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On Being a Woman, Being a Writer, and Cringing Sometimes

I don’t really follow literary news. I don’t read agents’ blogs and I rarely read book reviews, and when it comes to the most talked-about books of the year, I’m about eight years behind. I’m so far out of the loop that I doubt I’d recognize it if it came up and encircled me. As loops are known to do?

That being said, I’ve heard a lot about gender inequity in writing lately. First there was Franzenfreude, in which several female authors took on the New York Times for the gender/genre imbalance in their book reviews. Then Franzen’s new book, Freedom, was chosen by Oprah, which called to mind how he spurned Oprah nine years ago, apparently because he felt The Corrections was too literary for the Oprah crowd. He said to NPR:

I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience and I’ve heard more than one reader in signing lines now at bookstores say, ‘If I hadn’t heard you, I would have been put off by the fact that it is an Oprah pick. I figure those books are for women. I would never touch it.’ Those are male readers speaking. I see this as my book, my creation.*

Oh, women. We contaminate books by merely reading them!

And, apparently, by writing them. Shortly after I learned of Franzen’s latest Oprah annointing, a poet friend sent around a list of book awards and “Best of” designations. In some places, the exclusion of women is pretty stark.

That same day, I was asked to sign a petition asking the committee for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize (a $25,000 award given each year to a promising female playwright) to reconsider their decision to forgo honoring anyone with the prize. Apparently, none of the nominees had written a worthy script. Said the playwright Michael Lew in a letter of protest: “This decision can only be interpreted as a blanket indictment on the quality of female emerging writers and their work…and the message it sends to the theater community generally is that there aren’t any young female playwrights worth investigating.” The committee has agreed to revamp their selection process and try again.

The message seemed clear: women don’t write as well as men. Particularly when it comes to literary fiction.

Then came the news that Jaimy Gordon had won the National Book Award. This unfurrowed my brow a bit. How nice to see a lesser-known author recognized, and for a risky book that came out through a small press!  There was a record number of female nominees this year, so that was also encouraging. But I couldn’t help but notice that one of the nominees in fiction—Lionel Shriver—is a woman using a man’s name. She ditched Margaret Ann as she felt its girlishness didn’t match her personality. And while I don’t see anything wrong with changing one’s name (I sometimes use initials myself) I can’t help but wonder if Shriver felt professional pressure to do so, or how her career might have differed if she had remained Margaret Ann.

Because even in the most enlightened circles, there seems to be a quiet, half-concious expectation that men are more talented, intelligent, and capable of big ideas than women. Nathaniel Hawthorne was not impressed with what he called the “horde of scribbling women.”  Norman Mailer said, “the sniffs I get from the ink of women are always fey, old-bat, Quaintsy, Gaysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic.” (I don’t even know what half of that means, which probably wouldn’t surprise Mailer). But more often, this gender-bias expresses itself with more subtlety, in the unconscious selection of men over women for reviews and awards. It happens in other fields too—the use of blind auditions has increased the number of female players in American symphonies by more than 30%.

This bias also exists for readers. This from Chris Jackson, in a recent post on The Atlantic:

I was going on about some novel I was reading and loving and [a friend] cut me off and asked, when was the last time you read fiction by a woman?  And I honestly couldn’t come up with anything for a few minutes.  It was a pretty shameful moment, in part, because I started wondering about early onset memory loss (I eventually remembered that I’d recently read the luminous and terribly titled Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peele), but also because I’ve spent a lot of time advocating the reading of books outside of the reader’s direct experience as a way of understanding the world…and apparently I’ve been ignoring the literary output of half the human population.

Jackson’s revelation prompted me to review my own reading habits. Unlike him, I’m well aware of my memory loss, so I keep a list of the books I read. Of the last twenty, and only five were written by women .Five.  And—full disclosure—one of these was written by a friend.

Eeek. And ugh.

