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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Gender Disparity in Literature

In March, a bookstore in Cleveland, Loganberry Books (http://www.loganberrybooks.com/), did an interesting display.  The bookshop turned around all books authored by men to illustrate how much more prominent men are in the written world than women.  The result was “a veritable white-out on the shelves” (https://www.buzzfeed.com/terripous/a-bookstore-is-displaying-all-books-by-men-backwards-for-wom?utm_term=.joDGZvplEE#.vvQnMkYxyy).

And then I came across a Signature article entitled “The Man Who Doesn’t Read Women” by Lorraine Berry in which she writes about a male neurologist who didn’t think he had ever read a book written by a woman.  Berry points out that women consumers spend more on books than men, yet, it is still men who are more likely to be published.  It is clear that the literary world has not been able to escape the role that bias plays in who gets published, who gets reviewed and where, and whose work is most likely to be lauded as “genius” (http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/03/the-man-who-doesnt-read-women/?ref=B312EEBB6F69).  When asked, Berry recommended he read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

If you were in Berry’s position, what book by a woman would you suggest?  Last fall, The Times Literary Supplement suggested a list of the sixty best books by women every man should read:  http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/let-down-by-the-lists/?CMP=Spklr-_-Editorial-_-FBPAGE-_-TimesLiterarySupplement-_-20161130-_-689989264.

Children’s books also show gender disparity.  A 2011 study “looked at more than 5,600 books published in the US throughout the 20th century, and found a huge gender imbalance.  Male characters were central in 57% of children’s books, while only 31% had female central characters.  And males featured in the titles of 36.5% of books each year, but only 17.5% of titles referred to a female character. . . . Animal characters showed particular inequality in genders, with male animals central in more than 23% of books, compared to 7.5% containing female animals” (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/17/childrens-books-for-girls-publishers-writers-gender-imbalance?CMP=twt_books_b-gdnbooks).

When was the last time you read a book that was not written by an author whose gender and/or identity was the same as yours?  For suggestions to widen your reading horizons, why not check out the Man Booker International Prize longlist (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2017/03/man-booker-international-prize-longlist.html) or this list of translated fiction:  http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/02/exceptional-translated-fiction-to-add-to-your-reading-list-now/?cdi=321A47B09DAD4547E0534FD66B0AE227&ref=PRH24BB520913.