March 10, 2016

Lionel Shriver calls the Year of Publishing Women “rubbish”


Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images (via The Guardian)

Photograph: David Levenson/Getty Images (via The Guardian)

Last year we reported on novelist Kamila Shamsie’s call to make 2018 the “Year of Publishing Women”—an effort to correct the gender imbalance among authors who win and judge major prizes; who write and get big reviews.

Lionel Shriver, whose chilling novel We Need to Talk About Kevin won the Orange Prize in 2005, thinks that’s all “rubbish.”

Speaking on a panel hosted by the Man Booker Prize in honor of International Women’s Day, Shriver said:

“This whole thing of treating women specially, as if they need special help and special rules, is problematic and obviously backfires. It is the big downside to the Orange Prize. Having won it, I never want to seem ungrateful . . . But there is this problem of suggesting that we need help, that men have to leave the room and then we’re prize-worthy. The idea of only publishing women is the same thing.”

One of Shriver’s interlocutors, Sarah Churchwell “completely agreed,” but added, “I would like to see a world in my lifetime where International Women’s Day is not necessary, where the Orange Prize is not necessary. I am not convinced we are there yet.”



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.