Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Would We Forget?

I recently realized with the exception of genre fiction, like mystery or horror, or funny fiction from authors like David Sedaris or Christopher Moore, I don't read many White male authors. After I had this revelation, one of my first thoughts was what if Women of Color had more say in end of the year best of list, would White male authors be forgotten?

A lot of books come out in any given year, too many for anyone (even professional reviewers) to read. I've always assumed professionals reviewers typically read the books getting a lot of high praise first, next comes the books that they find interesting and could possibly be an undiscovered gem.

Women of color authors are at a real disadvantage with the second category. Maybe I am wrong but I simply don't see many White male reviewers seeking out novels by female authors of color if there isn't any buzz.

Publishers Weekly's Top Ten of 2009, did not include any female authors. Here is PW's 100 Best Books of 2009 I only see two women of color authors on the list. The LA Times favorite fiction of 2009. This time there one woman of color author. NPR's Best Books of 2009. Someone please correct me if I am wrong but I only see four authors of color. NPR's best of list are complied by different people and broken up into categories. I find it ironic that no women of color authors made the Under -The Radar List

USA Today list of the 100 bestselling books of 2009. There is only one author of color on that list. Sapphire, the author of Push. Some may think I am stretching it a bit by including that last list but I don't. Readers seek out and buy books they hear about be it book reviews, awards and end of the year list. To have only one female author of color on that USA Today list is pretty sad. Though looking at this best of list, it doesn't come as a surprise.

When I thought about how many White authors I don't read I could see how this exclusion of Women of color authors could easily happen. Though that doesn't make it right and is not an excuse. If a person is reading for pleasure, its fine to stick to what you know and love. However, when what a person reads influences what others will and will not read, they should seek out more stories.

Looking at those best of list, made me sad and angry. I didn't seek out the lists to prove my point. I simply looked for any I could find. If anyone knows of any mainstream best of list that features several female authors of color please let us know about it. Also looking at those list made me realize, though I may not read a lot of White male authors, I am not that bad. A few White male authors I've read and loved. Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, Wally Lamb, George Pelecanos, Joshua Ferris, Lee Child and David Benioff

If Women of color had more say in what was considered the best fiction, I would like to think we would do a better job of not overlooking the contributions of White male authors. Since we know how it feels to have stories about us, dismissed or unrecognized.


Anonymous said...

Your post is so enlightening, Doret. Thank you for compiling the PW, NPR and LA times list.

The point you make is the reason I'm so proud of Color Online's work, and of all the blogs dedicated to Poc writers. The word of mouth cyber-phenomenon certainly makes a difference and will keep getting bigger, I'm sure of it.

Mardel said...

I never look at any of those lists, it just never crosses my mind. I wonder if there are any women at all on these lists.

And, I rarely read any men authors at all, I rarely know the race of any writers I read unless I've looked at their blogs. I've never thought about it until this year, actually (or rather since this last fall season).

I'm a little more concious of it now, but I'm still having a hard time finding URBAN fantasy by women of color or rather, people of color (any color). Urban fantasy is the genre I prefer reading. Found some other books, but not much in my favorite reading material.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, there are no mainstream list that features several female authors of color. Period. If it's a list that includes books published over several decades, they will typically list Morrison, Walker, Hurston only. Occasionally, you will see Passing by Nella Larsen, maybe an Allende if you are lucky. It's the same with African writers, people include a book by Achebe that's it. The truth is that compilers of these lists are not reading books by female authors of color.Have you ever seen a Caribbean female author on a list before? I haven't. This is a great post. Bravo.

Doret said...

I knew it was bad for female author's of color and mainstream list but I didn't know how bad until doing this post

Just one female author of color on USA Todays 100 bestselling books of 2009, that's get out the tissue sad.

If its a list published over decades you will also see Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Jhumpa Lahiri, Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

There are so many more female authors of color who should be recognized.

I really wouldn't care so much about these end of the year list if many readers didn't put so much stock into them.

In December customer's come into the store with clipped out best of lists. Many are not interested in any books not on any list.

Which means they won't be buying any books by female authors of colors.

There thinking is, if the book was good then why isn't it on any end of the year list.

Leslie @ This is the Refrain said...

This is an interesting conversation and one I've thought about in my own reading. As bloggers, I think we try so hard to have a balanced list so that we are presenting the right books to our readers. I know that I often struggle with that. I want to represent everyone equally and sometimes it is exhausting. I wouldn't worry too much about excluding the white male authors... they have plenty of people who are reading their books right now.

Leslie @ This is the Refrain said...

As for those lists... they make me sick. I hated most of all that PW acknowledged it. Essentially saying that we know no women are on this list, OH WELL, they just didn't write good books this year! (Obviously I'm paraphrasing there). I wish more people were looking to women writers of color and that they were more visible. I'm thankful every day for the role blogging has played in my life to help me find more women writers of color. Though I know of many latina authors because of my studies, I am not always as aware of other women writers of color. Thanks for all you guys do to bring them to my attention!

Amy said...

If such a list exists (featuring a large number of women of color) I have never heard of it. Even finding any significant number of women on those lists is a challenge most of the time. It is so disappointing and really highlights how much still needs to be done.

I love Color Online because you highlight so much work that I probably wouldn't hear about otherwise.