The Year of Women: October 2012 to October 2013

Several weeks ago I noticed that my reading was too dominated by dudes and the books they write. It’s a noted problem that most of American letters – both past and present – is driven by testosterone. Men, particularly white men, still run the show even though women buy more books and get more MFAs (e.g. write more). And while there’s nothing I can do to change the purchasing habits of the American habits or the publishing habits of the industry, I can change my own habits of attention. Seeing as I consider myself a feminist and progressive thinker, I probably should.

So for this year, no more dudes. Some exceptions: blog posts and one-off articles. No long-form creative non-fiction essays or fiction or poems, unless I know the dude in question personally.

This resolution was complicated when my boyfriend gave me the first thirty issues of McSweeney’s for my birthday. While that’s a fabulous gift and I now feel like the hippest writer/lit-blogger/whatever-I-am-in-Madison, most lit mags don’t have the best track record when it comes to publishing equal numbers of men and women. So I’ll be doing my own VIDA work with McSweeney’s starting at the beginning, with issue 1. Each issue I write about will also include a count of the number of women published, as well as the number of women published with unambiguously female names.

For the more visual, this is my reading list for the next year, subject to some variation:

Shelf 1: Issues 1-30 of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Shelf 2: novels and books by women.
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4 thoughts on “The Year of Women: October 2012 to October 2013

  1. Brit. You should add a list of what is included on shelf 2. Either the graphic or my eyes are failing me, and I can only read some of the titles. And I want to know.

  2. Laura, here’s the comprehensive list:

    Zadie Smith, “NW,” “The Autograph Man,” and “Changing My Mind”
    Zora Neale Hurston, “I Love Myself When I Am Laughing, and Then Again When I am Looking Mean and Impressive,” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
    Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems
    Nathacha Appanah, “The Last Brother”
    Hilary Mantel, “Wolf Hall”
    Alice Sebold, “Lucky”
    Louise Erdrich, “Love Medicine”
    Wistawa Symborska: Poems New and Collected
    A. S. Byatt, “Possession”
    Mary Karr, “The Liar’s Club”
    Barbara Kingsolver, “The Poisonwood Bible”
    Samantha Power, “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”
    Alix Kates Shulman, “Memoirs of an Ex Prom Queen”
    Ann Patchett, “Bel Canto”
    Christina Stead, “The Man Who Loved Children”
    Aurelie Sheehan, “History Lessons for Girls”
    Arundhati Roy, “The God of Small Things”
    Luisita Lopez Torregosa, “The Noise of Infinite Longing”
    Sandra Cisernos, “Woman Hollering Creek’
    Virginia Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway”
    Jean Rhys, “Wide Sargasso Sea”
    The Fran Lebowitz Reader
    Dorothy Allison, “Bastard Out of Carolina”
    Elizabeth Strout, “Olive Kitteridge”
    Danielle Trussoni, “Falling Through The Earth”
    Carson McCullers, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (done!)
    Alexandra Fuller, “The Legend of Colton M. Bryant”
    Dara Horn, “All Other Nights”
    Marilynne Robinson, “When I Was A Child I Read Books”
    Geneen Roth, “Women, Food, and God”
    Barbara Ehrenreich, “Bait and Switch”
    Flannery O’Connor – Three Novels
    Alice Walker: The Color Purple
    Toni Morrison: “The Bluest Eye” and “Song of Solomon”

  3. Nice. You’re so cool. Also, let me know when you get to “The Bluest Eye” and let me know how it is, because it is on my shelf right now. That’s the only one I have that I haven’t read already, and I live in the middle of nowhere, so my library options only really give me access to Twilight books and “Inspirational Fiction.” I have resorted to stealing off of the “give-a-book, take-a-book” shelf in the teacher’s lounge. And I never give a book. So, yes, it’s stealing.

  4. […] My 23 (24?) year old self from 2012 felt called out earlier this month when Jia Tolentino from Jezebel posted Damn, You’re Not Reading Any Books by White Dudes This Year? That’s So Freakin Brave and Cool. A few years ago I did a Year of Women — and I am VERY TEMPTED* right now to insist that I did it before it was cool — and the year was mostly successful, except for that time that I got 250 pages into A Song of Ice and Fire book seven and Jon made fun of me so I threw it across the room (that was Dayna’s book. Sorry Dayna). Since that year my reading has typically been more tilted toward women, and I notice more when books are stereotypically manish and feel more empowered to stop reading them. Life is long, but it is also short, and there are some things that I just don’t have time for. […]

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