But I guess it should come as no surprise. When I entered an MFA program at the age of twenty-three, my work was described as “muscular,” my prose “masculine.” I understood this to be a compliment, even as I was a little bewildered by it.  I had no idea what I was writing, or how, and listening to critiques felt like watching someone divine the future by reading rat entrails. I couldn’t see what they saw. But in my eagerness, I made a mental note: writing like a boy = impressive. Writing like a girl = embarrassing. In this way, writing is no different from throwing, hitting, and screaming,  I guess. My calculation was reinforced when the other women in the workshop were criticized for writing fiction that was too personal, too indulgent, too autobiographical. My work, the male students argued, eclipsed that of the other women because it wasn’t about me.

But they were wrong. Many of my stories were about me, or at least about the people and places in my life. And, as I got to know the men in the workshop better, I saw that their stories (and later, their novels) were about their lives too. So why, I wondered, was it okay for boys to write about their lives, but for girls it was self indulgence?

Because, one of the men told me, we’d sublimated the material. (Again: rat entrails.)

Things got even more confusing when I began a novel about a couple who lived, quite literally, in a hole in the middle of the desert. The novel was referred to as “domestic fiction.” The men in the workshop were writing about people who lived in cities and held jobs and bathed regularly, and yet their novels were not domestic. They were idea-driven. Here’s Percival Everett on the subject:

I cannot recall a novel written by a man that was described as domestic, as if the male life within a family and household necessarily transcends the bounds of the family home, means something more profound about life itself perhaps. I have had conversations with young women writers about their fear that their novels will be considered “Chick Lit”.  They are concerned about whether their titles will doom them to the category.  What is the male equivalent?  “Rooster-Lit?”  “Dick-Lit?”  And who fits the category?  Who would want to?  There used to be “tough guy” fiction, “hard-boiled” fiction, but somehow those are not pejorative…It goes to the larger question about how women writers are viewed and treated on the American literary landscape…my biggest wonder is how it is that, with women being seventy percent of the book buying audience, women writers receive only twenty percent of book review attention.

Everett goes on to discuss the language used to review women’s work:

Women writers are feisty, sassy. When was the last time a male writer was called sassy? Not that I would mind, but you understand my point. As an African American, I understand this sort of backhanded compliment. You see, we are articulate. This is not an insult on the face of it, but the subtext is that our intelligence is a surprise.

Which reminds me of a review I saw last year in the New York Times that scared the bejeezus out of me. Here is Janet Maslin reviewing Miriam Gershow’s debut novel The Local News:

Ms. Gershow has been a teacher at the University of Oregon, where some students’ online ratings of her sound like a continuation of [her protagonist’s] high school nightmare. Being regarded as neither popular nor hot seems to be territory that Ms. Gershow knows well, maybe in the classroom and certainly on the pages of her unusually credible and precise novel.

Egads!  To write an unusually credible and precise novel, and to have it  judged by the snarky comments of college freshman? That’s the stuff of nightmares. I made the mistake of looking at one of those prof-rating Web sites once and learned a student I’d failed (a half-sober frat guy who told me, smirking, that he hadn’t done any of the coursework and didn’t intend to) said he wanted to shoot me in the face. Does this mean I can write with authority about murder? Does the fact that he called me a bitch mean that we can assume I am a bitch? And while the author’s failure to strike her eighteen-year-old students as “hot” might have some bearing on her fiction…it also might not. Have any. Like, none.

The question nagged at me: would a male author have been subject to that particular brand of scrutiny? Or would the review have been more focused on the author’s intent, his “work” as distinct from himself, his appearance, his likeability?

I’ve got no answers. (Only rat entrails.) And more questions. Shall we all change our names to Bartholomew? Shall we aspire to write as much as possible like Don DeLillo? Shall we give up writing and get into a more egalitarian line of work, like, um, I have no idea?

