Well expressed, Nadine. People who prefer “clean books” are not holier-than-thou readers to whom any book not labeled “clean” is Evil with a capital E. I look for “clean” literature to avoid explicit sexual content and to incorporate mild language. Other readers prefer literature that expresses the “gritty” side of life with the kind of language and imagery that might be encountered in society’s bleak underbelly. Readers know what the world is like. They simply differ in the way they like to see the world portrayed when reading for entertainment. Some want ultra-realism no matter how dark, while others want to escape the dark side of life and read sunnier stories.
I choose my reading matter for what entertains me, and I do not condemn someone who chooses different reading matter for themselves. However we label it, none of us have the right or qualifications to condemn someone who prefers a different style.
I’ll admit when it first came to my attention a few years ago that the “clean” label for fiction is offensive to some, it surprised me a little. But, I understand the concern. (Mind you, while romance and young adult fiction are the focus of the article I just linked to, the overall discussion of clean fiction is broader.)
I wish books had a standard rating scale, like movies. And nowadays, since I’m realizing what “clean” can mean to different people, I personally opt to use the word “wholesome” instead, when I can. Or I refer to certain books as mild or moderate in content.
Or, hey. I just go ahead and use movie ratings to describe the content levels of books, and folks get my drift.
However, I think it can be easy to use and take the word “clean” out of context when it comes to books…
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