October 6, 2014 § 2 Comments
This year’s National Book Awards Longlist for Nonfiction, released last week, included 10 nominees. One was a woman. One was a person of color. Blah blah blah demographics blah blah nonrepresentational–we know all that. And it still sucks. But is any of this inherent in the books themselves? Anne Boyd Rioux writes at The Millions:
Are fewer women writing nonfiction, you might ask. I suppose it depends on what you call “nonfiction.” According to the last few years’ NBA juries, it is mostly history (preferably about war or early America); biography (preferably about men, especially presidents); or reportage (preferably about war, the economy, or non-Western countries).
Are the subjects chosen by women writers seen as less worthy, less weighty? Or is it something in the approach?
Women’s attraction to memoirs and essays, many of which focus on the issues unique to women’s lives, may in fact have much to do with their low profile…in recent years, the major awards have not reflected much of an interest in works that defy category—whether it be in their play between fiction and nonfiction or simply in their interest in combining elements of subgenres within nonfiction…
Maybe we’re back to the old trope that a man writing about his life is a universal coming-of-age story and a woman writing about hers is a women’s book? When I searched “coming of age story bildungsroman” I got 20 books in the clever picture scroll at the top of the results. At first I was excited–Jane Eyre! Bastard Out of Carolina! Maybe I was wrong! Then I counted. Six books by women. Sure, it’s a Google search, not a definitive literary list–but it represents what’s being talked about on the Internet. What a larger portion of the population believes define the category. (Don’t search “great nonfiction,” it’ll just depress you.)
In Is There No Gender Equity in Nonfiction, Ms. Rioux takes a look at the NBA Longlist, and suggests twelve books by women that should be on the awards radar. There’s some cute little books there, ladies: Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction An Unnatural History…you know, girlie stuff.
Read Anne Boyd Rioux’s article at The Millions.
Allison K Williams is the Social Media Editor at Brevity.