Tag Archives: VIDA

What I Read in 2013

I read a lot in 2013. Some combination of new proximity to my local library, an enthusiastic book club, and my first shot at the quiet and uninterrupted solitude of single-living has resulted in me cranking through the stacks at record pace.

I believe who we read is in many ways as important as what we read. Which voices do we bring into our homes and absorb into our worldviews? Are they just like us? Older? Younger? Poorer? Richer? Colorful?

Some organizations, like VIDA, formalize this count by comparing bylines by gender at major publications. Here’s how my 2013 reading list shook out:

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Included in that blue chunk in the top right were new books like Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go, Junot Diaz’ This Is How You Lose Her, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, and Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanahas well as a few overlooked classics, like Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. 

Not that 40 is by any means some sort of definitive line in the sand, but I think it’s interesting that most of what I read (with the notable exception of Veronica Roth’s YA Divergent trilogy) was written by real live grown-ups. You know, not 25-year-olds.

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Lastly, was any of it true? I find that, as I get older, my preference for non-fiction gets stronger. I read more journalism, less bloggery, watch more documentaries, fewer blockbusters, read more memoirs, fewer pieces of fiction. Seems like the real world is plenty full of good stories without having to make them up. Cases in point include Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo) and Random Family (Adrian Nicole LeBlanc). I still read a buttload of fiction, but I only expect the slice of non-fic to get fatter every year.

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So what were my favorites? Read everything I mentioned above (especially the Boo and Adichie). For wild cackling on the train, I suggest Mindy Kaling’s memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? For when you have six solid hours on the couch and you need an epic American tale, pick up East of Edenwhich I finally read and adored this year. For the quirkiest love story of the year about an autistic astronaut and his bald wife, read Lydia Netzer’s Shine, Shine, ShineTo deepen your love of great American cities, read Dan Baum’s Nine Lives (New Orleans), You Were Never in Chicago (Neil Steinberg), or Detroit (Charlie LeDuff). And when you really want to be stunned by what magic tricks a book can do, dare yourself to try Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son.
 
What did you read and love in 2013, and what’s next?
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Filed under Books, Gender

S(Monday) Scraps 106

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1. WEIGHT: How not to be a dick to your fat friends. Spot on advice from Marianne at XOJane.

2. HOLLYWOOD: This clip is old, but man is it good. Watch Dustin Hoffman have a few on-camera epiphanies while talking about dressing like a woman in Tootsie.

3. RACE: Kiese Laymon on multicultural writing, what it means to be a “real black writer,” and the state of modern publishing. For Guernica.

4. ABORTION: My second favorite dude comedian, Rob Delaney, writes for the Guardian about why he’s pro-choice.

5. SEX ED: The always excellent Marianne Cassidy on the sex education she wish she’d had (but never got, because she grew up in uber-Catholic Ireland).

6. WRITERS: Roxane Gay at The Rumpus applies the Vida test to race and publishing. Guess what percentage of NYT book reviews were of non-white writers?

Related Post: Sunday 105: Bodies that matter, old cities, tiny islands, literacy tests

Related Post: Sunday 104: Bookish pie charts, bro Venn diagrams, the Girlfriend Zone, etc.

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Filed under Body Image, Books, Education, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sex

The VIDA method

VIDA is an organization dedicated to discussing and promoting women in the literary arts. Every year, they do a little tally to see how some of the most influential literary magazines stack up when it comes to publishing content by women. Here’s an example:

In addition to the Atlantic, Vida graphed the track records of the London Review of Books, Harpers, Boston Review, Granta, and several others. Shockingly, women-authored pieces were outnumbered (badly) in most publication.

Fun game, right? There are three magazines in my house right now, TimeOut Chicago, The University of Chicago Magazine, and Vanity Fair. Just for kicks, let’s see how they stack up, shall we?

Quick note on methodology: I literally just counted bylines of everything with a byline. The “Unknowns” are people have either initials for names for which I couldn’t determine a gender (“Punch,” for example).

Obviously, it’s a ridiculously small samples size that would not pass any statistical measures. The point is to ask ourselves about the publications we read, and the people they choose to publish. That’s not to suggest every magazine should strive for a 50/50 split, only that such an overwhelming display of male bylines by the most prestigious literary magazines in the world should make us all raise an eyebrow. I think it’s particularly interesting to see progressive bastions (like The Nation) that devote immense and admirable page space to sexual equality with such demonstrably unequal bylines.

Related Post: Influence, who’s got it?

Related Post: The Vanity Fair Hollywood list.

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Filed under Chicago, Gender, Media