When I set out to only read books by women authors for a year, it was not a political statement. I was simply addressing an imbalance in my life. I saw that my crammed book shelf was filled with books by men, I could barely remember the last book I had read by a women. It felt wrong. I knew I needed to fix something. So I decided that every book I read outside of my school curriculum would be by a woman. At first I would go to grab a book and then shake my head and put it back-by a man. I did this over and over again, but over time only looking at titles by women became second nature. It became like I couldn’t see the other books. But at the same time, I was shocked. As I became highly attuned to grabbing books by women, I began to see how rare they are. Take a moment to really look, look at your book stores, your library shelves. Where are the books by women? Sure, they are there. But the numbers are nowhere near equal.
And so the personal became political. I did research, I sent out a survey, I took a class on women’s voices, I created a list of my school librarian’s favourite books by women authors. I started to organize and stock the up cycle book centre with books by women. Now home, I’m setting up writing workshops for young girls in the community and giving them venues to share their work.
The truth is women are writing, women are being published. But we’re not getting the shelf space, not getting the recognition we deserve. We are not in your school curriculum. We are not the authors of your textbooks. We are not on the top of the best seller lists. So I’ve come to understand that if I want space for myself on book shelves, I will have to carve that space out for myself, shove my way in. I am willing to do this because I know I deserve that space, I know that women deserve equal space. So yes, I read only books by women for a year, and yes it became political statement.
It was a statement
-that my gender is worth recognition.
-we deserve space.
-I’m done with a literary canon that is not inclusive.
-I believe books are one of the most important tools on this planet, and if we don’t have access to a full toolbox than we are only shorting ourselves.
-women don’t write books for women, they write books for people. ALL PEOPLE. It is beyond time we recognize that.
-This is bigger than gender…
Books are what make our lives rich, teach us to be curious, teach us compassion. Our first loves lived in books, our earliest friends played in pages. It’s an absolute tragedy to be kept from the diverse range of voices and experiences out there. Yes, I read books by women for a year, but beyond gender, this experience showed me what amazing literary voices I have lost out on by being stuck to a western white literary canon.
-This is not just a feminist stance.
And you know what, I read so many amazing, rich and inspiring books that I may never have laid my hands on if not for this experience.
So here is my book list from this past school year.
The Book List :
1.The Orchard By Theresa Weir
2.The Lives Of Monster Dogs By Kirsten Barkis.
3.The Glass Castle By Jeanette Walls
4.Commencement by J. Courney Sullivan (I spent much of the year cutting up this book and turning it into an art project…in other words, don’t read it).
5.The Daughter Of The Queen Of Sheba by Jacki Lyden
6.Going Bovine by Libba Bray
7.Things I Don’t Want to Know by Debra Levy
8.Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans
9.A Map Of The World By Jane Hamilton
10.Help, Thanks, Wow By Anne Lamott
11.The Night Book Mobile (Graphic novel) by Audrey Niffennegger
12.Love, Anger, Madness by Marie Vieux-Chauvet
13.The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
14.The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton
15.Jezebel by Irene Nemirovsky
16.Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
17. Dog Eaters by Jessica Hagedorn
18. The Cure For Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
So where do I move on from here? I work on creating a more balanced book shelf. I look to empower and support women writers in my community. I constantly evaluate my reading habits and why I choose the books I choose. I do not just randomly grab from shelves, but make sure I’m reading a diverse array of books. I read outside my comfort zone, I read books that didn’t make it into the white male western literary canon. I read the sort of books I want to see on the market more. And I vocally celebrate all bad ass women writers. I invite you to join me!
Want some great resources? Here are some of my favourites!
KT Bradford’s “I challenge you to stop reading white straight cis gendered male authors for one year.”
The 2014 VIDA Count
VIDA looks at whether women are being reviewed in major literary publications, newspapers and magazines each year. (Answer: Not Enough).
Occupy The Syllabus
A call for to evaluate who’s work is on our course syllabi
A Mighty Girl
A company that only sells products and books written/created by women and/or with the intent of empowering young women
Me, with some of the awesome books I read this school year on my head!