I’m going to start by balancing my reading list, by buying, reading, and discussing more books by women. Said Vita Sackville-West: “I worshipped dead men for their strength, forgetting I was strong.” I love the work of men; I survived the 6th grade on Larry McMurtry and James Michener, and I’ll never forget reading Moby Dick during a Cape Cod winter. They’ll have to pry my signed copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing from my cold, dead hands. But there is strength in women’s writing, too–of the kind that is sanctioned by the list-makers and award-givers, and of the kind that is not– and it’s past time for us to fully recognize it, in the pages of the Times and at our desks.

Not that anybody is still reading this, but if you are, post the women writers who have most influenced you in the comments. 😉

* I’m a little sorry to dredge this quote up, as I sympathize with Franzen, who has called his response to Oprah’s first invitation “stupid,” and who has been gracious about Franzenfreude. I was once interviewed by a newspaper, and I know what it’s like to spout off, say stupid things, have these things taken out of context so that they’re even stupider, and spend the next three days stunned, drinking malt liquor. So, sorry man. Just to balance things out, here’s a good thing you said that pertains to the confluence of domestic-fiction and idea-fiction: “It’s not surprising to see in my own work, looking back, and in the work of some of my peers, an attention to family. It’s nice to write a book that does tend toward significance and meaning, and where else are you sure of finding it?”

35 comments on “On Being a Woman, Being a Writer, and Cringing Sometimes

  1. andreadupree
    November 23, 2010

    Oh, and I forgot to mention some of my favorite recent reads (besides Antonya Nelson, whose BOUND is on my list!): anything Alice Munro, Jessica Treadway’s PLEASE COME BACK TO ME, Joyce Carol Oates’s SOURLAND (but word to the wise, it’s quite sour), Elizabeth McCracken’s GIANT’S HOUSE and EXACT REPLICA OF A FIGMENT OF MY IMAGINATION, and I’ve been enjoying some emerging writers’ work–Rebecca Makkai (story writer), Lauren Groff, and Tea Obreht are all fantastic. Of course, there’s so much more great stuff to read out there!

  2. mjhenry
    November 23, 2010

    Women poets own the landscape, in my mind, as much as any male poet. When I first read Elizabeth Bishop, Sharon Olds, Jorie Graham, Gail Mazur, and the like, I was totally blown away. And they don’t write like dudes. Thank goodness for that.

    –MJH

    PS Excellent post, ARay, by the way!

  3. Nick Arvin
    November 24, 2010

    Good stuff, ARay. One of my favorite books lately is THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN, by Christina Stead, a novel from 1940 that’s back in print with a blurb from JFranz himself: “This crazy, gorgeous family novel is one of the great literary achievements of the twentieth century. I carry it in my head the way I carry childhood memories; the scenes are of such precise horror and comedy that I feel I didn’t read the book so much as live it.”

    I was put onto that book by Robb Forman Dew, a female writer whose novel DALE LOVES SOPHIE TO DEATH is also really really really good.

  4. Aray
    November 24, 2010

    Thanks, all! I’m going to spend so much money on books right now and read and read until it’s springtime.

    I’ll add to the list Barbara Gowdy’s THE WHITE BONE, which is super-fantastic, plus Mary Oliver, Harriet Doerr, and Isabelle Allende, who have all recently knocked my socks off.

  5. tqtyson
    November 26, 2010

    I too love Alice Munro, much of Joyce Carol Oates, practically everything Margaret Atwood ever penned, and agree completely with Nick about Robb Forman Dew (note that very male-sounding moniker). My bookshelves are brimming with Alice Walker and Toni Morrison and Ellen Douglas. Let’s not forget Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. God knows I can’t.

    As an experiment once, I sent out all my manuscripts using my initials instead of my given name. I got several positive responses, all addressed to Mr. Tyson. I kind of hate to do it, because I don’t think anything should be considered less important simply because it is written by a woman. On the other hand, If it gets some agent or editor to read even a few more words then who am I to quibble over a few letters of the alphabet?

    Great post!

  6. Anne Richardson
    November 27, 2010

    Lionel changed her name before she was a writer, before she had a career. I didn’t know her well, but I met her when she was an MFA student at Columbia. She has a very beautiful voice! I’ll never forget it.

