Same Old Story: Best-Books Lists Snub Women Writers
It is the conventional wisdom that women’s writing gets overlooked in the prize department because it doesn’t get enough attention at the outset, or because women writers aren’t respected. I don’t think either is true…Alice Munro, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood are North American institutions. (Thanks, Canada.) Kay Ryan is our poet laureate. The latest Nobel was given to a German lady. The ladies, they write good! We know it. So why are we so bad about showing it?
I got a glimmer of an answer last year as I sat in a board room hashing out the winners for one of the awards for which I am a judge. Our short list was pretty much split evenly along gender lines. But as we went through each category, a pattern emerged. Some books, it seemed, were “ambitious.” Others were well-wrought, but somehow . . . “small.” “Domestic.” “Unam –” wha’s the word? “– bititous.”