Agent Nathan Bransford commented on Leila Sales' Publisher's Weekly post about absent parents in children's/YA literature. He points out that it's common in classic English-language lit, giving examples from Roald Dahl, L. Frank Baum, and others.
He also points out the fractured and imperfect nature of other present parental units in literature.
I had noticed something similar in teen demographic mangas. It seems that the first step in almost every case is to eradicate or hobble the parents. They're workaholics, alcoholics, dead, as good as dead, working overseas, divorced and irresponsible, or otherwise irrelevant.
Bransford defends the Rowlings of modern literature (whose teenage characters are orphans) against the charge of laziness by recalling how exciting it was as a young reader to follow the adventures of other young people taking on adult challenges, and winning (or surviving).
He also admits to writing a book about a young character with absent parents. It strikes me I am doing the same. I've decided (after reading The Hunger Games trilogy, with the lead character's parents variously dead, half-dead, absent, or powerless) to base less of my work in progress (wait, that's a stretch...) on orphanhood.
But the lead's parents are still dead and gone, and now I have Bransford's "In Defense of Dead/Absent Parents in Children's Literature" to justify my folly.
- Steve Shea
- A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!