Monday, April 25, 2011

If You Win The Pulitzer, Don't Give Any Interviews

What We Call What Women Write at The Millions is an interesting essay for a few reasons. The essayist, Deena Drewis, is writing about Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan's comment in a Wall Street Journal interview that is supposed to have riled some women writers.

As a children's/YA literature person, the bit of Egan's original comment that interested me the most was: "There was that scandal with the Harvard student who was found to have plagiarized. But she had plagiarized very derivative, banal stuff. This is your big first move? These are your models?...My advice for young female writers would be to shoot high and not cower."

Does that suggest to anyone else that if Kaavya Viswanathan had plagiarized Joyce Carol Oates or Annie Dillard her crime wouldn't have been so bad? It was the plagiarizing that was the issue, not the content of what she plagiarized. That's a whole different thing.

On the nonchildren's/YA front, the authors Egan called "derivative" and "banal" were women writers of chick lit. Drewis makes the point that many chick lit writers and fans embrace that term. "Ladies, it’s 2011," she says. "Who refers to women as “chicks” aside from Ed Hardy-wearing man-children? Uninspired as it may be, detractors calling the work “fluffy” can’t really be blamed—it’s built into the name, for god’s sake. It’s difficult to move forward in an argument about the sexist climate in publishing when a group that is supposedly trying to push for more equality has accepted and even defended a derogatory label."

This reminded me of the discussion earlier this year regarding the use of kidlit. And, of course, my own never ending complaints regarding the use of the word "girl" to describe women in their thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond.

Terminology matters. To some extent, a group will have an easier time getting respect from others if they treat themselves respectfully. Labeling themselves as children or with a word that men used toward young women (chick--young bird--young, inexperienced) makes the job harder, not easier.

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