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I’ll be reading a very short story at the pretty flash Thistle (3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon) and so will some other writerly Wellington folk. It happens on 22nd June 2017 aka National Flash Fiction Day – the shortest day for the shortest stories. Might see you there!

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I’m Big Jimmy Bang and I can ride the fastest mustang.

You’re a liar and a loser, Jimmy Bang.

I’m Big Jimmy Bang and I can shoot sharper than any sharp-shooter that ever shot.

You’re not even big, Jimmy Bang.

I’m Big Jimmy Bang and I can build the highest wall that’s ever been built in this town.

I’m putting on my hat, Jimmy Bang.

I’m Big Jimmy Bang and I’m the grabbiest grabber that ever grabbed.

You’re a grubby little man, Jimmy Bang.

I’m Big Jimmy Bang and my wife’s so pretty, I had to lock her up in a big, gold tower.

Set her free, set her free, Jimmy Bang. I’m putting on my coat and I’m lacing
up my boots and there’s thousands of us coming Jimmy Bang. Millions of us  coming for you, swarming the streets. We’re wearing our hats and we’re stomping on down and sure as kittens are kittens we’ll stop you, Jimmy Bang. Get outta town and don’t ever come back. Do you hear us, Jimmy Bang? You’re yesterday’s yesterday man.

 

 

toy gun

*Sincere apologies if your name is Jimmy Bang – this is so not about you.

…and here is the breakdown of fiction published in New Zealand in 2015, by the gender and ethnicity of the authors (as far as I can make out).

In terms of gender, women dominate in the fiction stakes, with 44 fiction books by women published in 2015 (59% of titles) compared with 30 men (40%). The ‘Other’ category refers here to a book jointly authored by a man and a woman.

Here is the pie chart:

gender fiction 2015

In non-fiction, the proportions are reversed, with 13 titles (62%) by male writers and 8 (38%) by female writers (see below). So it kind of balances out. If you add fiction, non-fiction and poetry together, 82 titles were by women, 83 by men and one by both. Yay, right? (Note: I’ve left out a few categories, like Drama and Criticism, but included Letters & Autobiography).

NZ Non-fiction by gender

An analysis by ethnicity, however, tells a miserable little tale indeed.  Here is the pie chart for fiction:

2015 fiction by ethncity

Yep, that’s right, with 68 titles, Pakehā writers got 91% of the pie; Māori writers and Asian/Indian writers got 4% each with 3 titles apiece and Pasifika writers got 1%, with a single title (ie Albert Wendt wrote a book).

By way of comparison, in 2014, 88% of fiction titles were by Pakehā writers, 7% by Māori writers, 5% by Asian/Indian writers and none by Pasifika writers.

And for non-fiction, 85% of titles (18 in total) were written by Pakehās and 5% (1 title each) by a European/Jewish writer, a Māori writer and a Pasifika writer.

Non-ficiton by ethnciity 2015

How do I know what ethnicity everyone is, I hear you cry. Well, I don’t know for sure. I visit at least 3 websites (author pages and so on) and look for clues. So there may be some undercounting. If a writer does not describe themselves as Māori, Asian or Pasifika and does not mention an iwi affiliation, I have counted them as European/Pakehā.

One last pie: all fiction, non-fiction & poetry titles for 2015. 90% of titles were by Pakehā, 4% by Māori and 2% each by European/Jewish, Pasifika and Asian authors. What a lot of pie…

All titles 2015

For the record, I’m female and Pakehā (I was born in the UK and grew up in England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was twelve.) Two of the books published in 2015 were mine.

