Believe me when I say I am an out and proud social justice warrior. Yes I know. We spend more time on our soapboxes than down in the trenches actually trying to change things, but I like to think I do my small part of griping and getting my hands dirty. Imagine my surprise when I went to pull a book off my shelf to read for the umpteenth time and I noticed a very ugly trend.
My bookshelf is a sausage fest. Excuse my vulgarity for a moment. I am a black woman that loves everything about being a girl. The glitter, the underpants, even the shoes and I support woman every chance I get and frankly for a raging feminist like me to have a bookshelf bulging at the seams of male writers left me flummoxed.
How could this have happened? When did it happen? How could I have not noticed? Me, who always makes a point of waxing poetic about the need for diversity in literature and pop culture has more male authors gracing her shelves than female.
Where did I go wrong? I think I may have gotten dazzled by the brilliant stories and the wonderful worlds and nuanced female characters of these male writers.
Well let's dissect some of my favorite books. The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. Colfer hit upon two of my treasured things. Bad boys and fairies. Artemis is a boy genius who turns his massive intellect on reclaiming the family fortune. He accomplishes this by defrauding The People, what we would call fairies, out of their gold. He does this with the help of the massive built and expertly trained Butler, no first name given. The most intriguing this about the series isn't Artemis, yes he is cute and yes he is smart, but Holly Short, Captain Holly Short is the standout for me. She is the only female in the LEP Recon unit. She is efficient, highly regarded in her line of work and very good at her job. Especially if it involves shuttle and solar flares. She is great at reading suspects and she always gets her man, or dwarf or pixie. Whomever the perp may be. And I can't talk about awesome female characters in the Fowl series without mentioning Opal Koboi. Sure she is the bad guy, but she is one of the better Moriarty reincarnations I've read in a good while. From the moment we meet her she is pulling Fowl's strings left and right, and even through time and space. She is maniacal and utterly diabolical with just the right amount of maybelline.
The Rangers Apprentice and Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan. I'm a fantasy girl through and through sure, but I do like what we in the business call low fantasy. Books set in alternative settings with little to no magic whatsoever. The Rangerverse fits snuggly into that category. I love that in this series girls don't have to prove to anyone that they can do anything a man can do and sometimes do it better. Its just accepted that woman are a vital part of life and that sometimes they can be called upon to defend their countries, or rescue wayward Oberjarls.
The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson. I've heard it all. Savage rapes, sexual abuse, attempted murder, incest, child abuse and pedophilia just to name a few of the travesties committed against the female characters in the books, but I can't help but love and root for Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is wickedly smart. Painfully smart even. She is calculating and exacting. Above all she is uncompromising. She has her own brand of morals and will not stray from them for anyone. Salander is a woman who has been brutalised beyond measure but she will never call herself a victim. Now I am not saying that woman who do aren't strong. That is a topic for a different blog, but I like her coping mechanisms. She didn't mope around, she duct taped the sucker and gave him a dose of his won medicine. Even Erica Berger is a great character that grew on me by the end of The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. She was smart, sassy and not afraid to have her cake and eat it too.
Now don't misunderstand me, I read female writers. Some of my favorite writers are women. JK Rowling of course, she saved my life. Not as in she herself personal, but a copy of Harry Potter and Philosopher's Stone stopped me from eating a bullet from my father's gun. So she will always be on my top ten. I've got 4 fan fiction stories based on the Potterverse. Angie Sage, author of the Septimus Heap series and the newly penned Pathfinder series is just a joy to read. Her cast of characters almost rivals George Martin, with backstories just as extensive. And a great friend to have on facebook if you are so inclined. Mercedes Lackey, a prolific female in the fantasy genre, has been fascinating audiences for decades. Personally I am in love with her Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdom series. I'm a sucker for fairytales what can I say.
Should I forgo reading books by men even if they have great female leads and female characters even though I champion female writers? Does it make me a bad feminist to have more male writers on my bookshelf than women? Is NOW going to revoke my feminist card? What's a girl to do? How do I reconcile reading more male authors than female authors?