Sunday, 1 April 2012

Sunday Salon: Women Writers and Libraries

The Sunday

Here we are at the end of March. It's such a platitude but where has it gone? After last month's dire attempts at reading, I have been a bit better this month. Five books were consumed this month which brings my grand total to twelve books read in 2012:

8) The Secret Mandarin – Sara Sheridan
9) Grace Williams Says It Loud – Emma Henderson
11) Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson
12) The Marriage Plot – Jeffery Eugenides

I have noticed two interesting things that happened to my reading habits this month. One: 4 out of 5 books were written by women. Two: 2 out of the 5 books were obtained from my local library. This makes me happy for the following reasons.

I consider myself a feminist and do try to read more books by women. After almost twenty books of reading books mostly written by men, I felt I had paid service to the male literary scene. Male writers are already more highly regarded than women; just read this article published in the New York Times this week. I had one of those moments of serendipity. My latest read has been The Marriage Plot which is discussed in the article. The book is well written and tackles topics such as love, mental health, death and relationships between people. Yet I agree with the article's writer: if this had been a book written by a woman, it would have been relegated to the 'women's literature' section. By doing so it belittles the content of the book. I bet the cover would have had some bizarre illustration of a woman with a dithering look on her face, encircled by a wedding ring. Instead the cover has big chunky, dare I say it, masculine text with flies crawling over the cover. For more about how women writers book covers and how they're marketed, read this article from The Scotsman.

Women's rights are under attack across the world and belittling women writers only adds to this. I call upon readers, across the genders, to seek out women writers, read their books, write about them on their blogs and spread the word. A good start would be The Handmaid's Tale by Margate Atwood, a book written in the 1980s and is frighteningly becoming a reality.

Local libraries have been under attack in the UK for a number of years. In fact, ever since the current establishment came into power (thanks Con Dems!). I wrote about this a while back and you can find my thoughts on the closure of libraries here. Recently I have decided to start practising what I preach. I have the luxury of being able to afford to buy books. Yet many people do not which is why libraries are so important. My local library system, Glasgow City libraries, has a fantastic stock. When I request books, I usually have them within a couple of weeks. I work close to a local library so I have the option of being able to pick up the books there. The charge for requesting books? Nothing. There is a cap on requesting books; you can request up to 9 books at any one time. Fair enough, it's still pretty good for a free service.

Twitter users can highlight their use of libraries by using the #savelibraries in their tweets. Meanwhile I'm off to tackle my next library read: Beloved by Toni Morrison. Have a happy Salon Sunday, folks!

Oh dear, it appears this post was accidentally influenced by Alex Wolf's 'Sunday Salon: Hunting Female Historians' post. So I should really acknowledge Alex for planting this seed in my unoriginal brain!


Alex in Leeds said...

If you've not read the story about Harry Bingham it might be of interest: he writes a set type of book and when he wrote one that was a slightly stronger female character they gave him a pseudonym for it and did the whole hideous 'headless woman in a pretty dress' thing to the cover art. He wrote about the experience at

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I am happy to report that I primarily read women writers. Not because I favor "chick lit"—oh, I do hate that moniker—but because women writers often tackle issues that men don't care to address.

But that might just be my bias showing.

Yes, I do read male writers, but not that often.

I like what you had to say about how book covers marginalize and diminish female authors.


(Female) Opinionated Reader said...

Thanks for the link. I've added it to my ReadItLater app so I should get round to it. It's quite surprisingly to hear that male authors can have a similar experience.

I do believe that male and female writers write about different topics but in the same way that ethnicity can affect writers. Most of my social circles are made up of men so perhaps I empathise with male writers because of that.

Thanks for your comment :)