  7. Jeneva
    November 29, 2010

    Joan Didion knows more about the mysteries of being an American than any author I have ever read–read her nonfiction, Slouching Toward Bethlehem.

    And, in that cross-genre poetry/prose universe: Anne Carson.

    Nice post.

  8. mary flinn
    November 29, 2010

    Elizabeth Spencer, underread and underrated and wonderful.

  9. rebecca land soodak
    November 29, 2010

    Judy Blume
    Norma Fox Mazer
    Doris Lessing
    Virginia Woolf
    Julia Cameron
    Nikki Giovanni
    Audre Lorde
    Amy Bloom
    Anne Lamott
    Kaylie Jones
    Marisa De Los Santos
    Erica Jong
    Judith Rossner
    Alice Siebold
    Nicola Keegan
    Amy Hempel
    Nicole Krause
    Joyce Maynard

  10. Jane Donuts
    November 29, 2010

    This post made me so angry and sad. But it also made me glad I bought books today by women writers – Natalie Goldberg and Jennifer Egan.

    So many great women writers, but the ones who’ve most influenced me are probably Flannery O’Connor, Jane Austen, Dorothy Allison and Betty Smith. Call me sassy, feisty, fey, quaintsy and battily, dikely psychotic.

  11. Imke
    November 29, 2010

    Oh, very frustrating. Makes me want to change my reading pattern, too. Out of the 30 novels I read this year, about 10 were women. Sigh.

    My favorite authors: Virginia Woolf, Christa Wolf, Natalia Ginzburg, Simone de Beauvoir and a bunch of less known German/Austrian writers (German is my first language). My favorite poets are Ingeborg Bachmann, Rose Auslaender and Else Lasker-Schueler.

    I recently discovered the German nobel prize winner Hertha Mueller. If her work is available in English – she’s amazing!

  12. Kelsea
    November 29, 2010

    This hit home for me a few years ago. I went to an extremely liberal college. The type that doesn’t even have grades. Two years ago, I took an American literature and photography class from a man who should not have been teaching literature (he was impressed when I pointed out Biblical allusions in Steinbeck, because he had never noticed them before). Anyway, this professor failed to find any females authors worth including in the 16 credit course, in a 19th-21st century American Literature class!

    Here’s my list:
    Sappho
    Mary Shelley
    Edith Wharton
    Ursula K. Le Guin
    Keri Hulme
    Toni Morrison
    Barbara Kingsolver

  13. Briony
    November 29, 2010

    Fascinating article.

    To even make a list is silly because the majority of books I read are by women, but still…a few favourites:

    George Eliot
    Bronte (X 3)
    Mary Shelley
    Elizabeth Goudge
    Josephine Tey
    Daphne Du Maurier
    Margaret Atwood
    Marge Piercy
    Anne Tyler

  14. Gwendolyn
    November 29, 2010

    Many, many of my favorite writers are women. If not most.
    Especially AS Byatt and Angela Carter
    but also
    Toni Morrison
    Dorothy Allison
    Jonis Agee
    Trezza Azzopardi
    Louise Erdrich
    Margaret Atwood
    Isabel Allende
    Penelope Lively
    Cynthia Ozick
    Micheline Marcom
    Leslie Marmon Silko
    Maxine Hong Kingston
    Virginia Woolf
    Margot Livesey
    Rebecca Goldstein
    Nadine Gordimer
    Zora Neale Hurston
    And I’d like to add my favorite short story writers:
    Tatyana Tolstoya
    Karen Russell
    Jo Ann Beard
    Alice Munro
    and favorite poets:
    Adrienne Rich
    Nikki Giovanni
    Gwendolyn Brooks
    Muriel Rukeyser
    (and let’s never forget Ann Sexton and Sylvia Plath)
    And I could go on and there are many things I’d like to add and respond to, but instead I’ll thank you for the insightful (if disturbing) article.

