Guest Post: Joyce Scarbrough

Today is my first official guest on this here blog and I would like everyone to give a warm welcome to Ms. Joyce Scarbrough.  This lovely author is here to talk to us about a somewhat controversial topic that I think many of us can get behind – if nothing else than to acknowledge the necessity of discussing it.  Please, take the time to read her article and, as always, I look forward to the discussion in the comments section.  Without much further ado, Joyce Sterling Scarbrough!

“Teach Your Children Well”

By Joyce Sterling Scarbrough

In an interview with PEOPLE magazine earlier this year, Bristol Palin said: “If girls realized the consequences of sex, nobody would be having sex. Trust me. Nobody.”

Bristol, honey, even my son knew what had caused his mommy to have his little sister when he was four years old. He even explained it succinctly to the little girl next door while they were watching an episode of LASSIE in which Lassie had puppies. He took his thumb out of his mouth, turned to his friend Krista and said, “Mommies have eggs, daddies have berm.” (Okay, he may not have been able to pronounce “sperm,” but he knew what it meant!)

My point is that I don’t think ignorance of the consequences is the underlying problem with teenage pregnancy. Sure, abstinence and avoidance of temptation are the best preventatives, but most teens are so bombarded with hormones and the inundation of conscienceless sex they get from the entertainment industries that it just isn’t realistic to expect them to ignore all their urges. No matter how wrong they believe it to be or how much we hope and pray our kids won’t do it, teenagers have been having sex since the beginning of time, and I don’t foresee it stopping anytime soon.

Right after it was published, my first novel, TRUE BLUE FOREVER, was reviewed by a Christian book reviewer who said that while she greatly enjoyed the story herself, she couldn’t recommend it to teenaged readers because it was “written from an amoral standpoint. The protagonists abstain from sex before marriage not because it is wrong, but because they fear pregnancy will keep them from their goals. When they do succumb to temptation, their actions are not shown to be immoral, but merely premature.”

I take issue with that. My own son was 16 years old when I wrote TRUE BLUE FOREVER, so I put a lot of serious thought into what message teens would get from it. Ultimately, I decided that my book’s message is that even the unusually smart, responsible teenage couples can make bad choices that cause them serious problems, but they have to learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. I also wanted to show that it takes only “one time” and your life and the lives of at least two other people are changed forever.

And I disagree that TBF is written from an amoral standpoint. I teach my own children as I was taught: that premarital sex is wrong as well as dangerous, but I also remember vividly what it’s like to be 16 and know I was a lot like Jeana, my heroine. As smart and level-headed as she is, her judgment goes completely awry in the heat of the moment, and all her best intentions and morals are for naught. Sure, it’s best not to put yourself in situations that make temptation too easy to give in to, but even teens with the best intentions sometimes get caught off guard. And it doesn’t make them bad nor stupid.

Every parent, of course, has the right to decide what they want their children to read, but I had absolutely no reservations about letting my own children read TBF. When my daughters read it at 14, we talked about all these issues, and they both surprised and impressed me with the insightful things they said during our conversations. I believe my book is useful for parents and teachers to open up these same kinds of discussions with other teens who read it, and a lot of good could come from that. As a matter of fact, my high school guidance counselor told me she thinks it should be required reading for all teenagers because it presents a realistic look at the consequences of pre-marital sex without being preachy, condescending, or judgmental.

And you get a darn good love story to boot, along with a lot of laughs and more than a few tears. If you’d like to see for yourself, you can get a copy here: http://tinyurl.com/yfuwh2y

If you like your characters a little older, pick up a copy of my latest book, SYMMETRY: http://tinyurl.com/ydrp7x3

Notice I said “older” and not necessarily more “mature.” Of course, I’m talking about the male characters! 😉

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16 responses to “Guest Post: Joyce Scarbrough

  • Glynis

    Excellent post! I have a niece and nephew who are just hitting these wonderful years in their lives. I will definitely suggest this book to their mother.

  • Joanne

    I like the idea that controversial books are so effective in starting dialogues and opening conversation on sensitive subjects. Talk is good, we learn, we understand, we expand our visions, and if it’s all prompted by a book, that seems to validate the book even more.

