Last week, Barbara Jones, the visionary and all-around fabulous Editorial Director of Hyperion Books and Voice (the imprint of books for women
) that published She Writers Julie Metz
and Deborah Kogan
), sent me an email with the subject line "women are apparently not fit to judge this year." In the body of the email was this link, and all I had to do was read the link to know exactly what it was going to say:
Hmmm -- perhaps all the writers named to edit the Best American anthologies for 2010 are male, and of course, all white? YEP! (I have featured a photo of the ever-charming Christopher Hitchens
, known for his ardent admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, and for his excoriating attacks of Mother Teresa and Hillary Clinton), but scroll down to see all the photos of what Houghton Mifflin Harcourt believes is the jury of your peers.
Does this mean that the writers these men will honor in the Best American anthologies they edit will exclude women and minorities? Not likely. Does this mean that there is a conspiracy against women and people of color in the literary elite? Nope -- I'm confident that the omission of non-white dudes from influential positions like these isn't as well organized, carefully considered or conscious as a conspiracy, though in a way I wish it were. Because then I could believe that somebody, somewhere, was even a little bit conscious (just a little!) of how silly, stupid and distorted it is to leave women and non-white men, who do in fact win Pulitzers and National Book Awards (against all odds, apparently), entirely out of powerful positions of editorial influence like these. Did nobody stop to say, hmm, how about that, every single editor we chose is a white man, and hmm, maybe making them the sole judges of one of the most important series of anthologies in this country is kinda like saying women and people of color should not be allowed to vote? (No wonder Christopher Hitchens is a big Thomas Jefferson fan. I guess white male property owners really are
smarter than everybody else, and better judges of literature too.) Did any of these men bother to ask whether their fellow editors were a diverse lot? And not "diverse" as code for "white men + one black woman," or as another word for "throwing those women and colored people a bone so they will shut up," but "diverse" like "actually representative of the best literary talent in this country," or "diverse" like "not a replica of a mid-century Shriner's meeting"?
If you are thinking "well perhaps these are simply the 'best' editors, and women should not complain, and there should not be reverse sexism, blah blah blah," think again! It simply isn't possible that there was not a single women writer capable of undertaking this job, and it simply isn't possible that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ever would have done the opposite: imagine if this list named NINE WOMEN and ZERO MEN as the editors of these anthologies. IT JUST ISN'T.
So without further ado, my friends, how about a big round of applause for A Jury Of Your Peers!
The Best American Short Stories 2010: Richard Russo
The Best American Essays 2010: Christopher Hitchens
The Best American Comics: Neil Gaiman
The Best American Nonrequired Reading: Dave Eggers (guest introducer: David Sedaris)
The Best American Science and Nature Writing: Freeman Dyson
The Best American Mystery Stories: Lee Child
The Best American Travel Writing: Bill Buford
The Best American Sports Writing 2010: Peter Gammons
The Best American Noir of the Century: Otto Penzler and James Ellroy (this title, a hardcover, won’t be a part of the annual series — it’s a stand-alone)
(Isn't it AWESOME, by the way, that women can't even get in on the "guest introducer" spot, just as the Publisher's Weekly list of the Best Books of 2009 couldn't see its way clear to giving a woman one of its honorable mentions, either?)
STAY TUNED FOR OUR SHE WRITES ACTION IN RESPONSE. CAUSE HELL YA, THERE IS GOING TO BE ONE.