A Tired Rant About “Female” Writers
I have seen this list of 21 women authors you “should be reading,” passed around. I have thoughts about the composition of the list, though I am thrilled to see Elliott Holt named because I loved her debut novel last year.
No two lists will ever be the same and this list at least makes an attempt at diversity, albeit a… hmm… narrow sort of diversity, right? Like, no African American women? No Latinas? No South Asian writers? And at what point do we stop using Amy Tan and Louise Erdrich as the sole beacons of literary light for people who look like them? To be clear, these women are absolutely women of color (along with Smith, Adichie, Danticat, Selasi) you should be reading, but they are not the only ones.
We shouldn’t be reading anyone JUST because they are a woman or black or Asian or queer or any other mark of identity. We should be reading such that we can look at what you consume and recognize a diversity of perspectives from writers hailing from a diversity of backgrounds and ways of seeing the world.
I have also been thinking about the ReadWomen2014 campaign. I have been thinking, “What a sad state of affairs it is, that people need to be reminded or instructed to read women.” If you need this reminder or instruction, I mean, come on! What is going on there?
It is exhausting that we are still trying to convince a certain segment of the population that women are equal to men, that women deserve respect and fair consideration in all professional and creative and personal realms. It is especially frustrating in the literary community, because I am part of this community. These are my people, or at least, that’s what I would hope.
I cannot believe we need to count and point out worthy women writers like we’re begging for scraps at the table of due respect and consideration.
Sadly, we are there or we wouldn’t be reminding each other to Read Women and look at this list of great women and that list of great South Asian writers and this other list of queer writers you should know. And I, for one, will continue to read these lists and learn from them and contribute to them because the need is significant.
In a better world though, we wouldn’t read a woman writer because we’re women or ::insert identifying characteristic::. We would read a writer because they might be awesome or terrible or they might intrigue or infuriate us and we want to know more. We would take a fucking chance because that’s so much of what we do when we read. We take a book into our hands. We turn the first page. We wait to see where a writer will take us, what they will show us. We hope for the best and sometimes we’re disappointed and sometimes our faith is rewarded and sometimes when we are luckiest, we are utterly transported. Reading is the one realm where I am an idealist.
I look forward to the day we can stop obsessing over the tour guide and surrender to the sights.
Shorter version: be better readers.