From Susan Steinberg's "On Disturbance" at The Rumpus:
One could argue (and several have) that perhaps the editors just liked these books best. Or that, perhaps, one could argue (and too many have), it was yet another “bad year” for women writers. Though perhaps it was something else entirely. The PW editor explains in her short accompanying text that the deciders of the Best 10 list “ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz.” Which is kind of brilliant in a way. Because everyone knows if you ignore things—like how I sometimes try to ignore the homeless guy who blocks my path when I’m walking to work, because it’s just too much to deal with in the morning—you can maybe make those things go away.From Laura Miller's "A 10-best books list without women?" at Salon.com:
Is it the right thing to gerrymander your list in order to counteract real, long-standing cultural biases, even if that means lying to your readers? What is a 10-best list, after all, if not a record of the books we enjoyed most over the past 12 months? If you insist on a list that's ideally representative of gender, race, class, nationality (i.e., including at least one translation), publisher size (small as well as large), fame, length (short story collections as well as novels), region, genre and so on, you can easily wind up with, say, a list of nine books you kinda like and maybe one you truly love. That's a tepid dish to serve up to readers, and not likely to inspire much enthusiasm, either.
On the other hand, few things are more subjective than judgments about how "great" any given book is. Those real, long-standing cultural biases mentioned above live in the heart of every critic to one degree or another, and we'd be shirking our duty if we didn't try to account for them. Writing off such qualms as mere "political correctness" is, in its own way, just as dishonest as exaggerating your admiration for a book simply because its author is female, or dark-skinned, or from a far-off nation. I don't doubt that P.W.'s editors are entirely sincere when they say their list reflects their unvarnished preferences. Still, the fact that those preferences can't encompass one woman author among 10 books (fiction or nonfiction) picked from the 50,000-plus titles they claim to have sifted through suggests that their horizons might need a bit of deliberate widening.From Lizzie Skurnick's "Same Old Story: Best-Books Lists Snub Women Writers" at Politics Daily:
But that's the problem with sexism. It doesn't happen because people—male or female—think women suck. It happens for the same reason a sommelier always pours a little more in a man's wine glass (check it!), or that that big, hearty man in the suit seems like he'd be a better manager. It's not that women shouldn't be up for the big awards. It's just that when it comes down to the wire, we just kinda feel like men . . . I don't know . . . deserve them.The just-launched organization WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts) has set up a wiki inventory of great books published by women in 2009. Anyone can add a title to the roll-call.