On the Chicago Moms Blog, Susan Bearman reacted to the announcement:
I’m a writer, and I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that the recently released Publishers Weekly list of the Best Books of 2009 did not include a single female author. Not one. In fact, all but one of the authors on the list was a white male — not that there’s anything wrong with being a white male author. I’m all for them. I’m all for any author achieving any form of success in a publishing industry that is struggling mightily to survive.
So, why is it such a big deal, that a top 10 list doesn’t include any female writers? It’s a big deal because it shows that women are still not held in the same regard as men who do the same job. PW claims that they “ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz,” but what makes these guys “the best”? Any top 10 list is fraught with subjectivity, so not including a single female author on such a list is making a statement — to the world, to writers and readers, and especially to our daughters — that women writers just aren’t good enough…To me, the PW list represents the idea that a woman’s voice, a woman’s story, a woman’s experience is less valuable than a man’s.
I don’t pay all that much attention to publication dates, and chances are that I won’t read some of those “Best of 2009” books until 2010 – or much later, given the state of TBR Purgatory. But as I try to narrow down the best books I’ve read in 2009, women authors are most certainly in the running:
Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by Diablo Cody (in TBR Purgatory)
Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith and/or Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, both by Anne Lamott (in TBR Purgatory)
Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim (NOT in TBR Purgatory – yet!)
Just for fun, I checked out my LibraryThing statistics to see the breakdown between male and female authors in my collection; over 70% are women. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve always been drawn to books about women, and I tend to feel that women have a slight, innate advantage at writing those. That’s not to imply that men can’t write good female characters; I really think it’s more of a style preference, to be honest, and I’m sure it’s connected to the types of books I most like to read (general/literary fiction and memoirs).
I’m not looking to start a “girls vs. boys” argument here, or carp about “fairness,” or claim that women are better writers than men just because they’re women. I’m not trying to say that women deserve recognition for their writing any more than men do. There are plenty of women who write crap, and there are plenty of men who do the same. But there’s no shortage of women creating good literature either. All I’m really getting at here is that if the same quality standards are applied to all books regardless of the sex of the author, I just think it’s questionable that not one woman wrote a Top-Ten-quality book this year.
In any case, I think it’s clear that I support, and seek out, the work of women writers. The fact that none of them are represented in PW‘s Top Ten Books of the Year certainly seems like an oversight, at the very least, and just plain farfetched, in truth. (You can search Twitter under the #followreader and #fembook hashtags for more lively discussion about this and related issues of recognition for women writers.) What do you think?