Hello everybody and a good Sunday to all!
Quite a few things to talk about this week…
The winner of a signed ARC of Another Little Piece is:
The winner of a copy of RISE OF THE CORPSES + a copy of QUEEN OF THE DEAD is:
The winner of a copy of Strangers in the Land is:
The winner of a copy of Days of Blood and Starlight is:
Congratulations to the winners! You know the drill – send us an email (contact AT thebooksmugglers DOT com) with your snail mail address, and we’ll get your winnings out to you as soon as possible.
Gender, Sexism, YA and your weekly dose of Wtfuckery:
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks with regards to gender discussion both in Real Life and online.
A few weeks ago I attended a panel on “Gender Differences: Nature x Nurture” as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. The speakers were Simon Baron-Cohen, Laura Nelson, Deborah Cameron, and Jo-Anne Dillabough. Each speaker gave a 20 minute presentation and then there was time for some debate and Q&A with the public. I will just link to The Other Ana’s recap of the event (she is now my neighbour – I KNOW – and we went to the event together) because she talks about what went on and engages with the ideas presented in a much better way than I could possibly do. But in a nutshell: Baron-Cohen’s arguments leaned heavily towards the “nature” side and gender essentialism whilst all the other speakers (who were all AWESOME, by the way) went for a broader approach and not only put Baron-Cohen’s flawed arguments in historical context but proceeded to provide better arguments for the “nurture” theory.
I think I fell in love with Deborah Cameron, who basically demolished Baron-Cohen’s arguments in a smart and engaging way. From The Other Ana’s post:
She started by addressing the claim that feminists deny the reality of gender differences: she said that in all of her life she’s never heard a feminist claim, for example, that the ability to become pregnant is socially constructed, or deny that this biological difference affects people’s lives. However, the meaning we attribute to these differences is socially constructed, and what feminists like herself question is its inevitability.
The thing is (and this is the point I’d like to make in this post), at the end of the panel, even though Baron-Cohen’s arguments were clearly, extremely flawed as evidenced by the other three panelists’ research, most of the audience seemed to engage with him and him alone and most of the questions asked were directed at him. He was also the only author whose book was available to be sold and signed. It was very disheartening to see this problematic bias toward male privilege in such obvious display.
Which is why posts like last week’s YA Fiction and the End of Boys by Sarah Mesle that appeared on the Los Angeles Review of Books, in which the author bemoans the lack of proper “male roles” for boys in current YA literature, make me see red. Not only because it demonstrates an absolute lack of knowledge about current YA but also because it reinforces the idea that there is such a thing as a homogeneous “manhood”. That post is in other words Essentialism 101 and the most frustrating thing? The author goes as far as to acknowledge that “manhood” is a construct but that we should still treat it as though it’s not anyway because of…reasons.
And then, as though this wasn’t enough, one day after the aforementioned post showed up online, an YA author wrote a piece about Top 10 Tropes in YA and the second item in the list is and I quote:
2. The protagonist is female. Let’s face it, the majority of lead characters in YA are girls. This is one trope I actively seek the opposite. I love guy POV books.
I wish I was kidding.
It is heartbreaking, infuriating and frustrating to see the female gender called a trope, which basically just equates being female with being “a common or overused theme or device: cliché”.
And ok, yes. Of course we are all tired about this crap and I really do wish we could just ignore, hand-wave and not tweet or talk about these ridiculous articles because they do happen all the time and it is frustrating, repetitive and tiresome to go on and on about the same things over and over again. BUT it is because this keeps happening, because this discussion is still alive and people keep writing about girls and gender differences like this, because this just mirrors what our society thinks about girls and boys and their supposedly innate differences which always puts girls on a different (often lower) level that WE MUST KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT.
This Week on The Book Smugglers:
On Monday, Thea reviews Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm and we will have a copy of the book to giveaway.
On Tuesday, we have a guest post (and giveaway) from David Colby on the inspirations and influences for his LGBT SciFi book Debris Dreams.
On Wednesday, Ana reviews MG novel The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter, followed by Thea’s review of the highly anticipated Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier (SQUEE!).
Then on Thursday, Thea is back with a review of classic novel The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye.
Finally on Friday, we end the week with a joint review of Steampunk-Fantasy MG The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann. Over at Kirkus, Ana reviews Insignia by S. J. Kincaid. PLUS, to celebrate the newly designed repacked Earthsea books, we have a giveaway of the entire series – some of our favorite books ever.
And that’s it from us today! It’s bye for now and as usual we remain…
~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers
MindyNovember 11, 2012 at 9:51 am
THE ORDINARY PRINCESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *Squeals*
That was my favorite book when I was little, I can’t believe you’re reviewing it!
