Sunday, November 15, 2009


Guest Blogging for Keplers Books: "Literary Prizes Seldom Make Passes at Tits and Asses"

I was invited to blog for Keplers, the venerable South Bay bookstore--which I love. A portion of my blog post appears below.

In an early interview I did before my novel was published, I was asked: "Are there enough women in leadership positions in your field?"

I said: "Publishing is full of women. Most readers of fiction are women. Stephanie Meyers and JK Rowling are, by all accounts, millionaires. And yet don’t most men win the high literary prizes?"

Fast forward to about a week ago, when Publishers Weekly announced its best books for 2009. All were by men.

"It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male. There was kicking and screaming for a science fiction title. A literary ghost story came so close, it squeaked."

Ever since, the internet, that new hub of literary discussion, has been up in arms. Furious bloggers challenged readers to create their own alternative lists. SheWrites, a recently created online community for women who write, urged participants to take action. Twitter is aflutter. There’s a lot of digital noise.

I feel like paging Dorothy Parker who famously wrote: "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." Is it too crude, if true, if I add: "Literary prizes seldom make passes at tits and asses"? The sad thing is, I accept this as a reality of my industry. The majority of fiction published by prestige magazines—okay, I’ll name one name: The New Yorker—isn’t by women. Some have complained that male authors get more marketing dollars from publishing houses, and that’s why “the smart people” are generally men. On a practical level, I can understand why this happens. If men win prizes, and prizes are good for publishers, why wouldn’t you, the publisher, support your most likely candidates?

Head over to the Kepler's blog, The Well Read Donkey, to read the rest of what I have to say.

That's a great and insightful post. I've recently started a reading challenge called Women Unbound and had been thinking about feminism and the position of women in the world. There have been a number of articles in the UK papers about PW's list as well. I'm no raving feminist, but I do feel that there are many things that need to be re-addressed in our society, and as you point out, part of it is how women see themselves and each other and how we compare ourselves to men. But I'm still trying to figure it out myself.
Well, thanks! And part of the reason I didn't just say, "Yes, I'm a feminist" is because I'd like to live in a world where we can embrace complexity. But I forget that what I see in the world doesn't equate to what everyone else sees--that there are reasons why movements and schools of thought are necessary.

I've been following some of what the UK press has said about the PW list--I'm very pleased to know that the list is part of the discussion, at the very least.
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