Guest Post: We’ve Come a Long Way

This guest post comes from L. Marie, an aspiring fantasy writer for teenagers and children. Check out her fabulous blog at www.lmarie7b.wordpress.com and read this post. Thank you L. Marie for joining us at Hardcovers & Heroines! 

032bWith the advent of Man of Steel, I returned to an old DC comic book series from the 1970s featuring intrepid TV reporter, Lois Lane. It bears the tagline “Superman’s Girl Friend.” My niece took this photo of the cover of a comic book in my possession. Upon glancing at the cover, she asked: “This is about her [Lois], yet she needs to be rescued?”

Sadly, yes. Though Lois showed courage as she pursued her news stories, she needed Superman’s help when she wound up in over her head. And for some reason, she wound up hit in the head by the bad guys more often than Nancy Drew ever did! But that was back in the day, right? Things have changed, right? Uh, not entirely. Having seen Man of Steel, I realize ****SPOILERS**** some aspects haven’t really changed. Lois still has to be rescued. ****END SPOILERS**** At least Superman is way hot. Continue reading “Guest Post: We’ve Come a Long Way”

When Does an Author’s Gender Matter?

As an English major, something every professor I ever had stressed, was that to accurately access a book you had to divorce the work from your knowledge of the author. This can be near to impossible to do. Somehow The Bell Jar isn’t the same without knowledge of Sylvia Plath’s suicide. It’s hard to not recognize the patterns in Pat Conroy’s books without surmising that he had a pretty rough upbringing. Now the author’s gender is coming to the forefront of literary discussions, especially when it comes to reception from elite book critics. Which has me wondering, are male and female authors treated differently?

Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, and Vida (an organization for women in the literary arts) all say yes. Vida make the most convincing argument through their annual counts of authors from each gender reviewed in the most respected book news outlets. Unfortunately outlets like The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, The New Republic and The New York Times often devote over 75 percent of their coverage to men. (Note: I got this from this Huffington Post article. I read somewhere else that this year 60% of NYT reviews where men).

Weiner makes a less convincing argument, and Picoult is the weakest of all. In a recent tweet she compares herself to Franzen stating they both focus on domestic issues but credits the difference in their treatment to their gender. Jeffery Eugenides dismissed this claim, touting the difference in the type of book the two authors write and offering up Zadie Smith and Alice Munro as female authors receiving deserved acclaim for their literary works. Eugenides’ recent book The Marriage Plot, also deals with what Huffington Post has termed “domestic issues” and perhaps that is why he is quick to defend Franzen. I think he understands that comments like Picoult’s will not raise the esteem of her and her cohort’s novels. Instead, the danger is that authors like Franzen and Munro, who write about family life, romantic relationships and what Munro famously (to someone who wrote her thesis on Alice Munro) termed “deep caves paved with kitchen linoleum” will be discredited in favor of the hyper masculine writers and writing styles that dominated the 20th century.

While I find the disproportionate representation unfortunate, and I am sure there are probably lots of fantastic female authors being overlooked, in this instance I kind of couldn’t agree with Eugenides more. In fact, Picoult being the author to make this claim weakens the argument and skews the issue. Something I think even Weiner would agree with based on her statement “Do I think I should be getting all the attention that Jonathan ‘Genius’ Franzen gets? Nope.”

I like all the authors I’ve mentioned in this post. There are many days I would rather read In Her Shoes than Middlesex. But there is no doubt in my mind, that from a literary standpoint Franzen, Eugenides and, yes, my hero Alice Munro are on a completely different level from Picoult and Weiner.

Interestingly, at the National Books Festival last weekend Tayari Jones addressed the issue with a completely different attitude. She said that being marginalized by these popular outlets, made women (particularly women of color) write for purer and truer reasons. She knows she isn’t a writer for the praise and positive reviews, and thinks this keeps her more connected with her readers and her craft.

I thought it was interesting that Jones eagerly exposed a silver lining, while Weiner and Picoult seemed intent on having their cake (extreme commercial success) and eating it too.

I don’t have an answer. But thought this was a pretty interesting discussion. It definitely got me examining my own biases and I found my own inclination to support Eugenides over Picoult pretty surprising. I’m still trying to synthesize my opinions, so please, let me know your thoughts.

Links for a Lazy Sunday

The 50 shades books aren’t going anywhere. They’ve now spent 16 weeks as the top three bestselling books and are officially the fastest growing series of all time, beating out Harry Potter. Huffington Post Books chronicled sex tips from Grey’s bedroom (or playroom), they are pretty scandalous … but so is the book. Everyone is buzzing about who they are going to cast in the movie. Vanity Fair listed the best and worst internet casting choices – whoever cast Mitt Romney as Christian has a pretty twisted mind. Casting speculations also appeared on buzz sugar and people magazine. So far I haven’t been impressed with the options the media has put forward. I do think Angelina Jolie would make an excellent Mrs. Robinson, but the rumor right now is that she will direct the film. Jimmy Fallon even had a 50 Shades Karaoke spot.

Bitch Magazine came up with a list of 100 YA books for the feminist reader (a list 50 Shades would never appear on). There are a lot of my favorites, like Wrinkle in Time and Harriet the Spy, and many more new books I want to check out.

I love orange juice, but this citrus sipper on Joanna Goddard’s Cup of Jo, definitely takes orange juice to a whole new level. I am intrigued.

This also has nothing to do with reading or writing, and it is not even timely, but I saw this video last night and almost fell of the couch I was laughing so hard. How could I not pass it on?

Communist International Women’s Day

I know I’m a day late and a dollar short when it comes to the topic of this post, but in my family if you put the word communist in front of a holiday that means you can celebrate it whenever you want. And when you think about it shouldn’t every day be International Women’s Day?

Until last night, my main associations with the day were very Nicholas Kristof. I thought it was a modern invention, like World Pneumonia Day, World Aids Day, etc, designed to raise awareness, guilt, gratitude, and donations. My alternate association was annoying emails and blog posts telling me to “embrace my womanhood and take off my make up” or “let myself get angry”. But after a quick trip to Wikipedia I discovered a richer history with multiple meaning. Here’s what I learned: 

  1. The day was first celebrated in the United States in 1901, as National Woman’s Day (notice the singular). It was adopted by several European countries in 1911 to promote equal rights and women’s suffrage. Lenin was the first to make it a national holiday.
  2. The holiday has pretty red roots. Which works perfectly with the title of this blog post. It was started by the Socialist Party of America, and amplified by the countries behind the iron curtain. China started celebrating it in 1922 and Spanish communists caught on in 1936. In fact, the name used to be International Working Women’s Day.
  3. Not to be outdone by the communists, the UN designated 1975 as International Women’s Year.
  4. Different regions celebrated the day in different ways. Some countries harken back to the holidays socialist beginnings other treat it more like a combination of Mother’s day and Valentines.
  5. In Portugal, women celebrate with women only dinner party. Basically a Galentines Day. (Shameless borrow forms Parks and Rec).
  6. In Nepal, it is a national holiday, but only for women. Which is kind of the opposite of a day for working women…
  7. In a town in the UK, the tower hamlets council closed one of its libraries to all men, even banning male staff from the premises. I’m not sure I understand the benefit of a male free library. I suggest next year they take a page out of Nepal’s book and give women the day off work instead.