2014 Women's Lit Challenge, Or Why I Will Only Be Reviewing Books Written By Women This Year

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


I'm an avid reader of book reviews - not just online, but in print. Over the last few years, I've noticed a dearth of reviews written about women's literature by major publications. Turns out that I wasn't the only one who noticed; in 2012, VIDA tracked gender bias in book review sections of major magazines and newspapers. The results were chilling - at the New York Review of Books, men made up 84 percent of the reviewers and authored 83 percent of the books reviewed. Only 13 out of 62 reviewers at the New Republic were women, and only 14.5 percent of the books reviewed were written by women.

Even just as a book blogger, I noticed that many of the pitch letters I have been sent were for books written by men. Does this mean that men are better at requesting publicity? Or that, as Ruth Franklin argues, women are simply being published less (also alarming)? What scares me most is that this is an issue that hasn't seen much progress since the late 90's, when Francine Prose wrote a groundbreaking article for Harper's Bazaar discussing whether female writers are inferior.

I don't expect women's literature to be reviewed on a 50/50 basis with books written by men - but the disparity is simply too high to be conscionable. Are publishers to blame for literary gender discrimination? Or is the gap demonstrative of larger literary trends, unrelated to bias?

Reading these articles have made me determined to take part in reviewing women's literature more prolifically. Not just "chick lit" or YA - but contemporary, strongly intellectual fiction that just happens to be written by women. 

That's why I will only be reviewing books written by women this year - and not just white cis women, either. I will be reading books by women of color, LGBT women, older women. I will be reading poetry by young girls and histories by female doctorates. Self-published women and women who have been actively publishing by major houses for years. Mostly, I just want to diversify the literature reviewed on this blog and put my writing where my mouth is. 

tl;dr: I encourage my fellow bloggers - both male and female - to take part in my 2014 Women's Lit Challenge. The one, very simple rule:
  • You must only review books written by women. If you would like to narrow it down still farther to a smaller category, such as women of color or LGBT, then that is absolutely fine. There is no restriction on books read, merely books reviewed. If you have a book blog, you must post at least one review a month. You can participate for 3 months, 6 months, or an entire year if you're really daring!
Please feel free to leave your reviews in the comments, and please link up in the comments if you will be taking part in this challenge! I can't wait to take part in this journey, and I hope you'll join me. I've also included a couple of different badge options under the cut for you to add to your blog!