one of the very first texts that actually has a sex scene in YA.
And that of course is a huge deal. And it also has a character who names his penis. I think. I think the penis's name gets to be Ralph. If I recall correctly anyway. But that was a huge shift. And there was a lot of pushback against that. So when you get to the eighties, you go a little bit more conservative again, so I could see why, there's the implied [00:51:00] banging or whatever.
Andrea Martucci: They're like, can't wait to get married.
Amanda Allen: yeah, exactly.
Andrea Martucci: We better stop now because we're not married. It's like, what stop or else, what.
Amanda Allen: exactly. And that is right outta Seventeenth Summer, I might add, that sort of exact narrative. In fact, I think Angie says that at one point. She's like, Jack stop, I have too many feelings or something
Andrea Martucci: in her pants, yeah,
Amanda Allen: she talks endlessly. If I recall the exact words or something like "a strange queer feeling." And then she talks about I don't think the word is quivering, but it's something like quivering. Tingling, it's tingling. She talks about how she gets tingles every so often.
Andrea Martucci: I'm trying to remember like how I got into this, but I was like looking into the different feminist movements and watching these like documentaries. So we're talking about kinda like the historical periods where women actually had a good amount of freedom through the World Wars because they had to be part of the war effort and then women needed to be convinced to go back into the homes because men need these jobs. And there was this kind of rise of feminine domesticity, which obviously is very classed and raced and, there's and all, yeah there's other things going on there, but to simplify it. So that's the forties and the fifties, and then we. In the sixties and seventies, getting more of this countercultural movement where I think we're getting into pushing back on sexual mores. We get the pill, gender norms are being challenged. Women in the workforce are making more noise about equal pay,
Amanda Allen: mm-hmm
Andrea Martucci: never get. But, you know, so things are happening in the culture.
And then my understanding is then there's this backlash in the eighties, to borrow Susan Faludi's book title. Where once again, like what happened in the forties, there's this like, okay. Things were getting really radical here. Now there's this, maybe women could wear prairie dresses and get really into sewing and baking again
Amanda Allen: Holly Hobby. Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. yeah. And and so there's this bringing it back, but reframing it for the eighties.
And it's interesting cuz 40 years later it almost feels like we are back to that point in 2022 where things that felt dusted and settled are now being relitigated and there is this new movement of sort of social conservatism and cultural conservatism that we're feeling again. But it's very interesting that in these time periods, I mean, w e're talking specifically about young adults, and maybe you could say this for adult romance as well, that there are these booms of romantic tales in these times, because it was big in the forties and fifties into the sixties and then dies down. And then there's these boom of all of these romantic series for contemporary and historical.
And then that kind of died down. And then, we're not gonna talk too much about the two thousands, but my sense when [00:54:00] looking at Avon True Romances from the early two thousands is Funmi and I were talking about how parental they feel, where they felt very like what I imagine the junior novels. Maybe the readers at the time were not like, stop talking down to me, but I wonder if by the two thousands, the readers reading, it were like, I like this, but like also I'm ready for something else now. And that series did not catch on.
And now YA and YA romance is just so different. It's just such a different field where you're not getting these like publisher series of just focusing on the romance, but it would be very interesting given the cultural moment we find ourselves in, I wonder if all of a sudden you're gonna start to see these messages start to come out or are we past that point? Like we have the digital era and you can't ever go back to that time where it's like foisting.
And I don't wanna go down the rabbit hole but also interesting that there's all these book bans and legislation coming through trying to limit access, limit the access of young people to certain materials.
Amanda Allen: Yeah. Yeah. There's so much going on. I'm always reluctant to create too much of a kind of master narrative because there's a lot of stuff that works against it too. Right. But I do totally see what you're saying, that there, or there, appears at least to be a pattern of popularity of these texts with particularly conservative moments in American And so if I look at the now and now is today that we just found out that Roe V. Wade has been overturned. Like we found out, I think what two hours ago, three hours ago now so I'm in shock. So it, it feels terrifying quite frankly. Or at least for people who share my politics.
Yeah, I think there are definite parallels. On the opposite side. I think that also there's contrasts that come out at the same time. So like, when I was thinking about how you were describing in the eighties and I was totally with you, and then I was like, but also at the same time, there was also working women's culture was becoming a big thing, too.
I think about contemporary young adult romance. Yes. I have a feeling that it is becoming more or is especially now gonna become more popular. But I think what might be surprising in terms of parallels to the past is that what we're going to see, I suspect, is a lot more focus on queer YA romance. And so you might still have this sort of focus on romance that it feels conservative in how it's putting things across. And yet I think it might be balanced out by an even bigger emergence of queer text. And we already see that with stuff like Heartstopper right now.
Like it's just, things are already, emerging out of that, but I could see that, and texts that are romance, but pushing against the gender binary and [00:57:00] instead inviting more protagonists who are non-binary or trans or, lots of different ways of just thinking about gender.
