By Deb A.
2018 will mark a century since women first got the right to vote in the UK.
Two years ago, author Kamila Shamsie suggested a unique celebration for the literary world: publishing new titles written by female authors only.
The idea came after 2014's Year of Reading Women, which emerged in part as a response to a study that revealed a drastic imbalance between male and female writers, as well as male and female reviewers. Just around a quarter of books reviewed in titles such as The London Review of Books and the New Yorker were written by women, and approximately a quarter of all reviewers were women themselves.
"The question isn't, 'Is there a problem?' It's: 'Are we recognising how deep it runs and do we know what to do about it?'" Ms. Shamsie wrote the following year. She proposed that a 'Year of Publishing Women' would kickstart gender parity throughout the literary world, resulting in more equality "in review pages and blogs, in bookshop windows and front-of-store displays, in literature festival line-ups and in prize submissions."
Independent UK publishing house And Other Stories quickly took the call to heart and committed to publishing only books by female writers in 2018, but since then, there have been no further takers. Overall, response was lukewarm at best, with several agents and writers agreeing with the importance of highlighting the systematic exclusion of female voices in the industry, but balking at excluding men altogether.
"Depriving the reading public of any book on the basis of gender, race or creed is surely antithetical to everything that culture stands for?" mused Jonny Geller, Joint C.E.O. of Curtis Brown, while Andrew Franklin, Managing Director of Profile Books, told The Bookseller that "it will never happen in full but it serves as a reminder that we should do better."
The industry should indeed do better. But so far, it seems that reminders are not enough.
How do you think female authors should be promoted in what is currently a male-driven industry? Tell us below.
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