“Women seem to have literary cooties,” novelist and badass Nicola Griffith writes in her study of women in the world of literary fiction prizes. The analysis examines the last fifteen years’ results for six book-length fiction awards: the Pulitzer, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, the Hugo Award, and the Newbery Medal.
Griffith’s conclusion? “When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male.” While not exactly surprising, this information is disheartening.
The prestigious Pulitzer prize recognizes “the most distinguished fiction by an American author.” In the last fifteen years, the Pulitzer was not awarded to a single book written by a woman wholly from the point of view of a woman or girl. The Newbery, a prize for children’s literature, has been awarded to five female-penned, girl-fronted books and three novels written by girls about men. (And anyway, the Newbery falls “at the bottom of the prestige ladder,” according to Griffith.)
There are two ways to read this information, Griffith says. “Either this means that women writers are self-censoring, or those who judge literary worthiness find women frightening, distasteful, or boring.” I find the lack of women in book prizes to be all three of those things. Such a narrow lens edges out so much of our culture, and as Griffith says, “Humanity is only half what we could be.”
Images via nicolagriffith.com.