Looking Past Authors’ Gender

The "Read Women 2014" movement doesn't go far enough.

Looking Past Authors’ Gender

You’re in a bookstore, just browsing. You scan the shelves and your hands land on a book. It’s perfect. You know it’ll be on your nightstand soon.


Did you notice the author’s gender? And did it factor into your decision to pick up the title in the first place?

Hopefully not, although data suggests otherwise.

According to an annual study by Vida — an organization for women in the literary arts — male authors continue to dominate the worlds of both publishing and book reviews.

Since there’s no shortage of excellent female authors out there, some claim the imbalance stems from a bias against women authors (i.e., that any book written by a woman is automatically relegated to chick-lit status).

To change that, a movement is underway to make 2014 the year of women writers; there’s even a new hashtag — #ReadWomen2014 — gaining popularity on Twitter designed to get the word out.

While I love the sentiment — that female authors deserve equal attention — behind the effort, I think it’s even more important that we look beyond gender altogether when choosing authors to read.

When I went back through the books I read in 2013, I noticed that most were written by women. But I also noticed that only three were penned by non-white authors. This surprised me, because not only did I not deliberately choose books by women, I also didn’t deliberately select stories by Caucasians.

The fact that it just turned out that way doesn’t mean I — or any other reader, for that matter — actively avoid writers who look different than I do. But it does mean I’m unwittingly depriving myself of hidden masterpieces by non-white authors.

So I’m declaring 2014 as a year to read more consciously. To read by people from all over the world who have life experiences and stories to tell far removed from what I know. It’ll mean not just grabbing the most recent bestseller, but actively seeking out books written by an array of authors.

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