Andrea Martucci: right. I mean, like, even somebody who is assigned female at birth, who identifies as a girl, but is bucking traditional gender role prescriptions about how she should act or what she should wanna do with her life or whatever. Right. Like, it is a whole spectrum of thinking about identity and gender and sexuality and all of that.
Because I don't think that like romantic narratives are inherently conservative and I it does sound like
Amanda Allen: I don't think so either.
Andrea Martucci: in particular, like the ones you're talking about from the forties, sixties, those feel like fairly conservative in terms of like gender, but it was also like of the moment.
And then it felt like the eighties, I do not want to say these books lack all nuance. And because they're about a romantic relationship that exists in this very heteronormative space at the time they are inherently, you know, negative, they reflect the pros and cons of the cultural moment of the time.
And if we then get a parallel movement today, it will, again, reflect where we're at now and like what we're dealing with now. And there's gonna be some that are really regressive and then there are
Amanda Allen: yeah.
Andrea Martucci: that are really awesome. And progressive.
Amanda Allen: It's true. And that's been, as you've said, that's been the way, the whole way around, like I think about, okay. I keep coming back to Mary Stolz because she's my favorite. You can
Andrea Martucci: I can tell
Amanda Allen: oh my God. I love her. But there's this one moment in one text, and again, you have to remember that this particular text is, if I recall 1953, I think it was. It's a single throwaway line. She just has a protagonist is talking about something or other it's, not really important. It's all about the romance narrative.
And all of a sudden she has this sentence that says something like "a smear used to be what happened when you dropped a piece of bread with jam on the floor. But now it's what happens when you get called in front of a House Investigating Committee." And then she goes on, it's a single sentence, just thrown in there in a way you would not expect from a young adult romance of that period at all.
And yet that is very political in that moment, cuz we are in pure McCarthyism, right? It's of that moment, but it is very much pushing against. And I also think about letters I've read between another junior novelist Ann Emory and her editor in which the editor basically said, I totally see what you're doing here. And I agree with you and I want you to do this, but your book will be blocked by the major outlets if you include certain things. And I can't remember what it was, but it wasn't even particularly racey, but it was just suggesting sexuality. And Emory removed it essentially. And so you've got this sort of market awareness on behalf of the editors [01:00:00] who are again, inserting a conservatism that they don't necessarily feel themselves and that the authors don't feel.
And so it's a weird thing, right? Because we perceive these in one way as pretty conservative texts, but you can see these little hints that things are pushing against. And I think you're right, that we're seeing similar stuff happening with all of these parallels of conservatism and these texts, but then also these hints of things that push against that, which I guess is just history really.
But it's interesting when you also look at those parallels
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think you know, positioning these books, they are children's literature. I mean, Children's young adult, whatever, the idea that the readers of these books are minors and that there are all these adults with opinions, not only about their children, but all children. And I think that, industry policies, government policies, social acceptance of things, all of these things are interacting with what is being produced to say this is, we can't publish this.
Like I would love to publish this, but I can't. There's all these forces and that is utilized this idea, children become the battleground for enforcing ideology. And even more so than those same regulations impacting adult literature, the idea that these readers are minors and that they must be protected from certain ideas and that they must learn certain values.
That is why children become this battleground of control. And and yes, it is incredibly scary to live in a world where we are seeing more and more that, won't someone think of the children is being used as a way to to disallow, ideas
Amanda Allen: mm-hmm
Andrea Martucci: from being accessed.
Amanda Allen: Yeah, Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: It's frightening.
Amanda Allen: Lee Edelman has a really interesting sort of theoretical model of that in his book called No Future. We won't go into that, but you're getting at a similar idea and how he's looking at a similar thing.
It's interesting to me because when you're talking about the intermediaries, right? And this is of course, one of the fundamental differences with adult literature of any genre. But it gets to a kind of very well known idea within those who study children's literature. And this is from a woman named Jacqueline Rose in a book called The Case for Peter Pan or The Impossibility of Children's Literature.
And she basically says that the child of children's literature is the construct of adult needs and desires. Now children's literature scholarship is starting to push against that idea, but Rose's idea is still pretty fundamental to the field in the sense that it does recognize that all this stuff that we are giving to children is about what adults want for them. It's [01:03:00] rarely about what children or young adults necessarily want for themselves. It might be more in terms of how it's marketed to them and how we assume or what we assume they want that kind of thing. But generally, even today, there's still a didacticism that flows through some children's and YA and it is always present in the background and you can see it when people go out to buy a book for a young person, you'll have some who buy a book because they think a kid will like it, but a good majority of adults purchase books for younger readers, because they're like, oh, I want, this younger person to know about this, or this is good for this younger person.
