People (like me) got testy last week when Publishers Weekly released a top 10 books of the year list and neglected to include any female authors, even in a year when female authors kicked ass, took names. PW’s excuse: “We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the ‘big’ books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet.”
Laura Miller at Salon.com makes some good points about the difficulties list-makers face, but ultimately defends this tired old line, saying that if lists were “ideally representative” of women, race, nationalities, etc, then we’d just end up with a “tepid dish” of a top-10. This argument is all too easy to make because it will always sound so logical – you shouldn’t include bad books just to be nice to the girls! – but that doesn’t make it valid in every situation.
In a year full of Hilary Mantel, Alice Munro, Sarah Waters, Zoe Heller (and more!), it seems like PW would’ve had to go out of their way not to include the ladies. So the question really is, what is it about women’s writing – great women’s writing, that makes it seem not as prestige-worthy?
Lizzie Skurnick pulls no punches, saying, “It has been a very strong two years for female writers and a weak two years for male ones, and the fact that the latter have garnered unseemly armfuls of praise and prizes for their tepid output is a scandal.”
Then she really nails it with, “It doesn’t happen because people — male or female — think women suck. […] It’s not that women shouldn’t be up for the big awards. It’s just that when it comes down to the wire, we just kinda feel like men . . . I don’t know . . . deserve them.”
BAM! And I really mean that.