Being a little bit ‘over’ reading challenges I decided several months ago that I wouldn’t sign up to any in 2012. But then I ‘met’ (virtually) Elizabeth Lhuede and decided that I could, indeed am obliged to, participate in one challenge next year.
It all started when Tara Moss wrote a blog post asking Are our Sisters In Crime (still) fighting against a male-dominated literary world? reflecting on her experiences at this year’s celebration of women crime writers (SheKilda 2011) and discussing some statistics about the place of writing by women in awards, best of lists and so on. Among the early commenters at the post was a male literary critic from an Australian newspaper who accused Moss of (among other things) ‘privileged whining’. The comments and wider blogosphere attention this generated included a thoughtful response from Elizabeth Lheude who explained how she (and perhaps the rest of us?) had been educated to privilege men’s writing over women’s and that we really need to address this at a fundamental level. But Elizabeth did more than share her opinion. Elizabeth took action. She started a Facebook group, reached out to authors, booksellers and readers, analysed the statistics and ultimately created the Australian Women Writers Challenge. There are lots of people who whine about some injustice or unfairness they see in the world; there are far fewer prepared to allocate actual time and effort to creating something positive in response to those injustices (and even put their own writing on hold while they fight the good fight). Those precious few people should be celebrated and supported in every way imaginable.
So I shall dive in to the Franklin-Fantastic level of the challenge which requires me to read 10 books by Australian women writers and review at least 4 of them (with at least one substantial length review). On the genre front I have not yet decided whether I shall be a purist (read one genre exclusively) (no prizes for guessing which one) or dabble in some other genres (I am open to the idea I shall be overcome with curiosity for what other challenge participants are reading).
There is a further twist to the challenge which I will try to participate in too. Next year being the National Year of Reading here in Oz a total of 48 books were recently selected to represent Our Story (i.e. the Australian experience) (you need to click on each state name to see the books short-listed for that state) and only 18 of those were by women. So the WeLove2Read2 part of the challenge asks participants to nominate books which fit the original Love2Read criteria but which are written by women. I’m certainly going to give this a go, though I may do it separately from the main challenge as there are several books by Australian women that I’ve read recently that I think would be perfect to nominate.
In one way this should not be too much of a challenge for me as I have read 18 books by Australian women writers this year and will happily read the same number (or more) next year. But the challenge will prompt me to review all the books and discuss them more widely than I do now and as Elizabeth has demonstrated that’s just as important as reading the books in the first place.
I anticipate starting the Australian Women Writers Challenge early in the new year with my shiny new copy of Sulari Gentill’s MILES OFF COURSE which is due for publication on 30 January. It is the third book in her historical fiction series set in 1930’s Australia. I almost had to be physically restrained from starting it the very moment the advanced copy I was lucky enough to receive landed on my doorstep this week.
After that…who knows?