  15. Kate St. Vincent Vogl
    November 29, 2010

    Thanks for this.
    It all makes me want to start writing using just my initials, like J.K. Rowling. Speaking of which, she uses way too many adverbs, but she tells a good story:) My other favorite women authors are many – they include:
    Jennifer Egan
    Edith Wharton
    Kate Chopin
    Margaret Atwood
    Joyce Carol Oates
    Sandra Benitez
    Jane Austen
    To paraphrase a great male speaker: I dream that someday we will not be judged by the x in our chromosomes, but by the content of our books.

  16. MJ
    November 29, 2010

    – JK Rowling
    – Jane Austen
    – Isobelle Carmody
    – Audrey Niffenegger
    – Maggie Stiefvater
    – Cassandra Clare
    – Melina Marchetta
    – Jaclyn Moriarty
    – Suzanne Collins

    Most of the writers that have influenced me are women. I wonder if there’s something sexist and condescending to be said about the fact that most of them write Young Adult fiction? Most likely- which is sad. Fantastic post.

  17. Kelly Thacher
    November 29, 2010

    Most recently I have discovered and been in awe of Keri Hulme. The Bone People was maginificent.

  18. Kelly Thacher
    November 29, 2010

    oops–typo: I meant “magnificent” 🙂

  19. Abby Paige
    November 29, 2010

    I highly recommend Erín Moure and Gail Scott, both genre-benders.

  20. Valerie Vogrin
    November 29, 2010

    Smart post! The lists above seem a bit scant in terms of contemporary writers. Here are just a few:
    Jean Thompson
    Ali Smith
    Lydia Davis
    Lucy Corin
    Kathryn Davis
    Amy Hempel
    Aimee Bender
    Kellie Wells
    Kate Bernheimer
    Mary Robison

  21. lisadryer
    November 29, 2010

    Aimee Bender
    AM Homes
    Margaret Atwood
    Joyce Carol Oats
    Kate Atkinson
    Barbara Kingsolver

    I strive to be a 5th as good as these writers.

  22. KWest
    November 29, 2010

    When I first began uni teaching as a GA, I vowed to teach at least 50% women writers. At my first tenure-track job, I did so in a 20th-century Brit Lit class. My male colleagues referred to it as a “women’s literature class” despite the fact that Women’s Literature was already a class on our curriculum. When I was poetry editor at an International literary magazine, I published 50% women. And I’m proud of all the work published there.
    My formal literary education leaned heavily on men’s work. I guess I’m glad I had to read Hemingway, and others, when young, as I can’t bear to now.
    Writers I re-read:
    Barbara Pym
    Mary Wesley
    Nancy Mitford
    Jean Rhys
    Marilyn Hacker
    Sylvia Plath
    And in case, anyone enjoys the current trend in dour Scandinavian mysteries, try out Yrsa Sigurdardóttir; she’s a treat.
    Thanks for your post, and making me want to respond.

  23. Sherry Lee
    November 29, 2010

    http://sherryquanlee.com/recommend.html

    Here’s a list, admittedly, an old one. A few male authors included.

    Thanks for your post which I found on Facebook.

  24. Elisabeth Simer
    November 29, 2010

    Jane Austen!
    Denise Mina
    Dorothy Sayers
    Georgette Heyer
    Rebecca West
    Cornelia Read
    Josephine Tey
    P D James
    Kerry Hulme
    Virginia Wolfe
    Ursula Curtiss
    Margery Sharp
    Jill Paton Walsh
    …plus so many others. I stopped myself from mentioning all the young adult fiction writers, since that would feed right into the whole women-are-only-cutesy-cozy-scribblers idea — but really, those authors contributed a great deal to who I am today.

  25. Allessindra Kedricks
    November 29, 2010

    As a reader of what’s politely called ‘genre fiction’ — mostly science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction — I notice that only one other respondent mentions anyone in this line, Ursula K. LeGuin. SF (under all its expansions) has a plethora of female authors, all of whom write ‘strongly’.

