For as long as I remember, I’ve never bothered about the gender of the authors I’ve read. Been the sort of reader who’s completely un-curious about authors’ personal lives. Writing fiction, as far as I’m concerned, has nothing to do with gender, and I don’t care what V.S. Naipaul had to say on the topic.
But then I read articles like this one, by noted author Kamila Shamsie, in the Guardian:
As a snapshot, let’s look at the Man Booker prize over the last five years. Ever since the women’s prize for fiction – formerly the Orange, now the Baileys – was set up 20 years ago in response to an all–male Booker shortlist, the Booker has been the prize to which the most attention is paid in gender terms, and the question of the prize’s judges and gender came up last year when only three women were on a longlist of 13. In response, one of the judges Sarah Churchwell said: “We read what publishers submit to us … [If] publishers only submit a fraction of women, then that is a function of systemic institutional sexism in our culture.” So I asked the Booker administrators how many of the books submitted in the last five years have been written by women. The answer was, slightly under 40%. This isn’t an issue around the Booker alone. I’ve been uncomfortable with the imbalance between male and female writers in terms of the books that get submitted for prizes that I’m judging on a number of occasions.
So these days, I try to be more aware of the gender of the authors I’m reading. I don’t read much narrative non-fiction, but that’s going to change in the rest of this year. I will consciously try to pick the 9 fiction and non-fiction authors I haven’t read from the Powell’s list of 25 women to read before you die in an effort to read more women authors at the same time.
Looking through the list of authors I’ve read, I find that in my childhood I read mostly men, because those were most of the classics, other than a few like Alcott, Austen, Elliott, Mary Shelley etc. As I grew up, I had access to more books by women, but on the whole, I think I’ve read more men than women, and I’d rather redress that balance. Have started with Eimear McBride and A. M. Homes this week.
Would welcome suggestions from you: literary, contemporary, crime and fantasy by women authors, as well as short story collections. These are the fiction categories that interest me the most these days. Also open to some narrative non-fiction– it’s a segment I’d like to read more of.
And I would like to know:
Does the gender of the author matter to you when you pick a book to read? Please qualify that with the genre you read: romance or scifi or crime or literary etc. Does writing fiction have anything to do with gender? Do you know if you’ve read more books by women than men? What books by women would you recommend to me and all the readers of this blog?
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