Andrea Martucci: It's always projection. It's like, when somebody who's really into horses gets you a gift centered around horses, and you're like, I know you like horses. I don't like horses. This has nothing to do with my life. I don't wanna dig at horses, but it's like the, this was a gift for you and exactly what you're saying here.
Like it's what do adults think children need? Or they don't even think that they want it, but you know what? You don't know. What's good for you. It's paternalism.
Amanda Allen: Very much and it gets that it's also ageism, right? There's there's a term that Maria Nikolajeva, I think coined called aetonormativity. And it's basically if we say heteronormativity, we understand what that means. It's the same idea, but with age. An easy way to sort of recognize this is if you ask someone to think of a person in their mind, just a mental image of a person, almost a hundred percent of people when they, think of person are thinking of adults, they rarely ever are ever going to think of a child when they think of this term person or even human, something like that.
So we are already socialized to think of younger people as lesser. Older people too. It's the two ends of the spectrum kind of thing. But we don't necessarily recognize that as a kind of ageism. But it comes up in how we provide literature, because of course, again, as soon as you have this, like inherent, didacticism it suggests a power differential, we know what is best for you.
And I think for most people that is normal. And I'm not saying it's not. In many ways, adults do know what is better for children because we have experience, but not necessarily always. So there's a movement right now in childhood studies that sort of looks at ageism and sort of questions, is there a way to be less ageist essentially to sort of interact more with the child, allow the child to basically have their own agency, make their own choices, their own decisions in some way that is still healthy and safe and all of these sorts of things. So it's just a way of rethinking the relationship between adults and children that doesn't necessarily reinforce or reinscribe adults as having all the power, [01:06:00] children as being powerless, voiceless the old sort of tabula rasa, blank slate thing. Instead recognizing the agency and abilities of children. So that's a whole other thing, but it comes into the literature and including YA, of course,
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think that as adults now, you and I, I think that everybody does this, you start to revise history about your own youth. Cuz we, we were all children. All adults were at one time a child. And there are times where I'm. Oh, gosh, when I was 16, what the heck was going on in my brain.
And there's a lot of things I, I didn't have experience, I didn't know a lot of things, but I'll read my journals from when I was 16. And I'm like, oh, I actually was not quite as clueless as I like to remember. And I think that sounds like such a promising development.
Amanda Allen: It's coming into a lot of stuff related to childhood studies. Yeah.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. That's such a promising development because we probably generally don't give kids as much credit as we should. And what you were saying, how can we guide, help create safe spaces and mentor,
Amanda Allen: Mm-hmm
Andrea Martucci: but not instruct
Amanda Allen: there's your key, right? I think a lot of the emphasis right now is also coming - I keep talking about this, but it's coming from a kind of queer community in the sense of here's an example. Childhood sexuality. For most people, the very concept that children are sexual beings is very disturbing, for many, obvious and frankly, good reasons. But if we consider them only as I don't know, sexless then you also have opposite problems coming in, and particularly with children who are as Kathryn Bond Stockton would say, growing sideways. Children who might themselves be queer and are trying to understand what that means while growing up in usually a heteronormative society.
And similarly with gender. If a child identifies as trans or just does not feel that their gender, their performative gender is representing their internal, like their identity then we have a problem, right? And you've you need to be able to help the child.
But if you continue with this sort of ageist thing that says that, oh, you don't know who you are yet.
Andrea Martucci: you are not an expert on yourself.
Amanda Allen: Exactly. So I'm awkward in speaking about this because I know that this is very controversial for many people and particularly ideas of gender and sexuality with children is a really uncomfortable concept to even think about.
So I always try to be careful when I talk about it, but at the same time, I think it is important to address it. And particularly as an aspect related to the power difference and recognizing young people's agency over themselves.
Andrea Martucci: Yeah. And I think it's part of why we see rhetorically conservative talking points, frame queerness as aligned with sexual, like sex. It is [01:09:00] sexually explicit. Queerness, transness it's. It is something that is taboo because it is aligned with sexuality as opposed to identity. And it's interesting that romance as a genre, adult romance is so closely aligned with explicit sexuality at this point in our culture. And, lots of people are like, yes, I like the sex, but also there's other things I enjoy about it. And it's interesting that these young adult romances, particularly of the earliest eras, they are romance without the sexuality and okay. That is fine. It is okay to have romance as long as we pull way back on acknowledging the existence of sexuality for these children.
But romance by itself is not inherently sexual for young adults until you bring in potentially queerness or not aligning with gendered expectations for children then it's no, you don't know what the hell you're talking about. Like you don't know what you're doing, but it's interesting that romance in some contexts can be asexual and in other contexts, highly sexualized. And again, I think these are rhetorical moves that conservatives are using to take benign conversations and make it seem like issues that are appropriate for children are inappropriate for children. So that then you can control them and control everybody. Get back in your place is essentially the idea Yeah, it's a disturbing day.