I put this analysis together because it matters to me. Fairness matters. Having a national literature that represents our national population matters. Being able to read a diverse range of voices matters. Also, I’m curious (in more ways than one) and like playing with spreadsheets 🙂

My source for the books published in 2015 is the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Previous posts on this subject can be found here:

https://janisfreegard.com/2017/01/07/nz-poetry-2015-by-gender-ethnicity/

https://janisfreegard.com/2011/07/29/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-part-2/

https://janisfreegard.com/2012/04/03/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-2008-2010-4/

https://janisfreegard.com/2013/03/23/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-an-occasional-series/

https://janisfreegard.com/2014/10/19/poetry-and-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-the-latest/

https://janisfreegard.com/2015/12/30/poetry-published-in-new-zealand-by-gender-ethnicity-to-2014/

https://janisfreegard.com/2016/02/08/nz-fiction-non-fiction-by-gender-ethnicity-2014/

Every year I spend several days hunched over a spreadsheet doing a bit of a round-up of who had a poetry book published in New Zealand the previous year, so you don’t have to. I’m interested in whether our national literature can be seen as representing the diversity of our population, because I think it should. I look at gender and ethnicity, based on how people describe themselves (or are described by others) on their websites, author pages, etc. Generally I try up to 3 websites and a quick check of who’s in Puna Wai Korero and if I don’t find any mention of ethnicity, I assume the poet is Pakeha/European. It’s not an exact science, but it gives a rough idea.

Now I’m up to 2015 (the most recent information readily available) and, well frankly, this is embarassing. Only two of the poetry books published in 2015 were by poets with Māori heritage and two more mentioned Pasifika heritage. Two further poets mentioned mixed European and Jewish heritage. Everyone else, as far as I could make out, was Pakeha/European. There were no Asian poets with collections published in 2015.

Here is a sad little pie chart:

poetry-ethnicity-2015

By way of comparison, only 74% of people described themselves as Pakeha/European in the 2013 census (15% Maori, 12% Asian, 7% Pasifika, 1% MiddleEastern/Latin American/African – it doesn’t add to 100% because people can indicate more than one ethnicity).

Things are a bit more egalitarian on the gender front, but men were published more (57% of books compared with 43% by women), down from the heady days of 2012 where numbers equalised. Here’s how it looks over time:

poetry-by-gender-to-2015

Total numbers of poetry books are looking reasonably healthy, with 70 titles published in 2015 (compared with 73 in 2014). Victoria University Press were the winners in terms of overall quantity (10 titles), with Wellington’s Original Books in second place (7 titles) and Auckland University Press, Mākaro Press, Otago University Press and Steele Roberts joint third (6 titles each). Various small presses made up the rest of the list.

You can read previous posts on this subject here:

https://janisfreegard.com/2011/07/29/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-part-2/

https://janisfreegard.com/2012/04/03/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-2008-2010-4/

https://janisfreegard.com/2013/03/23/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-an-occasional-series/

https://janisfreegard.com/2014/10/19/poetry-and-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-the-latest/

https://janisfreegard.com/2015/12/30/poetry-published-in-new-zealand-by-gender-ethnicity-to-2014/

https://janisfreegard.com/2016/02/08/nz-fiction-non-fiction-by-gender-ethnicity-2014/

and if you have read it yet, here’s the link to Brannavan Gnangalingam‘s Spin-off article on subtle racism in New Zealand literature.

My source for the books published in 2015 is the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. I’ll get around to fiction in due course. And if you were wondering about reviews (whose books get reviewed), data for 2015 are still trickling in from an intrepid band of volunteers and I’ll try to do something on it when I can.

 

52 Men

Sometimes I buy a book and find myself wishing I’d written it (while at the same knowing I couldn’t, because, well, I’m someone else and I can only write the way I write – disappointing though that can be when I was hoping for something more like Jeanette Winterson or Haruki Murakami).

Louise Wareham Leonard (New Zealand-born but mostly New York-based) is one of those writers whose books I always wish I’d written. I loved her novels: Since You Ask and Miss Me A Lot Of and I’ve been just as impressed with her latest work,  52 Men (published by Red Hen Press).

