Last week the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Shortlist was announced. There were sixteen books on the Older Readers Notable list, with six books on the actual Shortlist. Of the sixteen Notables, four books have female protagonists. On the Shortlist, there's just one.
Firstly, congratulations to all the authors on the lists. Please don't think for a moment that what follows is a criticism of your work. You're all awesome and totally deserve to be there.
But where are all the girls? Where is Simmone Howell's Everything Beautiful? Or Joanne Horniman's My Candlelight Novel? Or Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray? Or Julia Lawrinson's The Push?
If you take a look back over the years at the books that have won and been shortlisted in the past, you'll notice that there aren't many girls at all (Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca are among the handful of girl-protagonist books awarded the gong in over 60 years).
And it's happening everywhere! Today the Miles Franklin shortlist was announced. How many women writers on the shortlist? NONE. Ironic, huh? For a literary award that was named in honour of a woman who had to pretend to be a man in order to get published. A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
What's going on? Why, as a society, do we privilege stories about boys and men? Why are their stories more Literary? Is it because people figure that girls will read books about boys, but boys won't read books about girls? Is it because girl-stories are often focussed on an emotion-based arc, rather than an action-based one?
I'm currently in the very early stages of thinking about The Next Book. And I wanted to try writing a book for girls, but with a male protagonist. But now I'm not so sure. More girl books, I say! More spunky girls being awesome! Awards be damned!
(for more on this, check out Kirsty and Adele and Judith)