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>And then they were upon her, and with good reason, too.

>Fuse8 posts a link to what she accurately characterized as another hand-wringing piece about allegedly depressing YA novels on reading lists, but I am even more depressed by the author (a professor of creative writing, no less) condemning some “young adult fiction”, unnamed, where “a town holds a lottery. At first it seems like an innocent exercise, but the author slowly reveals that the winner of the lottery will be sacrificed.”

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >I love the suggestion that asking kids to read the Shirley Jackson story is sadistic, but substituting “Housekeeping” makes for a tra-la-la, “plot-free” romp. It would seem that she hasn’t read “The Lottery.” Perhaps she hasn’t read “Housekeeping” either. The narrative is indeed graceful, but all of that beautiful language is put to use to tell one chilling story. Sure, nobody is stoned to death, but it’s still one powerfully bleak portrayal of alienation and isolation.

  2. Kelly Fineman says:

    >I thought it funny (in both meanings of the word) that one of the major complaints was that when the upper-middle-class kids in her neighborhood read these books, it made them think and realize they had a good life. Only the article makes that sound like a bad thing.

  3. >I’m amused by the suggestion that Sedaris isn’t sadistic 😉 Ah yes, he’s just a happy Christmas elf.

  4. Anonymous says:

    >Are we SURE that she didn’t recognize “The Lottery” ? Perhaps she was being sarcastic. Or maybe she was trying to indicate
    how such a listing might appear to a parent whose child brought home such a reading list? (and yes, Sedaris is indeed merciless. I wouldn’t want to be a member o his family!)

  5. Anonymous says:

    >I must disagree with you, Roger. The assertion of the author’s that these depressing YA novels are examples of “lazy” writing is far more ridiculous than the possiblity that she has not heard of “The Lottery”.

    I think she was just giving a “sampler” as she said, and “Huck Finn” and “The Lottery” were thrown in as the classics.

    And I think the point here is not that teens are encouraged to pick one or two titles from the “depressing” reading list, but that they are assigned many titles from that list. Chances are the history and English teachers don’t always have time to plan their curricula together so it is entirely possible that one could end up with a very depressing reading list!

    But still, I can only aspire that one day my own writing will be as “lazy” as Harper Lee’s, or Shirley Jackson’s, or Milton’s, or J.R.R. Tolkien’s, etc.


  6. >One comment (of many) that disturbs me comes towards the end of the article when she says “The list seemed to be a thoughtful mix of classics and newer titles that didn’t reach as far over the shock line as, say, the slave novel “Day of Tears.”” Over the top? Has she even read this novel? I think the dialogues are fabulous and that this is a particularly moving piece of historical fiction that helps readers to see the inhumanity of slavery. How could this possibly be considerer over the “shock line”?

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >I’m kind of grossed out that she called it a “slave novel.”

    Anon, I looked for some evidence that she did indeed recognize “The Lottery” for what it was, but couldn’t find any. Can you?

  8. Charlotte says:

    >Hm. As far as I remember, I didn’t “slowly” realize what was happening in The Lottery — it just hit me at the end (accidental pun). But maybe I’m a lazy reader.


  9. Anonymous says:

    >I suspect that the book on her daughter’s reading list was actually The Lottery by Beth Goobie — which takes the Shirley Jackson premise and expands it into a full-length YA problem novel. Which doesn’t make her comments any less troubling, just less glaringly foolish.

    teen librarian

  10. Anonymous says:

    >It sounds more like Shirley Jackson’s Lottery to me. The Goobie book doesn’t have the whole town involved, just the high school, and the victim isn’t sacrificed, she’s shunned.

    I thought it might also be the the first short story in Margo Lanagan’s collection “Black Juice,” but there’s no lottery in that one, just the sacrifice.

    The bigger question for me is, what the heck is this book?

    “White people purposely burn an entire town of black people. Many survivors have no ears or mouths.”

  11. >I’m also curious about the book in which an entire town is burned. Anyone recognize it?

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