Monday, March 3, 2008

Looks Like Half of Us Should Give Up Now

What to make of this?

There I was, innocently reading the March 2, 2008 issue of the New York Times Book Review when I noticed that in the full reviews, 2 books were written by a woman. One is a novel, The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan, and admittedly, the other is the cover review of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East by Robin Wright.

Still…this is out of 20 books reviewed. I worked on my taxes over the weekend, so I think (hope!) my math skills are up to speed: that’s 10 percent.

Surely things are different at my hometown fave, The Washington Post Book World. Alas, not so much. Again, two full reviews of books by women out of 12 books covered with full reviews. Pulling out my trusty calculator, that makes for 17 percent. Adding in the two full reviews by the regular (male) columnists, that’s two more books by two more men—and we’re down to 9 percent. There are two “round up” reviews, though one (written by a man) is pretty much just a list of three books by men and two by women. The other is a group round-up “for young readers”—written by a woman—who reviews 5 books by women out of 6 total. Promoting the sisterhood? I don’t know enough about the young reader market to know how if significantly more of those books are written by women or not.

Now, maybe all this is just a coincidence and next week the pages will be chock full of books by women—who, I believe, actually make up the bulk of the book-buyers and readers in this country. We’ll see.

Don’t get me started on Oprah and the fact that she is constantly choosing books written by men for her club despite an audience that is surely overwhelmingly women.

Don’t get me started on The New Yorker…though if you want to go there yourself, check out this analysis of the fiction published there from 2003 to 2007. (Thanks to Madam Mayo for this link.) Here’s one finding to perk your interest:

“Gender: From the database we learn that, of the 257 stories in the New Yorker from 2003 through 2007, 96 or 37.4% were penned by women.”

I wonder what their subscriber base is? Someone has to be buying all those sterling silver dolphin pins for $800 advertised in the back.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.