The good people at Publisher’s Weekly are probably speaking what they think is the truth when they say, about their all-male list of 10 “best” books of the year, that “We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz.” I believe them when they say, “It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male.”
But being disturbed is not enough. What they have done is shameful.
This is not just some blogger’s list of favorite books of the year. This is the publishing industry’s trade journal telling the world what ten books from 2009 deserve most acclaim and attention. This list will affect how books are stocked in stores and it will affect what books are bought by libraries. The fact that the list only includes male writers contributes to a problem.
The editors who created this list have chosen to perpetuate sexism. They have deliberately and knowingly made it easier for male writers to have access to sales and publicity at the expense of women writers. Their list perpetuates the idea that the best, most serious, and most consequential books are written by men, and that idea will continue to have an effect out in the world.
Of course Matt is absolutely right when he says that this will have a real effect in the world, and he’s likewise right that PW should do some soul searching, although I find it hard to cast too much blame on PW unless I can at least know who was involved in picking these books and how it was done. Granted, though, this should have them scratching their heads and trying to figure out something a little more diverse next year, just as the NYTBR’s all-Knopf classic should have them re-examining their processes (fat chance).