Publisher’s Weekly has created a stir this week upon releasing their list of 2009’s top books. None of their top ten were written by women, and only 29 of the full 100 on the list were by female authors. I find this ludicrous for many reasons. But a big indicator, in my mind, as to how ass-backward PW’s list is by comparing it to the list of National Book Awards finalists, nearly half of which are books by women.
In the Huffington Post PW admitted they didn’t make choices that were “politically correct,” seemingly to try and shift the argument away from where it’s at, almost as if they’re trying to congratulate themselves for compiling a list that didn’t worry about public opinion, but instead strove for merit. But is that really an argument PW wants to make? I mean, really? And not just in light of NBA finalists.
It was only back in late July when PW gave starred reviews to Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood, Joyce Carol Oates’ Little Bird of Heaven, Rebecca Stott’s The Coral Thief, Sharon Pott’s In Their Blood, and Brenda Hillman’s Practical Water. By no means would I argue that all starred reviewed books should then be considered books of the year, but if a starred review isn’t an indicator of merit in PW’s book, what is? Not to mention the starred reviews seem like the likely first place to go to compile an early list, and this is just one issue’s starred reviews for female writers.
WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts) is actively pursuing the matter and released a statement via Facebook today, in which co-founder Erin Belieu said, “When PW’s editors tell us they’re not worried about ‘political correctness,’ that’s code for ‘your concerns as a feminist aren’t legitimate.’ They know they’re being blatantly sexist, but it looks like they feel good about that.” WILLA is also compiling a list of “Great Books Published by Women in 2009” to counter PW’s. In the meantime they’ve created a wiki for people to add their opinions on which titles should be included. (You can check out the wiki HERE)
I’ve already gone on record on Big Other about my love for Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage (one of the aforementioned NBA finalists, and about which PW recently ran THIS article). It’s definitely one of my top 5 of the year.
Hey, Publisher’s Weekly, this isn’t your grandfather’s century.
Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.