Publishers, literary journals, booksellers, and readers across North America and the U.K. are declaring 2014 the year of reading women. The movement took hold on Twitter as #readwomen2014, a hashtag launched earlier this month by illustrator and writer Joanna Walsh whose women’s literature bookmarks have found popularity online.
Walsh says she was inspired by authors and literary journalists Jonathan Gibbs and Matthew Jakubowski, who have dedicated their recent reading lists to literature by women.
In a guest blog for the Guardian, Walsh writes, “It has been exciting to see some of the ways the hashtag has been used: as a personal incentive; a rallying cry; a celebration of recent achievements (2013 prizes for Alice Munro, Lydia Davis, Eleanor Catton and more) and of authors who should be better known. It has been used to discuss women’s writing, and to link up ‘read women’ projects around the world.”
Gender equality in publishing and reviewing has been under investigation in recent years by organizations such as VIDA, in the U.S., and CWILA, Canada’s equivalent.
VIDA’s most recent figures confirmed a significant imbalance of female reviewers and reviews of books written by women being published in major periodicals and journals. While the 2012 CWILA numbers showed improvements at The Walrus, Geist, and Fiddlehead, the majority of reviews were written by men about books by male authors. For example, of the books reviewed in 2012 by the Literary Review of Canada, 28% were written by women while 32% of reviewers were female. Similar results were reported at Arc, Rabble, the Winnipeg Free Press, and The Globe and Mail.
This week, Daniel E. Pritchard, editor of U.S. literary journal Critical Flame and a member of VIDA’s board, dedicated 2014 to coverage of women writers and writers of colour.
“Silence on this literary disparity has not been the problem over the past few years. Inertia has,” he writes on the journal’s website. “So, while the Critical Flame may not be a powerhouse of the literary world, we have decided to embark on a project that will help our readers, at the very least, perceive and evaluate the literary landscape differently.”
Walsh says she will not be reading exclusively women writers this year, but is encouraging her online audience to reexamine their bookshelves.
“There is a book by a woman for every kind of reader,” she says.