Ok so it's kind of eleventh hour (the story of my life in 2016), but I got my ten reviews done for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and I read 36 books by Australian women writers altogether (I’ll list these in a later post when I sum up my reading for 2016).
Here are the books I reviewed:
With three Indigenous authors, two editors with disability and one author from a migrant background, this list is happily much more diverse than last year’s.
Over at the AWW challenge, I arranged a focus on Australian women writers with disability in April which featured guest posts by Gaele Sobott and Amanda Tink, as well as my own thoughts on why we need diverse books. In October I organised a focus on Australian women writers of migrant heritage, with posts from Eileen Chong, Lee Kofman and Michelle Cahill. And in July I interviewed Indigenous author Melissa Lucashenko as part of a celebration of NAIDOC week
Sadly, this is the last year of my role as diversity editor. What with working full time and trying to do my creative writing in my spare time, my life has become completely overloaded and I need to try and balance things better. I’ll continue to arrange the guest posts (and am going to try to include more by Indigenous writers), but the roundups will be done by the excellent and capable Marisa Wikramanayake.
I’ll sign up for the challenge next year, but I won’t set myself a target (part the trying to minimise strain business). It’s a wonderful and valuable initiative, and it’s introduced me to a new way of thinking about discussing books. In fact I’ve found this so interesting that I successfully applied for an internal grant at UQ to study vernacular criticism in more detail.
I don’t know if my reading habits have changed that much over the past five years, as the reason why I gravitated towards the challenge in the first place was because I naturally read a lot of books by women. However it has definitely raised my awareness of gender bias and I’ve started having conversations with other people about the books they and their children read (my sister, for example, is now actively getting her son to read books with female protagonists). I'm really grateful, too, to the challenge creator Elizabeth Lhuede for approaching me five years ago after she read a post I'd written on Eva Hornung's Dog Boy and disability. It's made me far more aware of the representations of disability in literature, and given me an opportunity to be part of sorely-needed conversations in Australia about diversity.
The challenge is still going strong and Elizabeth has new volunteers helping out and looking over stats. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in 2017!