June 10, 2015
2018: The Year of Publishing Women?
by Taylor Sperry
Recently, we’ve reported on how “Women seem to have literary cooties.” Novels written from a female perspective are less likely to win literary prizes; female authors are reviewed with less frequency and win fewer awards; and while there have been improvements in gender equality in recent years, the VIDA count for 2014 indicates that publications on both sides of the Atlantic are still overwhelmingly male-centric, both in terms of the authors of the books being reviewed and the people doing the reviewing.
The Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie says, “Enough.” She’d like to take last year’s “Year of Reading Women” one step further: “Why not have a Year of Publishing Women?”
“Of course,” she concedes, “there will be many details to work out, but the basic premise of my ‘provocation” is that none of the new titles published in that year should be written by men.”
The knock-on effect of a Year of Publishing Women would be evident in review pages and blogs, in bookshop windows and front-of-store displays, in literature festival lineups, in prize submissions. We must learn from the suffragettes that it’s not always necessary or helpful to be polite about our campaigns. If some publishing houses refused to sign up, then it would be for the literary pages and booksellers and bloggers and festivals to say they wouldn’t be able to give space to the male writers who were being published that year. Many male writers would, I’m sure, back the campaign and refuse to submit their books for publication in the given year, while also taking an active part by reading, reviewing and recommending the books that were published.
The response has not been particularly enthusiastic. In the more than 200 comments to the article, the majority of readers object to the idea, as much as they might endorse its sentiment.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.