Read More Female Writers!

When it comes to dealing with other people’s reading habits, something that has always bothered me is the way so many readers of fiction largely ignore women writers, whether consciously or unconsciously. I always think to myself: I must be dreaming! This is 2012, and this is still going on? Yet I’ve encountered (and continue to encounter) quite a few male readers who simply just don’t read any at all (maybe a short story by Flannery O’Connor or two, and maybe some Joyce Carol Oates, maybe). It just seems really extraordinary to me.

Obviously, there is something to be said here about patriarchy and how women have been stifled and silenced throughout history when it comes to writing, philosophy, the arts, the Western canon, etc. The other day, I came across these statistics that detail the gender breakdown of contributions to the biggest literary journals around. Shocked? Well, I suppose you could reasonably guess the results without even looking. I know I did. But the gender disparity is still fairly alarming regardless, and the divide is far more gaping than I imagined. There have been several responses to these statistics already, with both editors and readers alike trying to come up with possible solutions to address these problems. Other relevant questions might be: How many men actually submit to these magazines in comparison to women? If more men do (which I suspect is the case), why is that? Do women still feel powerless in their attempts to become great literary writers, or is their attention simply focused elsewhere? Or both?

I remember once coming across a particular male reader’s blog discussing how few women writers he has given the time of day. It went something like this: “I’ve noticed I don’t read female writers at all, but I think that’s simply a coincidence. It’s just the type of books I like.” Honestly, with all the women writers I can name (even those considered “literary”), I don’t think that’s a very convincing argument.

And what about the newer and upcoming online literary journals? Is this disparity the same for them, or is it becoming more equal? This is just based on my own observations (no official statistics here or anything), but I do suspect there may be a much more equal gender representation among these journals, than say, The New Yorker.

With that said, I think it would be great if people actively tried to search out more books by female authors this year. As of now, I’ve only read one novel so far, but at least I can safely say that that is, in fact, just a coincidence (back in 2011, I actually read more female writers than I did male writers). There are many on my to-read list already, and I look forward to getting to them. Particularly Carson McCullers, who I’ve grown to love very much recently.


2011: The Retrospective

I never do New Years’ resolutions anymore (setting little goals scattered throughout the year seems a bit more reasonable and attainable), but it’s nearly the end of the year already, and instead I decided to do a retrospective collection of the things that made it worthwhile.

Of course, there have been things that have made it not so worthwhile as well. There have been issues dealing with post-college unemployment, despite trying to apply for some small odd jobs here and there, as well as a few writing/editing jobs for small presses that could’ve been really interesting and exciting. There has been literary loneliness and reclusiveness, and confusing periods not dissimilar to adolescent identity crises in which I really wanted to go back to school just to discuss books with people again. There have been periods where I didn’t know what to do at all anymore (and still do), which have brought on severe panic episodes and moments where I suddenly found myself bolting out of bed. There was a lot of yearning for the nineties, to go back to the way things were, back before high school, to regress and exist when things “used to be good, you know?” And alongside these periods throughout the year were some illnesses and serious surgeries for other family members as well.

But there have been many really nice moments too, which is always worth sharing to keep your balance: such as making new friends online (some that I even got to meet this year in real life) and going to my very first concert in Miami with a band I fell in love with. I spent a lot more time getting to know my sister: helping her with Physics homework, giving her ideas for her artwork, playing Harry Potter video games, listening to the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack in the car, reading Ethan Frome aloud together so she wouldn’t fall asleep. I spent some time cooking with Mom and writing stories for Nana. I spent some time with friends, which is always a nice excuse to leave the house, even though I wish there was more of it. Mostly, there are just friends scattered everywhere: I’ve kept up with my really good friend Melissa in Orlando (watching Jeopardy! on Skype together and helping to keep ourselves sane), I wrote letters to my friend Thea in Wisconsin, I helped my friend Genie from New Zealand procrastinate on her thesis (and she’s helped me procrastinate in other ways), I started a secret blog with my friend Zying that is just between the two of us.





I made some new pen pals and talked to fellow writers. I managed to get myself motivated in times of dejection and insecurity, and sometimes inadvertently inspired others as well (reading through some old things online, I always find that kind of surprising—to look over some of these messages I’ve gotten). I pushed myself to finish writing projects (Letters for Burning, my collective effort ended up being over 100,000 words long). I learned a bit more about the publishing industry and the art of editing, I found new book blogs and literary journals to possibly submit to, and of course, I discovered great new books and music and films.







Sharing is caring—this is not everything obviously, but here are some things that defined 2011 for me, and maybe they’ll interest you too.

Books:
Black Hole by Charles Burns
The Scott Pilgrim graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Not Simple by Natsume Ono
Blood Music by Greg Bear
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor
Feed by M.T. Anderson
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Films:
Heathers
Son of Rambow
Exit through the Gift Shop
Run Lola Run (AKA Lola Rennt)
Moonstruck
In the Mood for Love
Frida
The Dreamers
American Splendor
Rabbit Hole
Marwencol
La Vie en Rose
Ghost in the Shell
Au Revoir, Les Enfants
Super
Paprika
An Education

Songs:
“After the Rain” & “Constant Surprises” by Little Dragon
“Boy Lilikoi” by Jónsi
“Down by the Water” by PJ Harvey
“Black Sheep” by Metric
“Sadness is a Blessing” by Lykke Li
“What Else is There?” & “Circuit Breaker” by Röyksopp
“Pavlov’s Daughter” by Regina Spektor
“Lions!” & “Quiet” by Lights
“A Cause Des Garcons” remix by Yelle
“Comme des Enfants” & “Berceuse” by Coeur de Pirate
“Belle à en Crever” by Olivia Ruiz
“Je suis un Homme” by Zazie
“Rolling in the Deep” by Adele
“Soldier of Love” by Sade
“Parting Gift” by Fiona Apple
“Basic Space” & “Islands” by The XX
“Video Games” by Lana del Rey

Misc.:
My 8tracks mixes
This American Life
The complete Daria DVDs
Jónsi and Alex
Pogo’s remixes of the real world
Simon Amstell’s standup
American McGee’s Alice games
Myers-Briggs personality tests
Baby chameleons
Kate Beaton
Other People