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Yes, dear, you’re right. Women writers ARE lame.

November 15, 2009

In case you missed it, Publisher’s Weekly came out with their annual Top 100 list this past week. Considered the most respected weekly book journal in the industry, writers and buyers look to PW to make or break careers, determine buying trends, and as is the case here, make recommendations to the media and general buying public. The timing of the list certainly isn’t accidental, being that they put it out right before Thanksgiving, a.k.a. the beginning of holiday shopping season.

So…why am I writing about this? Here’s why, and hold on to your ears, because I may blow them back.

The geniuses on the review committee decided this year to “up the ante with a Top 10 list.” Great, wonderful. However, all ten books on this best of the best are written by men. Yep, men. (Now don’t get me wrong. I love men. I’m married to one, in fact, and I think he’s the bees knees. This is not a man-bash post so dudes, hang out, k?) In fact, with the exception of one black writer, all the books in the top ten are written by white men. Are we seeing a bit of a trend here? Well, let’s continue.

In the Top 100, only thirty books that they chose are written by women. Yep, that makes it (counting on my fingers) only 30 percent written by women, so that’s 70 percent by men, with women relegated to the typical cookbooks (though it is the fabulous Ruth Reichl) and childcare sections. I do see many female-authored books throughout the list in various sections and for that I’m grateful. To be fair, I also see many favorite male authors listed and I am happy about that too. There are many male writers I read and love, that’s not my point. Bear with me.

See the entire list click here: http://tinyurl.com/y9vyhe3.

Hmmm…given that women buy the majority of books (see www.authosadvocate.com) — over 65 percent, people–although isn’t that kind of a no-brainer?–one would think that perhaps they might have taken a bit of a closer look at some of the wonderful books written by women this year and maybe included one, ONE, in their exclusive boys club? They say on their site that they reviewed “over 50,000 volumes and valiantly set out to choose 100.” So then how is it possible that Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize, is not even on the list? How about Lark and Termite by Jane Anne Phillips–on the list but apparently not good enough for the Top 10, though it has been nominated for a National Book Award, along with American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell (winners will be announced November 18.). Valiant efforts all, but apparently not valiant enough. Puh-leeze.

Personally, I go to NPR or Amazon’s award winner’s pages for my recommended reading lists. I also love to read Stephen King’s recs in Entertainment Weekly a few times a year, as well as TIME’s Top 10 which BTW this year included the fabulous Kate Christensen (see her page here at amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Kate-Christensen/e/B001IGFHVC/ref=sr_tc_2_0.

For NPR:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104307838

For Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/yds8gzo

It’s not as if I’m blind to the other side of the argument…perhaps books by women and minorities really just weren’t good enough to be included in the Top 10 this year. Perhaps white men (and one black man) really are better writers this year, superior at their craft if you will. Perhaps women and minorities really cannot compete in this white male-dominated market and PW is simply perpetuating what the market wants. Given that a woman, yes a woman, was heading up the review committee, it can’t be that gender bias was the reason, right? Right?

I think the answer is summed up best by this letter from the feedback section of the PW site. David, you represent yourself so well. I’m sure the women in your life are so proud…

David Allen Black 11/6/2009 1:32:29 PM PT
Location:
Hartford, CT
Occupation:Writer

“I can’t believe the lame feminists are upset that all of these authors happen to be male. What, you have to make sure that “all genders” are represented? That’s Kindergarten logic. Actually it’s worse, and scary that adults today with minds poisoned by feminism and other lame passe ideologies are wasting their mindcycles on it. Thanks, PW, for having the courage to stand up to bullies who have to have it their way or no way.”

(Mindcycles? Dude. Seriously.)

I couldn’t agree with you more, kind sir. I, for one, am glad that we still have a white man in the top office of this country–oops, I was stuck back in one of those lame passe ideologies you were talking about. My bad. However, lame describes well the situation perfectly as well as well as the people involved in the whole review process, and you are simply representational of the whole system which produced this list in the place.

Let’s go with that.

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