    Current writers:
    C.J. Cherryh (mmm, prolific. Cyteen, Foreigner… )
    Lois McMaster Bujold (Vorkosigan Saga series for military sf with a fascinating character; Chalion series for fantasy)
    Nalo Hopkinson
    Emma Bull
    Cecelia Dart-Thornton
    C.S. Friedman (In Conquest Born; This Alien Shore)
    Marjorie M. Liu (Look for the Hunter Kiss series)
    Elizabeth Moon (“Deed of Paksenarrion” was her first publication, her experience as a Marine showed.)
    Connie Willis
    Nancy Springer
    Esther Friesner
    eluki bes shahar
    Patricia McKillip
    Jane Yolen (much much beyond her ‘young adult’ books)
    R.A MacAvoy
    Sherri Tepper
    Joan Vinge
    Pamela Sargent
    Tanith Lee
    Shariann Lewitt
    Robin McKinley

    Past Masters (many deceased, but publishing in the 1950-1970s range)
    Andre Norton
    C.L. Moore
    Katherine Kurtz (still publishing)
    James Tiptree, Jr (and there’s a fascinating biography of her available also…)
    Octavia Butler
    Vonda McIntyre
    Jo Clayton

    There are many more. This is what I could come up with in 30 minutes, without the internet. This is *not* an exhaustive list of female SF writers, and I’ve concentrated on those writing ‘strongly’ and yet in their own voice. Sometimes ‘hard’ science fiction, sometimes ‘soft’ (psychology/sociology more as the basis), sometimes fantasy, sometimes unclassifiable but clearly not ‘mainstream’.

    I don’t like all these writers — and have left off many I do enjoy — but they are all writers of powerful prose, and even if I don’t like what they write, I absolutely respect their skill and talent.

    Enjoy.

  26. dtrasler
    November 29, 2010

    Hello, jumping with both feet because I haven’t read through all the comments and I’m having a lousy day, so apologies if I’m insensitive, but as Lucy Hay will tell you, this is an old hobby horse of mine. From what you’re saying (And plenty of other folks) I should pick a book based on the sex of the author. I couldn’t tell you the ratio of male to female authors in the last thirty boks I read, and you know why? Because I don’t care. Don’t remotely give a toss. What matters is good book or bad book. “The Time Traveller’s Wife” was a good book, enjoyed it. Did it make any difference to me it was written by a woman? No. Did I pick it up and think, “Jeez, this could be a sack of crap because the author has breasts…”? No. I would also like to point out that Dan Brown is a man, and sales aside, his books are ugly, ungainly dinosaurs of unlikely trash. Don’t tell me how many have sold, they’re rubbish, whether he is male, female or Conservative Party member.

    If there’s a prejudice in the judging of the BIG awards, then make the judging panels half male and half female. Have the books submitted without names attached. I know almost every playwriting competition I have entered has required pseudonyms to prevent prejudging.

    There is no excuse for sexism in awarding prizes, in conferring publication, in giving promotion or passing on parking tickets. If the work is the best, it beats the other entries. And that means that even with a gender-equal panel *sometimes* a man will win the prize. Should it be every time? No. Should a woman be given a prize over a man based on her gender? No. Quality of writing to the top please, gender should be ignored.

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  28. andreadupree
    November 30, 2010

    Dtassler, I think you’d find few who disagree with you among us. But the notion that reading is gender-blind might be more aspirational than truly “there” yet. I, like Amanda, was once given a full-page handwritten letter from someone in grad school complimenting me for “not writing like a woman.” It’s that bias that I think we’re talking about, even if none of us can agree on what “like a woman” really means. Maybe that’s the thing?

