November 20, 2009

What Would Scout Do?

I was baffled by Publisher Weekly's choice to exclude books by women from their "Best of 2009" list, but as I mentioned I couldn't really argue with them since I hadn't done the reading.

Now the National Book Award people have announced their top 2009 picks, and again, no women. Odd. They did, however, give Flannery O'Connor a "Best of the National Book Awards" award.

Meanwhile, Kamy Wicoff, creator of, blogged about her lunch date with a(male) marketing guru who told her that She Writes is a terrible name for her business because it's a pigeon hole that makes people think of only women-type books such as The Lovely Bones (his example).

Ok, what?

He went on to say, according to Wicoff's blog, that even though it's written by a woman and narrated by a girl, To Kill a Mockingbird is a male book because, "Atticus is really the main character. And that book was a historical book. It had an impact on history. It was important. You know. It was a man's book."

I read this and wanted to spit. Or kick something. Or do both at the same time. I love Atticus. I considered naming my child Atticus in honor of him, but main character My Ass. It makes me wonder what Scout might have to say about it. I could rant long and hard about this marketing guy's unfortunate literary notions, but I'll just say this:

What this guy and the National Book Award people are saying, from what I can tell, is that fiction by women only gains its worth after sitting on the bookshelves for at least a good fifty years. Then we can look back through the lens of time and decide whether or not women really had something to say that was worth reading.

Well as they say out here in New England: No Suh. I found the short list of nominees for the 2009 National Book Award, and there are a few books by women on it, so instead of kicking something (or someone) I'm setting a goal for myself to read all of these books-- well, maybe not the non-fiction because a woman's only got so much time and attention span-- and make my own list of winners.

Here's the nominee list for your perusal:

Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf)
Marcel Theroux, Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
(Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt)
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press)
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Alfred A. Knopf)

Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again, (Penguin Books)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

Young People’s Literature

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt and Co.)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

Perhaps you'd like to read a few as well. We could compare notes.


mayor said...

Please reconsider and read my book--even though it's nonfiction it reads like a novel!

Anonymous said...

I would consider reading your selection of books. Over the years I've enjoyed many books you've suggested for reading. Scout may have a word to say about her character and how she actually prompted questions from a childs point of view that may not otherwise be posed in an adult world. Love, Mom

Suzanne said...

What the hell? That guy's an ass. And I love a challenge!!! I'll keep you posted. I'll start with a non-fiction for ya.