Flavorwire has just posted 10 Contemporary Books That Challenged White, Male Literary Dominance. And I was like.. yes, awesome.
Until I read the list.
Now I am just puzzled.
"Last week, we published a list of 10 essential books of the past 25 years. It was one of our most popular posts of all time, as well as one of our most contentious, racking up over 100 comments. Much of the argument has focused on the list's lack of diversity: of the 10 books, eight were written by white men."
So.. this is a list of 10 awesome books by people who aren't white men? An otherwise rather random list of them? Because that's what it looks like.
While Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale (which I was surprised to see, because I guess my concept of 'contemporary' did not encompass 25 years ago) does 'challenge' white male dominance in the world, in an outside-the-book kind of way, the world itself in the book is very white male dominated!
But Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro struck me as more about class than anything to do with gender, race, or national origin. Perhaps I'm mis-remembering.
So if the texts don't have to challenge the white male dominance, then the books are challenging them.. simply by being written by women (white or otherwise) or men of color? Um, well.. did you really need to make a top 10 list to prove the majority of the population on the planet is capable of writing good books?! The list didn't even confine itself to books first published in English!
Which just makes you have to question why so many American, Canadian, and British authors made it into the list!
I was originally going to look at the list and complain if there was no sf/f on it. I have a little trouble doing that because whatever Atwood says, her book is sf. And wherever Ishiguro's is placed in libraries and bookstores, it's sf too.
I dunno.. I just.. seriously? There were several approaches you could take to 'challenging' the 'literary dominance' of white males and I don't think this list reflects any of them.
* Books that actually challenge that dominance by exploring worlds where white men aren't dominant, or by subverting that. You know.. feminist or anti-colonialist books, though not limited to those.
* Books written by women or men of color that dominated the bestseller lists. Rowling or Meyer, anyone?
* Books by women or men of color who won the Hugo or the Nebula? (Ah well, pipe dream this. Because sf/f isn't 'literary'.)
* Books by women or men of color that appear on school reading lists? I know that would include Octavia Butler.
* Books that are really big with book groups? With or without the Oprah Bump.
I'm annoyed that this list doesn't have LeGuin or Butler or anyone else in the sf/f world who is a major, major player and who challenged the status quo just by getting their voice heard.
Even while another part of me thinks that was too much to expect.
I should stop reading these top whatever lists just because Shelf Awareness points me to them. They're all rubbish. :P
ETA: I was also wondering about this summary of Handmaid's Tale. "As a result, some are virtuous Wives while others are Handmaids, like the novel's protagonist, Offred, named for their male masters and forced to bear their children so the Wives don't have to." Don't have to? I thought they couldn't! Am I misremembering here? No, wait, that was girly of me. I know they couldn't! That was the whole point! (But if you really want to satisfy the 2% of my brain that isn't sure, could you confirm it for me? Thnx.)