  29. Margaret diehl
    November 30, 2010

    I’ll just list the names I haven’t seen(though
    might have missed)
    Colette
    Violette Leduc
    Christina Stead
    Louise Gluck
    May Swenson
    Louise Bogan
    Doris Lessong
    Iris Murdoch
    LucilleClifton
    Fay Weldon
    Paula Sharp
    Irini Spanidou
    Sybille Bedford

    and all the others on the tip of my tounge

    I would say my reading is about 60/40 with women in the lead

    So many more my poor brain has filed under

  30. dtrasler
    November 30, 2010

    andreadupree,
    Let me assure you, I find that assessment of your work (“You don’t write like a woman”) as despicable as you do. As well as being a playwright, I read and review plays for my publisher – if you like, I’m the one who goes through the Slush Pile. Although I DO have the names of the authors on the manuscripts (all electronic, of course) I don’t pay any attention to whether the author is male or female, and I can’t say I’ve ever found there to be a “male” or “female” style of writing. Some of the female writers have produced gritty and hard-hitting pieces, and some of the men have written about emotional situations, and vice versa. There’s more of a dividing line between younger writers and older, since the younger ones have less of a grip on decent dialogue and grammar, and view punctuation as an inconvenience…But I’m whining, so I’ll stop.

    I think my point was that picking an author because she’s female is a duff idea. Yes, if everybody made an effort, I guess you could say the sales of female authors would rise and they would become a greater influence in the industry, but then you already have Margaret Attwood (whose work, by the way, I really did not enjoy) and JK Rowling who command huge respect and pricetags. I know, I know, it’s about parity and equality, and may that day come soon, but I wish we could just enjoy reading the books without worrying that we’re somehow oppressing someone.

  31. Susanna
    November 30, 2010

    What a wonderful post. Alas, I find that I sort of unconsciously have some sense of what “writing like a woman” is, even though I wish I did not and have no intention of knowing it. I think that Iris Murdoch and Alice Munro don’t really do “it.” Louise Erdrich and Toni Morrison and Lorrie Moore do, but in a powerful, astonishing way. Some writers are sort of more in-between — I think of Jo Ann Beard, Francine Prose and Laurie Halse Anderson, who is a young adult writer and amazing. I suspect I do it, too. And — oh yeah — that’s only natural! Whoa.

    Maybe we should all submit all our work with initials and see what happens?

  32. Megan Gannon
    December 8, 2010

    A few women writers I love that I haven’t yet seen mentioned:

    Poets:
    Karen Volkman
    (if Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath could spawn, you’d get Volkman)
    Brigit Pegeen Kelly (_Song_)
    Carolyn Forche
    Linda Hogan (_The Book of Medicines_)
    Sharon Olds
    Deborah Digges
    Jane Hirshfield
    Rita Dove
    Louise Gluck (_Averno_ or _Meadowlands_– her latest is a snoozer)

    Novelists:
    Susan Minot (_Evening_ is annihilating)
    Ann Patchett (especially _Bel Canto_)
    AS Byatt
    Marilynne Robinson (_Housekeeping_)
    Edna O’Brien
    Christine Schutt
    Kirsty Gunn (_Rain_)
    Anne Michaels (_Fugitive Pieces_)
    and the ever-luminous Willa Cather

    Short stories:
    Aimee Bender (“Dearth” is a fave)
    Louise Erdrich (later stuff– like “Father’s Milk” and “Naked Woman Playing Chopin”)
    Jamaica Kincaid

  33. Miranda Middleton
    December 16, 2010

    The same problem exists in other forms of art: how many women impressionists can you remember? What about sculptresses? Is that even a word? While some of us may not think about the gender of our authors, the underrepresented do not have the luxury of such unawareness. Raising the awareness of the dominating class about any oppressed peoples serves to redress the imbalance of power in our culture. It is our value system that trips us up. And there is no accounting for taste, each to her/his own! To be dismissive on account of gender, color or some other irrelevant quality to the art is a disservice to the person, the art, and the judge.

    a few more favorites to add to the list:
    Willa Cather
    Annie Proulx
    Ann Zwinger
    Iris Origo
    Pam Houston

  34. Pingback: Gender Bias in Publishing: A Primer for the Lit Fest Salon | The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

  35. Alec Smith
    June 13, 2013

    Where did you get this image from, the lady chewing on the pen? Do you know who it is?

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This entry was posted on November 22, 2010 by in Uncategorized.

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