Amanda thank you so much for your generosity with your time and your ideas and sharing all the amazing work that you're doing. Where can people find you on the interwebs? And also what exciting things are you doing that are published or about to be published or just exciting projects you're working on?
Amanda Allen: Thanks. First let me just say thank you for letting me babble at you, at great length. Cuz I think that I did a lot of babbling there. Now in terms of ever contacting me, I do have a website and I am trying to bring it up to tell you the name of it.
Andrea Martucci: AmandaKallen.wordpress.com.
Amanda Allen: I love that, you know that. Yeah. And I don't even know the name, even though it is, my name. Yeah. We won't talk about that. Exactly. So you can contact me through that. I would love to hear from anybody unless you're yelling at me about childhood sexuality, in which case I would prefer not to hear about you.
Andrea Martucci: Use the term, "I am going to yell at you about childhood sexuality," and then Amanda can filter your email out.
Amanda Allen: exactly. That would be lovely. Please do that. So my current stuff that I'm working on, I've got a couple of different projects going simultaneously. One of them is an article in which I actually look at the network of women who were producing and distributing the junior novels. And I look at them in particular actually by recognizing that they were a queer network, surprisingly enough, they were actually, many of them were together with themselves. So that has been fascinating. I had no clue when [01:12:00] I started researching because frankly, I guess I was heteronormative myself in my expectations. And I just assumed that these were all women married to lots of men. (Andrea: they're just roommates?)
Well, And that's what I keep finding all of these examples of roommates. And I'm like, hold on, you're working together and your roommates. And wait, if I look at like census reports, you've been roommates for 35 years, you really like your roommate.
Andrea Martucci: I mean, they do work in publishing in New York. It's a very expensive city.
Amanda Allen: This is true. This is true. And actually that's one of the questions I'm always like, were they actually couples or were they just long term besties. And I mean, really that question is not actually that important. It's more, however we define these relationships, what does that mean for how this network functioned in and amongst itself? And it is actually a really just phenomenal network.
And then I have a book project that is looking at the junior novels, a kind of overview of them because we have essentially forgotten them and then recognizing how they really are the precursor to the new realism and canonical young adult literature.
What does it mean that we have forgotten them, even though they basically ushered this in. And again, looking at this network in terms of how they're functioning really helped to establish the novels themselves, but also how their demise of the network sort of equates with demise of the junior novels as well. And what does that mean? So that's the type of stuff that I am working on currently.
Andrea Martucci: That is fascinating.
Amanda Allen: It's nice of you to say
Andrea Martucci: no, it is. Like it has been well established that the nerdier, the more fascinating in my book
Amanda Allen: Woohoo.
Andrea Martucci: and the good thing is that Shelf Love listeners are here because they too find it fascinating.
Amanda Allen: I am thankful for nerdy listeners.
Andrea Martucci: Amanda, thank you so much for joining me today. And I'm excited for all the stuff that you're doing.
Amanda Allen: Thank you so much. And again, as I said, thank you for letting me babble at great length. And I feel that I should also apologize to your listeners. So sorry, listeners story listeners.
Andrea Martucci: never apologize. Never apologize.
This episode was part of a short series that I'm doing on teen romance.
I'd love to hear your takeaways from these conversations on young adult romance, either on social media, where you can find me at Shelf Love pod on Twitter or at Shelf Love Podcast on Instagram. Or you can always email me at Andrea. At Shelf Love Podcast dot com.
Thank you so much for spending time with me today. If you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe, rate, or review on your favorite podcast app or tell a friend. Check out ShelfLovePodcast.Com for transcripts and other resources.
If you want to join the conversation about the topics that we discuss on Shelf Love, I'd encourage you to check out Shelf Love's Patreon at Patreon.com/ShelfLove. Thank you to Shelf Love's $20 a month supporters: Gail, Copper Dog Books, Frederick Smith, and John Jacobson.
See your name listed as a Patreon supporter on the Shelf [01:15:00] Love website if you join at any level. That's Patreon.com/ShelfLove. That's all for today. Thanks so much. Bye.
(music playing with lyrics: Red Hot Mama by Liberty)
Song Lyrics: I'm just a girl, a wonderful girl, I'm the sweetest one in town. You can search for miles around. And no one like me can be found. I've got a smile, a beautiful smile in a certain little way. Every time the boys get near me they look at me and say. You're a red hot mama, ,
I'm the one you need. Red hot mama, some trauma, yes indeed. Say that I should be in the follies, hot tamales, they say that I've got a pair of eyes, just like old Svengali. I confess that I possess the sweetest charms in town. And unless I miss my guess, the boys will follow me around. I can make a Texas farmer forget his head, make the devil, throw his fork away. Red hot mama, red hot mama, but I have to turn my temper down.. I have to turn my temper down. I'll have to turn my temper down.
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