The statistics compiled in conjunction with Australia’s Stella Prize paints a sobering picture of reviewing patterns in Australia. On average, more books by male authors are reviewed by predominantly male reviewers. Why does this concern me? I am a woman. I write. I am also a librarian. On anecdotal, whom-I-serve-at-the-desk evidence, I encounter more women, than men. These women have longer books lists. They read across a range of genres. Many belong to book groups. But let’s move away from anecdotes.
In my capacity as a Home Library Service Librarian, I select books for housebound members of our community. Of the thirty two housebound individuals serviced through our local branch, five borrowers are men. Twenty seven are women, in case your maths is as bad as mine, that’s eighty five percent. It’s my job to know what is available and to develop and in depth understanding of what my borrowers like to read. One of the ways I do this, is by reading reviews.
So, male or female, what’s the difference? A good review is a good review isn’t it?
Or maybe male reviewers favour books by men? Maybe there are broad gender differences in reading tastes? Maybe, more women read literary fiction than men? Maybe more read romance? Or follow crime series? Maybe, some favour books about relationships? Inner growth over action? Maybe these women want to hear what other women think about the books they are reading?
Enter the Australian Women Writers’ challenge a website established to raise the profile of Australian Women Writers. Elizabeth Lhuede, the site’s founder, realised she was guilty of gender bias in her reading choices. Lhuede read fewer books by women – particularly, Australian women. In 2102, she decided to redress this balance, contacting librarians, booksellers, publishers, book bloggers, authors, teachers and inviting them to examine their reading habits. She asked them to join her in reviewing books by Australian women. By the end of 2012, 1500+ reviews were linked to her blog. In 2103, the number had risen to 1800+ books, reviewed by over two hundred reviewers, only seventeen of whom were men. In 2104, these figures increased.
Now it’s 2015 and I’m jumping on the bandwagon.
- I am committing to reading four books by Australian women in 2015 and reviewing at least three of them.
- Four? That’s nothing!
- I agree.
- I expect to read more titles but…I have committement issues.
- Most of these will be historical fiction titles because that’s what I like reading.
- In addition to the four books by Australian women, I will also read four books by Honno the Welsh Women’s press
- Why not?
- I am going to the first ever Historical Novels Society of Australasia conference in March.
- I’ll be living in Wales for the second half of the year.
- I’m not saying I won’t read books by men. I mean, McCall Smith might bring out a new title.
- But basically, I’m going to be exploring books written by women
- And talking about them
- So, watch this space