A lady after our own data-loving hearts, KJ, awesome librarian and feminist mentor extraordinaire agreed to share with us some data related to gender and categorization within the NPR's Young Adult list from 2012. You can read more of KJ's writing at owlmoose or lifeofkj.
I have long been interested in the issue of representation of female authors on best-of lists and in different genres of writing, particularly sci-fi/fantasy. There were two such SF/F lists that caught my attention during the summer of 2011, both based on reader polls, one run by Tor Books and the other by NPR. There were some notable differences between how these polls were run, which lead to some interesting contrasts between their final lists, but both suffered a lack of female representation. Tor's list
(2 of the top 10, 24% of the top 50) was a bit better than NPRs
(none in the top 10, 15% of the top 100). There are a number of possible reasons for this, but I would look to two in particular: Tor's poll was limited specifically to books published in the most recent decade, 2000 through 2010, while the NPR list was all-time; and the Tor list was a reader free-for-all, while the NPR list was curated, 200-some nominees culled from reader submissions with some strict rules about what genres were to be included. And though I hesitate to ascribe any intent to the NPR editors' choices, their genre exclusions — horror, paranormal romance, and YA — are areas in which female authors tend to be better represented than in other areas of SF/F, particularly the latter two. Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, J.K. Rowling, and Stephenie Meyer come immediately to mind, but the list hardly stops there. I was not the only person to side-eye this decision in terms of how many popular female authors this choice would leave out — NPR's own Monkey See blog even mentioned it
as a reason that fewer women were represented — but at the time, the NPR poll editors promised that they would do a YA poll in the summer of 2012. So I was curious to see what would happen with that poll. ( Read more... )( Supplemental Material )