Hi all, Stephanie here! This week’s book news certainly had its share of ups and downs, so let’s start with the bad news first.
Ursula K. Le Guin Has Passed Away
On Tuesday, Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Ursula K. Le Guin passed away at the age of 88. Le Guin was known for The Left Hand of Darkness and her Earthsea series, both of which have been discussed and reviewed by staff writers Doris V. Sutherland and Amanda Vail back when Bookmarked was still part of Women Write About Comics. Book Beat also mentioned when The Left Hand of Darkness was picked up last year by Critical Content to be adapted into a limited television series. Le Guin was to serve as a consulting producer on the project. She will be sorely missed.
More Developments from the Midwest Writers Workshop
Earlier this month, Hunger author Roxane Gay called out the fatphobic policies of the Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW) Board of Directors and planning committee, specifically as they pertained to comments made against long-time volunteer Sarah Hollowell. While the MWW immediately issued an apology, there have been more troubling developments in the last few weeks.
Last Wednesday, author and MWW Board member Summer Heacock was fired from the committee for alerting Hollowell of the Board’s bigoted comments. After several days of heated criticism on social media, this past Friday the MWW announced that it would be canceling its 2018 summer conference to focus on establishing a new board and bylaws. The announcement also indirectly referenced Heacock’s firing, stating “[i]t’s yet to be determined how many of us will be involved” in future activities. There is also the implication that board members who have left the organization did so voluntarily – though this is clearly not the case for all involved.
Book Beat will be keeping an eye on the story as it further unfolds.
Well, folks. I’ve been fired from the Midwest Writers Board of Directors for a “betrayal of trust” for telling @sarahhollowell that she’d been referred to as “fat” “huge” and “disgusting” and denied her earned and unanimously voted slot on said Board of Directors.
— Summer Heacock (@Fizzygrrl) January 17, 2018
Where Are The Women in Our Literary Awards?
On Monday, The Guardian shared an op-ed by English writer Stephanie Merritt, who theorized as to why books by female authors are widely read but don’t earn the same accolades as the work of their male counterparts.
“On the face of it, the revelation that female writers dominated the UK literary bestseller lists in 2017 might seem cause for celebration,” Merritt wrote. At the same time, Merritt points out that less than 40% of titles submitted for the prestigious Man Booker prize from 2010 to 2015 have been written by women. Award submissions are strongly correlated with how books by female authors are viewed by society and the media; without visible critical acclaim, a female author’s work is often undermined.
It certainly doesn’t help that there are sexist assumptions about men and women’s experiences – and the books they write based on these experiences – that negatively affect female writers. As Merritt succinctly stated in her article, “when a male author writes about a family, it’s regarded as social commentary; when a woman does, it’s a domestic tale.”
— Eric Smith (@ericsmithrocks) January 23, 2018
In happier news, YA author Samira Ahmed has a second book on the way! Her upcoming novel Internment was picked up by Kheryn Callendar with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and it focuses on “a near future” in an alternate version of the United States where Muslim Americans are forced into internment camps. Ahmed’s debut novel Love, Hate & Other Filters was just released last week, and we’re all looking forward to watching Ahmed’s career!
(Editor’s Note: To continue the happy books news for authors of color, several prominent black writers have announced the acquisition of their books this week as well. Writer, 112BK Podcast Host, and Longreads Best Essays of 2017 Winner Ashley C. Ford will publish Somebody’s Daughter, a memoir examining her relationship with her incarcerated father, with Flatiron Books under the imprint An Oprah Book.
Meanwhile, Electric Literature editor, Lambda Literary fellow and Iowa Writer’s Workshop fellow Brandon Taylor will be publishing a college-inspired novel and a short story collection with Riverhead Books. This editor has been fangirling for them both all week.)