Friday, December 9, 2016

2016: The Women's Classic Literature Event: Final Check-In

Well, 2016 is nearly over, and hot damn, what a ride. Not a good one, really. Mostly kind of awful. But let's take a moment to look at one of my favorite things: books!

2016 was the year of The Classics Club's Women's Classic Literature Event. As far as online book blog events go, it was pretty low-key, the point where I kind of forgot about it for weeks at a time. But I hit 3 out of 4 check-ins, so....not too shabby!

Before I tackle the event's last question, however, let's take a look at my reading for the year! Was I successful in achieving gender parity in my book choices?

When it concerns my Classics Club list specifically, I knocked out seven books. They were:

1. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
2. Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin (replacing Go Tell It on the Mountain)
3. Possession, A. S. Byatt
4. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
5. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
6. The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen (replacing Death of the Heart)
7. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West

I would also count a few of my other reads in this category:

8. The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende (Swedish translation)
9. America Day by Day, Simone de Beauvoir
10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
11. The Vegetarian, Han Kang
12. Välkommen till Amerika, Linda Boström Knausgård

Even if they weren't on my original list, I think they deserve a spot in the "classics" literary canon. I might go and retroactively edit my Classics Club list and boot a mediocre dead white guy in favor of any of these, but that's a post for another day.

So that's 8 women authors out of 12. Additionally, out of the four male authors, two were POC, and one of them was queer. A pretty good year for #weneeddiversebooks. (#weneeddiverseclassics?)

Now, for all of my books of 2016, assuming that I'll finish the book I'm currently reading by the end of the year:

I read 45 books altogether, and 24 of them were by women. Two of those books were essay collections featuring a variety of authors; one collection featured immigrant women, but the other was a collection of essays by translators and it was a mix of genders. I counted the immigrant essays book, but not the translator essays book. 

So 24 out of 45: little over half.

And to be honest, this was not the year of me actively searching out women authors. This was the year of me reading whatever I could get my hands on, mostly. But I will say this: when it comes to the TIME Top 100 novels, the reason I read so many women this year (not counting Mrs. Dalloway, which was a re-read) was because those were the books left on my list—in other words, they were the books I'd previously had trouble tracking down. Make of that what you will.

If you break it down by race or sexual orientation or gender identity, things get a little more stilted:

9 known POC authors (there might be a couple I missed, only because I don't know anything about their biography)

3 known LGBTQ+ authors (again, there might be a couple I missed because I don't know anything about their biographies)

All in all, a successful year. Considering how effortless it was for me to read a balance of men and women writers (in a variety of genres, even!), I think I'll focus on something else in 2017.  Race? Sexuality? Books in translation? So many possibilities!

 If you could meet any of the authors you read for this event, which one would you meet, & why? What would you ask her?

Holy shit do I want to party with Simone de Beauvoir. So smart. So observant. I wish I had a little miniature de Beauvoir sitting on my shoulder to provide snide, existential commentary for my everyday life. 

What has been your favorite title for this challenge?

If we're considering the challenge in the strictest possible sense—the women authors from my own Classics Club list—then it would probably be Mrs. Dalloway. Possession was the greatest technical achievement and I tip my hat to Byatt for all of the work she put in, but since so much of it was about Victorian poets (and since Victorian poets aren't really my thing), I didn't enjoy it as much as it deserved to be enjoyed. The House in Paris and Housekeeping were both interesting from a distance, but not something that really struck me.

If we take the challenge a little more broadly (that is, take it to mean any classic, regardless of whether or not it was on my list), then I would have to say, without hesitation, that America Day by Day was my favorite read of the challenge, and maybe of the year. Miss de Beauvoir if you're nasty...!

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