Belletrista Blog

In the News

February 17, 2011

The past couple of weeks have seen a flurry of news stories relating to women’s writing. Here are a few things that have caught my attention.

Invisible Women

Last night I went to a discussion event at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. The subject was the continuing invisibility of women’s writing in prize lists, major review publications and the like, despite the fact that women write more books, buy more books and read more books than men. It seems that the literary world still considers that women write ‘domestic’ novels about family and feelings, while men write the classic works that speak to the big questions facing humanity.

Vida, an organisation that seeks to ‘explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women’, has produced research which shows that major literary publications (such as The Paris Review and the New Yorker) are reviewing more books by men than by women and interviewing more male than female authors. They majority of reviews they publish are written by men. Other research has indicated that men tend to read books by men and take their reading recommendations from authoritative sources such as literary magazines. So men are choosing books suggested by other men which are very likely to be written by men, and unfortunately the world of prizes and judging also seems to be dominated by books written by men.

As the author Kate Mosse pointed out last night, prize long and shortlists do matter. In a hundred years time, these lists will tell people what books we considered to be important and valuable. The world of 2111 will be forgiven for thinking that the works their ancestors held in the highest regard were almost always written by men.

See also:

An analysis of the Vida research by The New Republic

A discussion of what constitutes the Great American Novel


The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional shortlists have been announced. Nominations include Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone; Forna is on the judging panel for this year’s Caine Prize for African Writing), Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa), Emma Donahue (Canada), Helen Dunmore (UK) and Whiti Hereaka (New Zealand).

One woman appears on the recently announced shortlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa has been nominated for her book Hotel Iris.

Nawal el Saadawi

Shortly before the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the writer and activist Nawal el Saadawi gave her thoughts on the changes happening in her country in an interview with Ms. Magazine.

Maya Angelou receives award

Earlier this week American author and poet Maya Angelou was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

Posted by Char

1 Comment for this entry

  • Joyce Nickel

    Char — thanks for posting this. Very interesting! The New Republic article was also most interesting. Off to see if I can find out more about the VIDA study.

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