As a Canadian woman writer about to throw another book off the cliff named publication, I’m anxious. Will there be mail from appreciative readers about Red Girl Rat Boy? Will the book get any nominations for prizes? Will it be widely reviewed? Because of work done in recent years by CWILA (Canadian Women in the Literary Arts, www.cwila.com), it’s likely that Yes! will be the answer to that last question.
In 2011 CWILA did its first statistical study of books by women reviewed in a selection of Canadian newspapers, literary publications, and general interest magazines. CWILA also looked at — among many other stats — the percentages of women reviewers; women reviewers of male-authored books; Canadian books reviewed; books reviewed that were written by non-Canadian women and men.
The 2011 report made some gloomy findings. Efforts followed to engage with editors, reviewers, women writers, and others in the literary trade to improve the situation. Now the results are in for CWILA’s 2012 survey, and I’ll quote:
The results of this year’s count show that editors, writers and critics—to varying extents—have responded to our call. In one year, we can see many publications with significant changes in the number of published reviews of books written by women, most notably The Walrus (23% to 56%), Canadian Notes and Queries (25% to 46%), Fiddlehead (29% to 58%), Geist (38% to 49%) and the National Post (33% to 42%).
And we are happy to report another improvement: more women are entering the critical sphere by reviewing books. We discovered a 10% leap—48% up from 38% in 2011—in the total number of book reviews authored by women. We hope that these encouraging new statistics will endure and improve over time.
There is still more work to do. The 2012 numbers also reveal some stubborn gender disparities. We found that 28% of books reviewed at the Literary Review of Canada were written by women; 36% at Arc; 29% at Rabble; 38% at the Globe and Mail; and 40% at the Winnipeg Free Press. The total number of female-authored reviews was 21% at the Antigonish Review, 32% at the LRC, 32% at CNQ, 37% at the Winnipeg Free Press, 37% the National Post and 38% at the Globe and Mail.
You can read the whole report (www.cwila.com) by Gillian Jerome and check out the many graphs and pie-charts. Very interesting indeed, as is Laura Moss’s accompanying article on the sustainability of the Canadian literary economy. Already there’s a multi-decade history of Canadian writers concerning themselves with how best to make that economy flourish. What CWILA’s doing is simply the most recent chapter in the story.
My own plan is to volunteer for CWILA next time around, so as to help expand the number of publications the survey includes. In the meantime, I feel confident that Red Girl Rat Boy has a better chance than any of my earlier books of getting widely reviewed in Canadian publications.