Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

How Many #Women #NonFiction #Writers Have You Read?

There was a Twitter-Flap earlier this month about the rather well-known Male Non-Fiction Writer, Gay Talese.

When asked to name women non-fiction writers who influenced him, he said, “None”

And, Ann Friedman, A Female Non-Fiction Writer (who I’ve written about before), referred to Gay Talese’s situation in her New York Magazine article—The Queens of Nonfiction: 56 Women Journalists Everyone Should Read—by saying:

“Talese deserves the backlash. When it comes to naming influential women nonfiction writers of the past several decades, though, most of us fare only slightly better than he did.”

She also said:

“I’d always assumed this was partly because women, for decades, have missed out on the best writing assignments….But after Talese’s remarks, I started to wonder: Is it really true that almost no women were writing powerful narrative nonfiction before the 2000s?

“And so I went hunting for one good piece of nonfiction by a different woman writer published in every year since 1960, the year Esquire first published Talese. It was difficult. Most of this stuff just isn’t well archived digitally. And yes, far fewer women were working as magazine journalists in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s….But they were there.

“I found them — one for each of the past 56 years.”

You’ll have to take the link to Ann’s NYMag article to see all 56; but, I’ll give you the writers she listed that I’ve read (there are others in the list I’ve heard of but not read…):

Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, 1962.

Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale,” Show Magazine, 1963.

Gail Sheehy, “Inside Grey Gardens,” New York, 1972.

Susan Orlean, “Figures in a Mall,” The New Yorker, 1994.

Elizabeth Gilbert, “Lucky Jim,” GQ, 2002.

Samantha Power, “Dying in Darfur,” The New Yorker, 2004

Why did I read only a little over 10% of the authors mentioned in the list?

The reason (not excuse) was that I spent the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 00s reading only fiction, science, psychology, history, metaphysics, and religion (although, there may have been a few magazines I read with women writers; but, I don’t remember either the magazines or the women—or, even the male writers in that format…).

Thing is, there were many women writers in what I was reading for all those years—they just weren’t journalists

And, why do I even feel it necessary to account for my relationship to the list?

Basically, because I’m a man who’s acutely aware of the repression and neglect of women

Ann made her point so well I had to account for my actions :-)

I hope you’ll read her full article
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2 responses to “How Many #Women #NonFiction #Writers Have You Read?

  1. martinaseveckepohlen April 28, 2016 at 2:29 am

    An excerpt of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring made it in one of my text books at School (in a German translation). Maybe it’s off the point, but it shows her influence.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 28, 2016 at 2:33 am

      I don’t think it’s off-point, Martina—it definitely shows her influence :-)


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