I've been thinking a lot about gender lately. Over the last few years I've been trying to read books by women. I'm aware this is sexist. I'm also aware that for centuries, women's work was either ignored, destroyed, or passed off as men's. So all you guys who want to cry sexist at the current idea of someone excluding you, go away. Men who are secure enough to understand why women and other minorities might want to focus on our own histories, welcome and thank you for existing.
A few weeks ago, I wanted to take a bit of a break from reading anything that might distress me and read something a bit lighter, like say, a murder mystery. I saw a copy of an Ellis Peters mystery languishing on my shelf, so I picked up One Corpse Too Many (I mean that sounds light, right?) expecting to be diverted for a few days. I didn't expect to be enthralled by the story and by the prose. I also had no idea Ellis Peters was in fact, Edith Pargeter.
Then in my quest to find a book club, I found that my new-ish local bookstore in Winston-Salem (Bookmarks) has a book club, and for October, they are reading Himself by Jess Kidd. I had never heard of either the book or the author. I almost didn't read this book, because of the title. Halfway through and loving it, I googled the author and realized she was a she, not a he, as I had assumed. To make this assumption even worse, her picture is inside the back cover of the book I am reading. (I avoid the interior of the back of books. Many plots have been spoiled by even the merest glance there.)
Just this week, when recommending the Brother Cadfael series by Edith Pargeter to a friend, I remembered the Marcus Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis and recommended it too. I had also assumed this series was written by a man. My soon-to-be daughter-in-law is named Lindsey, and I still assumed these books were written by a man. Wtf?
It seems that I, even after half a century existing as a woman who tries to be inclusive and open-minded, still automatically assume a book is by a man if the author's name is gender-neutral or male, even though I am well aware that women often assumed male names to get their books published and accepted.
So, where does this leave us? Well, it leaves me with a reinforced sense of purpose when it comes to reading works by minority voices and with the thought that if your response to this is to tell me to stop being so sexist, you might not like the answer you get. It will be gender-neutral, but it won't be rated G. Read on, friends, and be sure to include minority voices in your journey.