Monday, August 10, 2009

"Lots Of Books With Female Characters Aren’t Really About Being Female"

I'm really late with this, I know. This open letter to School Library Journal tickled the edge of my radar for a while but didn't actually make it onto the screen until I was doing some back blog reading during mealtime today. The Spectacle had a good response to the letter author's request of publishers that they crank out more boy books. "I've noticed that lots of books with female characters aren't really about being female," she said. "In fact, in many cases, the main characters could just as easily have been males..."

The idea that a book with a female character should be "about being female" struck me as odd. Call me hormone deficient, but I'm not even sure what that means. I know that in adult fiction you hear of "women's books" and you certainly hear about "women's movies." But that's a marketing thing, isn't it? It's not thematic? How would you phrase a theme relating to a story that's about "being female" or "being male?"

For instance, I'm sure there are many people who think Jane Eyre and Rebecca are women's books. But are they about being female? Or are they about people and situations not being what they appear to be?

And, yes, I tend to fall on the side of those Spectacle post commenters who point out that men have had the bulk of the main roles in fiction for centuries. Be sure to read those comments, by the way. There's lots of discussion about marketing books to girl readers, especially by way of covers, which probably does have an impact on boy readers. But that doesn't mean that there aren't enough boy books.

Hmmm. Perhaps boy books aren't being marketed as aggressively now because of the belief that girls read and thus buy books?

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