52 Men is a series of vignettes involving main character Elise’s interactions with different men, followed by a longer piece concerning disturbing events from her childhood and teenage years. The vignettes would each stand alone as flash fiction, but together they form a mosaic of Elise’s life, each encounter building our understanding of her as a person. So you get the depth of character development you might expect from a novel, but in a series of snapshots. It’s an interesting technique and it works. In further crossing of genres, the author describes 52 Men as autobiographical fiction, which I take to mean somewhere between the remembered and the made up.

But wait, there’s more! Louise Wareham Leonard invited other women to record a short piece of their own writing about men and launched a series of podcasts.  The recording I contributed (I Meet A Man in a Bar) was based on a piece I wrote twenty years ago and recently rediscovered. You can listen to 52 Men the Podcast on Soundcloud.

Fancy some Brooklyn-inspired writing? Next Friday 25th November 2016, I will be reading from ‘The Year of Falling’ along with the excellent Maggie Rainey-Smith and the fantastic Jenny Bornholdt at the Brooklyn Deli (199-201 Ohiro Rd, Brooklyn, Wellington, NZ). There will be music from Wellington band The Brooklyns and wine & food from the Deli. Hope to see you there!

 

This Saturday, I’ll be at LitCrawl. If you’re in Wellies, you should be too.

I shall be reading at Hashigo Zake 25 Taranaki St at 6pm with the stunning line-up of Chris Tse, Gem Wilder and Emma Barnes.

Here’s our blurb:

When you write from a minority perspective, whether it’s your sexuality, your gender, your mental health or something else about you, there’s an expectation you’ll perform those parts of yourself.

We choose what parts of ourselves we offer, reveal and share. We decide what we gift of ourselves to the audience. We’re not just queer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just genderqueer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just mentally ill writers. We’re writers. We’re all of these things and none of them. Come along to hear some writing loosely organised along non-heterosexual lines across genders and experiences.  We’re wrapping up ourselves as gifts and we’ll rip the paper too.

Featuring Chris Tse, Janis Freegard, Gem Wilder and Emma Barnes.

There are rumours  that at least one cape may be involved and I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility of a hat. But hey, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are are many other exciting LitCrawl options to choose from and you can read all about them here:

http://www.litcrawl.co.nz/litcrawl.html

100_1085

Dear Jeanette Winterson, I should really stop reading your books because sometimes I happen on that one perfect sentence that floors me and I can’t read on. A good simile can cause me to well up like a – um – well in a flood and I have to put the book down and lie quietly in a darkened room for a bit. At that point, I tell myself I’ll never write again, why bother, I’ll just stop now, because I could write all my life and never write something one tenth as good as that simile, so I might as well just wallow in my welling which is as much about feeling sorry for myself as it is about appreciating the beauty of a good phrase. I’m that shallow.

Dear Jeanette Winterson, sometimes all I read is one paragraph and then I sigh and put the book down. Sometimes I can only manage the first sentence. I have read the first paragraph of ‘The 24 hour dog’ at least a dozen times. I have read “He was soft as rainwater” (it’s not the same when I type it) a hundred. It’s better in the book. I have to read it in the book.

Dear Jeanette Winterson, I promise I am not deranged. At least no more than most people. I have a perfectly normal life involving a day job, a partner, a cat and a rough approximation of something that bears a slight similarity to a writing career. My offerings however are as mud next to your polished diamonds. (Or maybe not diamonds, on account of the dodgy labour practices, maybe rubies. Do you like rubies, Jeannette Winterson? Not that I’m planning to get you any.)

Dear Jeanette Winterson, I saw you at a literary festival in Dublin years ago where you were warm, engaging and entertaining. There was a book-signing queue afterwards, but there was no way I could have joined it. It’s true I tend to come across like a grinning idiot when meeting authors I admire, but that doesn’t usually stop me. I still haven’t decided about the queue at the forthcoming Auckland Writers Festival. I’ll just have to see how I go.

Dear Jeanette Winterson, I would happily buy your next note to the electricity company, should you choose to publish it. I am pleased I live on the same planet as you. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times for all the words.

 

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Wordle: janisfreegard.com

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