Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

21st Century Schizoid (Wo)man

Hyperion Starts Imprint to Help Women Whittle the Book Choices

By Motoko Rich

All quotes are from the above article.

"Voice is specifically focusing on women from their mid-30’s and older and will have a resolutely anti-chick-lit bent, said its founders."

"Ms. Archer said she wanted to start Voice, in part, to publish books that addressed issues she felt were largely ignored by the news media. 'I felt that I, as a 44-year-old woman, working, married and a mother, did not see my life reflected in any of the media stories,' she said, referring to newspaper and magazine articles chronicling the battles between working and stay-at-home mothers and the choices that educated women were making to quit their careers to raise families. 'I wanted to create a demographic of women in their mid-30’s to later that could better illustrate the landscape of a woman’s life.'”

“'People are overwhelmed by choice, and what they want is someone who is self-selecting for them,' she said. 'We want to find people that they may not otherwise find and highlight them.'”

"To help Voice pinpoint what women want, Ms. Archer and Ms. Dorman have recruited a panel of 10 professional women to meet twice a year. Members include Subha Barry, a vice president in charge of global diversity for Merrill Lynch; Ellen Levine, editorial director of Hearst Magazines; and Candace Bushnell, a novelist. (Ms. Archer said Ms. Bushnell has evolved from writing chick lit.) Voice also plans to ask each of these women for the names of about 50 friends and colleagues to send copies of the books to help create buzz."
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I'm so incensed at the above quotes, indeed at the entire idea of a publishing imprint devoted to people "like me" that I don't know where to begin. I suppose with Ms. Archer's statement. I will be 39 in two months. While working and married, I am childless. And as an educated, upper middle class woman falling (sort of) into the target demographic, I find the stay at home vs working mom wars a limited byproduct of a wealthy upper class. Most of the women I know--women like me, educated professionals with well-paying jobs, married to fellows equally educated and usually better paid--cannot afford to stop working. My colleagues with children ride a constant, harrowing merry-go-round of childcare, minimum school days, kid fevers, and frantic calls to husbands regarding who is driving junior where. These mothers are exhausted, overworked, and at day's end, after getting dinner on the table and helping with homework, the last thing they'll do is reach for a Voice book. They fall asleep in front of the television. Who can blame them?

So what about the women like me, "childess by choice"? Yes, we have more free time than our sisters with kids. And if we're serious readers, the last thing we want, or need, is somebody making our reading choices for us. The tide of unmitigated shit riding the bestseller lists is disheartening enough. For those of us who are passionate readers, much of the joy lies in the chase, the discovery of a fantastic book that will take us somewhere we might never else go. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City gave me a view of German life during the war I would never have otherwise experienced. Nicole Mones' two fine novels, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light, are both set in contemporary China, a place I am unlikely to visit any time soon. Yesterday I began Hayden Herrera's biography of Frida Kahlo. Not only am I learning about a fascinating woman, I am finally getting an education about Mexican political life during the 1920's.

All of these books "illustrate the landscape of a woman's life." None were preselected by a committee including Candace Bushnell, whom we are reassured is "evolved from writing chick lit". Really. Did she grow an intellect? Or just a conscience?

Ladies, when you see this imprint, run instead for the nearest copy of The Memory Room, an amazing novel by Mary Rakow. It is the story of Barbara, a teacher and musician who slowly overcomes the horrors of an abusive childhood. Much of the prose is written in poetic form, so beautifully rendered that the reader glides along rather than stopping to notice line breaks. Or grab a copy of Susan Straight's first novel, Aquaboogie. Straight, a white woman, grew up in Riverside, California, married a black man, and listened to the stories his family told over dinners and barbeques and parties. If her grueling evocation of the Black community doesn't leave you breathless, you are, perhaps, just the sort of reader Voice Books is looking for.

Authors, Books, Literature, Writing

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