Women’s Recognition in Literature

Recently Esquire magazine released a list entitled “The 80 Books Every Man Should Read.” This comes as no surprise since Esquire is a publication geared towards a predominantly male audience. My love of books urged me to read through the list and found included the following texts: Deliverance (James Dickey), The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien), Hell’s Angels (Hunter S. Thompson) and Savages (Don Winslow). If a reader is unfamiliar with the novels above, Deliverance  was adapted into a thriller. The Things They Carried  involves soldiers serving in the Vietnam War. In Hell’s Angels, Thompson infiltrates the notorious motorcycle gang of the same name. Don Winslow’s Savages is a violent crime novel dealing with the drug trade. Judging by the short synopsis of each work, these texts ooze testosterone and masculinity.

Although several classics such as Call of the Wild also make the list, a reader will notice that only one text making the list is authored by a woman. Flannery O’Connor has this honor with her text A Good Man is Hard To Find. One immediately notices the word “man” appears in the title of the only text representing a female author. Esquire is a men’s magazine and it is definitely not the definitive and authoritative judge of literary classics. In fact, the magazine declares the list “an unranked, incomplete, slightly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published.” This led me to ponder if women are represented in authoritative literary circles.

The Pulitzer Prize website contains a list of previous Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction since 1948. From 1948 until 2014, roughly 40 men have won the award while 17 women have claimed this accolade. The results are unproportioned; however, 5 out the 17 women have been award the Pulitzer since 2005.  Some of my favorite works by women have never been considered for the Pulitzer Prize. These works are considered “classics” such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston).

What implication does the recent increase in female authors winning The Pulitzer Prize mean for female authors? As is the case, where women work for equal rights in our society, female authors have a greater chance of being recognized for their work now than in previous years. Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of progress to be made.