Books

Book News: Women Writers Dominate Children's Books, Right? Wrong.

Anne Sophie Parigot searches for books for her 3- and 6-year-old children at the New York Public Library bookstore in 2013. i i

Anne Sophie Parigot searches for books for her 3- and 6-year-old children at the New York Public Library bookstore in 2013. Kathy Willens/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Kathy Willens/AP
Anne Sophie Parigot searches for books for her 3- and 6-year-old children at the New York Public Library bookstore in 2013.

Anne Sophie Parigot searches for books for her 3- and 6-year-old children at the New York Public Library bookstore in 2013.

Kathy Willens/AP

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Children's and Young Adult books have long been thought to be a sphere especially friendly to women, in contrast with the staggering gender bias found in the world of grown-up literature. It turns out that, nope, women don't dominate children's publishing. New figures released by the literary organization VIDA show that there is approximate gender parity among the winners of children's book awards — which would be great if there were equal numbers of men and women writing kids' books. "For a relatively small percentage of our authors, men are very well represented among our award winners and list-mentions," VIDA's Kekla Magoon writes in a blog post. She adds, "[I]t's true that being female is not nearly the barrier to initial publication for us that it often is in the adult literary landscape, but as this year's pie charts demonstrate, being male still seems to carry some particular advantages when it comes to recognition, prestige, and awards for literary merit."
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club author and tough-guy-in-a-beanie, will release a collection of "transgressive" stories on "taboo" topics by the writer's students. They'll likely also be "edgy," "hardcore" and "manly." According to a blog post by Palahniuk, one of the stories made audience members at a reading literally faint from hardcore-ness. "Standing people, according to my translator in Italy, they just dropped, disappearing in the crowd," he wrote. (Alice Munro, can you say that people have actually fainted at your stories? Do you feast on unsterilized needles and pure animal fear? No? Then give back your Nobel Prize, for you are not a true writer.)
  • Sue Townsend, the English novelist and author of the Adrian Mole series, died Thursday at age 68. Tender and charming works of social satire, the books spanned the life of Adrian Mole, from the first book, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 ¾, to Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, in which Adrian Mole suffers from prostrate troubles. Townsend was legally blind as a result of her diabetes, and according to the Guardian, died after a stroke.
  • Mary Szybist, the poet who won last year's National Book Award, talks to The Paris Review about the relationship between poetry and prayer: "I have thought about the connections between poetry and prayer for a long time, and sometimes I am even tempted to believe that they are similar engagements. When I was young, I reached a point where I found myself unable to pray. I was devastated by it. I missed being able to say words in my head that I believed could be heard by a being, a consciousness outside me. That is when I turned to poetry." While you're at it, head over to Poetry magazine to read Szybist's lovely poem, "Hail":

"Mary who mattered to me, gone or asleep

among fruits, spilled

in ash, in dust, I did not

leave you. Even now I can't keep from

composing you, limbs & blue cloak

& soft hands. I sleep to the sound

of your name, I say there is no Mary

except the word Mary, no trace

on the dust of my pillowslip."

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