What Are We Rewarding In Children’s Literature? (#GuysDoRead)

Image - iStockphoto: FOTOGRAF-77
Image – iStockphoto: FOTOGRAF-77

Are Children’s Books ‘A Women’s Profession’?

The announcement today of the shortlist for the annual Waterstones Children’s Book Prize brought an early response:

While the award’s shortlists started out as reasonably gender-balanced, they have tended to favor female authors and illustrators in recent years. The 2014 shortlist caught my eye last year as there were only three male authors and illustrators among the 19 nominated and there were no male authors in the Teen Fiction categories.

Jonathan Emmett
Jonathan Emmett

That’s the children’s picture-book author Jonathan Emmett, whose Cool, Not Cute! campaign we mentioned in our earlier piece about Mark Zuckerberg’s fine new initiative called A Year of Books at Facebook.

And, indeed, my good colleague at The Bookseller, our children’s editor Charlotte Eyre, is flagging what Emmett has spotted for our readership in her lead coverage: Women writers dominate Waterstones kids’ shortlist. Eyre writes:

Female authors account for the vast majority of this year’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize this year, with 15 of the 18 titles written by women.

Emmett points to the relatively new category in the Waterstones Award program, the Best Book for Teens accolade. This year, not one of the six titles chosen as finalists for Best Book for Teens is by a male writer.

Charlotte Eyre
Charlotte Eyre
 And in her report, Eyre concurs:

The only men shortlisted are G R Gemin for Cowgirl (Nosy Crow) in the fiction section, and Steve Antony for The Queen’s Hat (Hodder) and Rob Biddulph for Blown Away (HarperCollins) in the illustrated book category.

And what of a tweet flying by, celebrating how “great” it is that the teen category has an all-women shortlist? Was that category locked up by male authors in the past? Far, far from it. In fact, Emmett recalls there never being more than one male author among the six shortlisted for Best Book for Teens since the category was opened in 2012.

So what might be “great” about a category as potentially pivotal in young readers’ lives as Best Book for Teens going to an all-women or all-men shortlist?

What is being celebrated when we see cheers for the domination by either gender in such a critical spot as the UK’s highly influential Waterstones list of strong children’s literature?

Just to be clear, no one in his or her right mind wants to offer anything but congratulations to the shortlisted authors — all of them — of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2015. And no one I’ve heard discussing the shortlist has questioned the quality or value of a single title honored.

No, the issue is that gender factor. Emmett goes on:

I was hoping that this might be a blip, but this year’s shortlist is only slightly more balanced with only 3 male authors and illustrators among the 18 shortlisted and, once again, no male authors in the teen category. I don’t know the teen market well, but surely there are some male authors writing teen fiction that are worth recognising.

And if you stop just long enough to ask yourself a single question, you realize where he’s coming from:

What if the gender imbalance in the Waterstones shortlist released today gave us 15 books by men and only three by women?

Would we hear any concerns voiced then? Well, of course we would. And rightly so.

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: What Are We Rewarding In Children’s Literature? (#GuysDoRead)

Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com


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