ElizaNovember 11, 2012 at 10:59 am
I’m interested to hear what you have to say about The Kneebone Boy. It was quite different from what I expected when I started the book and was I pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the book. Much more so than her second book, The Humming Room, which I was looking forward to because (1) I enjoyed The Kneebone Boy so much; and (2) it was a retelling of The Secret Garden one of my favorite books.
Ana @ things mean a lotNovember 11, 2012 at 11:27 am
Ana, you’re right – as exhausting as this crap is we DO have to keep talking about it. Thank you for this post.
de PizanNovember 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm
I’ve read some of Baren-Cohen’s articles online, and not impressed at all. And yes, we definitely need to keep talking about it. On the nature vs nurture thing, I read this week a 13th century romance called Silence by Heldris of Cornwall–which apparently was only “rediscovered” in the 1970s. It’s about a girl named Silence, who is raised as a boy all her life to get around the king’s decree that no women could inherit. It’s pretty fascinating on gender/transgender lines, the thing I was most surprised at was that Nature and Nurture were in there, having arguments (and nearly coming to blows a few times!). I had no idea the concepts had been around that long, but they were clearly referred to as such in the original text. Sadly, it’s marred somewhat by having the standard medieval lustful evil woman who lies about rape character–which is addressed self-consciously in the end with a disclaimer that if you think the author was too hard on women with this character, remember how awesome Silence was. So clearly conversations like this are about as old as dirt. And we’re still not there yet.
IrisNovember 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm
Instead if spamming you on twitter, perhaps it makes a lot more sense to just leave a comment. First, and I do not think I will ever get over this, you and Ana are now neighbours.. You do realise that the visual of two of my favourite bloggers meeting frequently kind of makes my heart swell? Okay, thjat sounds kind of.. creepy. Didn’t mean it that way.
As for the gender stuff. I think I read it in reverse order where I first encountered the female gender as a trop thing and then the LA times article. Both made me extremely angry and all I can say is that seeing people on twitter talk about it (or being snarky about it) really helps me to feel a little more better because at least it makes me feel I’m not alone. But yes, in a broader perspective, this remains important to be talked about, even if it feels tiring at times, to ignore it would make it seem unchallenged which is so much scarier.
I’m very much looking forward to your thoughts on Grimm Tales. I put it on my Christmas list (well, our local sort-of Christmas thing which happens at the beginning of December) but it isn’t based on anything except the notion that it could be very good.
CeilidhNovember 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm
I think when people complain about YA being female-centric, it just reasserts the narrative that men can represent everyone in fiction but women can only be part of female narratives. It’s rubbish, of course, but it’s still an assumption publishing, Hollywood and most of the media sticks to, with no research to back it up.
Stephaine SinclairNovember 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm
Being a female is a trope. *deep breath* WTF, indeed. Oh, noz! B-b-but the boys! Excuse me while I go weep over my collection of YA novels with most female protagonists.
Sylvia SybilNovember 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm
What’s most frustrating to me about the people who bemoan the “lack” of men in YA is that these same people rarely, if ever, bemoan the lack of women in all the other genres. Overall, literature favors men and the male perspective, so it just reveals their hypocrisy when they complain about equality in this one corner of the market.
Linda WNovember 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm
Oh,man I totally agree with Sylvia. And you know? My WIP has a female protagonist. And I’m proud of the fact!
Kate & ZenaNovember 12, 2012 at 12:19 am
I love books with feminist male POVs or characters too (i.e. flawed males or men that aren’t all “I must camp and protect women and all that jazz”), whether it’s YA or children’s! They are SO HARD to find as people don’t think men have it bad. While women do certainly deal with many more issues than men in Western society, men still have quite a few patriarchal problems too!
I have a few books with them either as lead characters or secondary characters. I don’t have quite the extensive library like you or Thea or Ana, but I definitely have either read those books and have them triple marked to buy or I own them and cherish them as finding them is so hard!
My sex, power and gender prof LOATHES Simon Baron-
CowerCohen, by the way, when I had her; did a whole rant about him, in fact, one class day about archaic he was. Loves Deborah Cameron. I usually dislike non-fiction, but I might have to go read Deborah Cameron.
Things I’m Thinking About « A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea CozyNovember 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm
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Rebecca @ Crunchings and MunchingsDecember 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm
I’m so glad that you are drawing attention to the many ways that the world of YA is participating in the really egregious perpetuation of misogyny. Especially since YA is such a thriving market, it has the opportunity to do great things with gender for (some) particularly impressionable readers, so it infuriates me when it does the opposite. We have a conversation about gender in YA dystopias going on over at Crunchings & Munchings, if folks are interested: http://wp.me/p2b9fU-K0