  • Jacqueline Seewald

    Hi, Joyce,

    Interesting to know that you write YA novels as well as adult fiction, since I write both as well. I do like the fact that when we write adult romance, we can be open about sex. The problem with YA is that there is a lot of censureship. I don’t believe in censureship. However, my YA novel, STACY’S SONG, is a sweet romance.
    It’s not a sexual novel. The romance is a strong one, but it’s not the primary focus of the novel as it is with my adult historical romance TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS which has a lot of sizzle.
    STACY’S SONG is about a girl finding herself, searching for a personal identity. I think your YA novels sound similar in that regard.

  • Joyce Scarbrough

    Thanks so much to Kimberly for having me as a guest poster on her wonderful blog!

    Yes, although TRUE BLUE FOREVER is usually categorized as a YA novel because of its teenage characters, I think of it more as a coming-of-age novel. While the love story is central to the plot, it’s also about lifelong friendships, bitter rivalries, and staying true to yourself and your dreams.

  • Helen Ginger

    I haven’t read your book, but it sounds like ones teenagers should read. Teens are bombarded with sex on TV, in movies, in advertisements, on the Internet, everywhere they turn. It’s good that they also have, occasionally, a book that presents a different view, one that will allow them to think and possibly talk about.

  • Joe Prentis

    Joyce,

    I agree completely with your post. As Ann Landers pointed out once in her column, children aren’t likely to stop having sex just because someone tells them to stop. In my opinion, the only thing that makes sense is to make them aware of the consequences. Sex education in some schools is apparently taught by people who believe teens don’t know where babies come from. I personally believe sexual awareness is a genetic part of our makeup. It is ridiculous to believe that you can put 500 kids in a school and they won’t educate each other. It is up to parents and the school to make sure they know the consequences of irresponsible behavior.

    Joe Prentis

  • Carol Kilgore

    It was hard being a teenager when I was one. I can’t imagine how difficult it is today. Great post.

    Kimberly, I tagged you at my blog.

  • Joyce Scarbrough

    Thanks so much to Kimberly for having me as a guest on her wonderful blog!

    While TRUE BLUE FOREVER usually gets classified as a YA novel because of its teenage characters, I actually think of it more as a coming-of-age novel. The love story is central, but it’s also about lifelong friendships, bitter rivalries, and staying true to yourself and your dreams.

  • christytilleryfrench

    Joyce, I think it’s important that teens see sex and its sequela from all angles, and having a book available that might evoke discussion is important. Today, teenagers are bombarded by movies and TV showing a rather loose, carefree mindset in regard to sex, without showing the real consequences. Good for you!

  • JoAnne Bennett

    Joyce, as a mother who “survived” raising three daughters through the teenage years, I believe your enlightening post would be helpful for those parents just starting the journey. I raised by overly critical mother who was often condescending and judgmental. She never even mentioned the word “sex” in a conversation with me, but expected me to understand not to ever get myself into a predicament that might embarrass her. From my personal perspective, a book like yours would be such a healthy way for mothers and daughters to talk openly and freely. As young adults now, all three of my daughters have said what helped them was that I never pretended to be perfect mother.

  • Shannon Baker

    Kimberly you picked a great writer for your first guest! Joyce, I think teaching our children consequences from their first moments with us is one of the most important lessons parents must impart. Sex is one aspect of life–a big one, for sure–but moral or amoral, there are consequences from the physcial to the emotional. Good for you for tackling a touchy subject.

  • Joy

    My mother would have been surprised at the things I was reading when I was only 12. That said, I believe that children should be encouraged to read, alongside the advice that parents give on all the stuff teens want to know about sex and the consequences. Keep them too insulated and they might not be able to make smart choices.

  • Jay Hudson

    Joyce,
    I loved true Blue forever. I didn’t find anything offensive in it. I thought it was very appropriate the way you wrote it.
    Jay Hudson

  • Joyce Scarbrough

    Thanks for all the supportive comments! I honestly could not understand the position of that reviewer who didn’t want her teenage son to read it because the characters abstained from sex for “amoral” reasons. Honestly, if we can get teens to abstain, does it really matter what their reason is? Sure, teach them your morals and ethics and be a good example for them, but get them safely through the hormonally crazy teenage years any way you can!

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