A feud is brewing between bestselling author Jodi Picoult and the literary establishment. The My Sister's Keeper author has accused literary critics of shunning best-selling female writers while lavishing praise upon "white male literary darlings." The writer singled out Jonathan Franzen as a symbol of this double standard after his new novel Freedom was reviewed twice by The New York Times in the same week. In Her Shoes author Jennifer Weiner also weighed in, claiming she and Picoult were routinely ignored by the literary establishment even though they tackle similar topics to supposedly heavyweight novelists like Franzen. Do Picoult and Weiner make a valid case? (Watch Franzen discuss the important of books)
Women's writing deserves a better deal: Any female writer or reader is familiar with the "consistent devaluing of women's experiences" by the literary establishment, says Anna North at Jezebel. A woman's "domestic fiction" is a man's "sweeping family saga" in the eyes of most critics. "Female-dominated literary forms" like those written by Picoult ought to "get some respect."
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Does Picoult really think she writes literary fiction? There are many problems with how we identify literary merit, says Michelle Dean at The Awl, and Picoult certainly has a point. But do writers like her really, "in their heart of hearts" think they "aim their work at the same critical audience Franzen does"? It's not quite fair in this case to claim they are being treated differently "solely as women."
If there's a bias, it starts with the reader: As the owner of a bookstore, says Chris Jackson at The Atlantic, I can tell you that while "women are willing to buy books by male writers, men seem much more reluctant to buy books by women." Sure, the "dominant literary gatekeepers" in the review pages don't help — but "the real bias may be inside of us, as readers."
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