Thursday, September 16, 2010

The NH Book Club: Offering gender equity since 2009

One thing The News-Herald Book Club does better than Slate Magazine or The New York Times Book Review: gender representation.

First, Slate learned that about two out of every three authors reviewed in The New York Times and three out of four writers who received the preferential double review were men. (This is in the wake of the Picoult-Weiner-Franzen fracas.)

Then, Slate checked its own numbers, which is frankly the decent thing to do.

Since I haven’t been a bean-counter, I dug into the archives of pieces under Slate’s “Books” rubric in suspense. Between Jan. 1, 2009, and Sept. 6, 2010, Slate ran 34 reviews of fiction under the “Books” rubric. Nine of them were of books by women (I’m squeezing in Agatha Christie’s journals), for 26.5 percent of the total.

Slate noted that the discrepancy shrinks if you take into account DoubleX, the Slate spinoff that focuses primarily on women.

Add in DoubleX’s book-related pieces for 2009 and 2010 so far, and a grand total of 88 books by men were covered, compared with 72 by women, or 45 percent.

This can be read two different ways. If you want to be negative, you can say that Slate places most female authors in a ghetto. If you want to be positive, you can say that Slate recognized there was a need and created DoubleX, which is staffed entirely by women.

Inspired by Slate’s self-awareness, I checked the numbers for The News-Herald Book Club. Coincidentally, Tricia and I have reviewed 39 men and the same number of women since the blog’s creation. (One caveat: I used the “book review” tags to tabulate. If we reviewed a book and didn’t use the book review tag, then they wouldn’t figure into my numbers. That means my live blogs of Finnegan’s Wake and Moby-Dick wouldn’t count toward the totals, neither would Cheryl and Danielle’s countdown to Sweet Valley Confidential.)

As per double reviews, the numbers skew in favor of women. However, we do so few double reviews that I’m not sure these numbers mean much. In almost two years, only five books have been reviewed by both Tricia and I. Two were written by men (Jim Fergus and Junot Diaz;) three, women (Maggie O’Farrell, Daphne du Maurier and Stephenie Meyer.)

Then again, all of those Sweet Valley books that Danielle and Cheryl read should probably count as double-reviews also.

-Jason Lea,

Unrelated postscript, Flavorwire classifies the five clichés of promotional author photos.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home