Publisher accepts Kamila Shamsie's 'no men writers' challenge

Published: June 11, 2015
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PHOTO: TWITTER

PHOTO: TWITTER

A publisher has taken up Kamila Shamsie’s ‘provocative’ call to publish women for a year to redress ‘gender bias.’

And Other Stories tweeted, “Yes, it’s true: we accepted Kamila Shamsie’s challenge to publish only women in 2018.”

Shamsie in an article in The Guardian wrote that just under 40% of books submitted to the Booker prize over the past five years were by women.

“At this point, I’m going to assume that the only people who really doubt that there is a gender bias going on are those who stick with the idea that men are better writers and better critics,” Shamsie wrote.

Read: Kamila Shamsie among 6 shortlisted for 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

“Enough. Across the board, enough … I would argue that is time for everyone, male and female, to sign up to a concerted campaign to redress the inequality … Why not have a year of publishing women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate,” she added.

Accepting the challenge, founder of And Other Stories founder Stefan Tobler said, “I think we can do it.”

“We’ve realised for a while that we’ve published more men than women,” said Tobler. “This year we’ve done seven books by men and four by women … We have a wide range of people helping us with our choices, and our editors are women … and yet somehow we still publish more books by men than women.”

Further, senior editor at the publishing agency, Sophie Lewis, said she expected the team would be “rescheduling male writers’ books for other years [and] digging harder and further than usual, in order to find the really good women’s writing that we want to publish” in 2018.

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“By taking on the challenge we will expose our systems and the paths of recommendation and investigation that brings books to us, and we will end up becoming a kind of small-scale model for a much bigger inquiry about why women’s writing is consistently sidelined or secondary, the poor cousin rather than the equal of men’s writing,” said Lewis.

However, literary agent Clare Alexander said it was unlikely that the UK’s larger publishers would commit to publishing only women.

“I do think this country defaults male, given half a chance, so we have to have some conscious corrective. It can’t just be left to the Baileys once a year. We need a climate of positive thinking,” she said.

Shamsie clarified, “By positive, I don’t only mean those who agree that a year of publishing women is a good idea but also those who say you’re right to point out there’s a problem but here are other ways to address it.”

“So there’ve been a host of interesting suggestions: a women in literature festival; a commitment to ‘genderless’ covers for novels; a strategy to specifically address the gender imbalance of books submitted for literary prizes. All of which sound good to me – we need as many suggestions as possible to counter the depth and breadth of the problem.”

This article originally appeared on The Guardian.

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