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…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:
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).
An analysis by ethnicity, however, tells a miserable little tale indeed. Here is the pie chart for fiction:
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.
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…
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
I couldn’t help myself. I had to go through the fiction list as well. Then the non-fiction. And what an interesting result. The 2014 list of New Zealand books (the latest available from the Journal of Commonwealth Literature’s annual round-up) shows that 44 (or 59%) of the 75 New Zealand fiction titles published in 2014 were written by women, significantly more than those written by men (who wrote 31 fiction titles, or 41%). If you take out children’s and young adult fiction, the gap narrows somewhat, with 56% of adult titles written by women and 44% by men.
I wondered if chaps were more likely to tackle non-fiction and this does indeed seem to be the case, with all 11 non-fiction books in 2014 having been written by men . It’s a little different when you add in Letters & Autobiography and Drama (see charts below). And if you look at the whole lot together, ie all titles excluding poetry, it was very even, with 50% by men, 49% by women and 1% by both (ie multiple authors).
Ethnicity is a very different story. I only looked at fiction for this. A massive 88% of fiction titles were by Pakeha authors, 7% by Maori authors (better than I was expecting but still less than the proportion of Maori in the population) and 5% by Asian/Indian writers. No Pacific writers had fiction published in 2014. Not one.
The usual disclaimers apply – for source and methodology, please see my blog on poetry titles .
Since 2008, I’ve been looking at the numbers of poetry collections being published in New Zealand, by gender, and more recently, by ethnicity. I was a bit slow getting to the 2013 stats, but here they are, along with the figures for 2014.
So what’s changed?
In 2013, publications were evenly split between male and female authors for the first time since I’ve been looking at them. Men were a little ahead again in 2014 (55%), but it’s still markedly different from 2008, when close to two-thirds of poets with collections published that year were men.
What’s really exciting is that after a steady decline from 2010 to 2013, the overall numbers of poetry collections is starting to increase again.
The publisher landscape has also changed quite a bit. In 2008, the three “big” poetry publishers in New Zealand were Steele Roberts (12 publications), Auckland University Press (8) and Victoria University Press (6). Other outfits to put out more than one publication that year were the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop (5), Headworx (4), Original Books (4), Soapbox Press (4) and Chihuahua Press (3).
In 2014 however, romping to the lead is Lyttleton’s Cold Hub Press with 20 titles to their credit. Stalwart Steele Roberts came in at 14, Victoria University Press at 11 and Auckland University Press at 8. Wellington’s Makaro Press, if you include the 6 books published under their Submarine imprint, published 9 collections.
What’s the same?
Poets with published collections are overwhelming Pakeha, way more so than we would expect if we looked at the population breakdown from the latest census. (Note: doesn’t add to 100% as people may have multiple ethnicities.)
Only 5% of poets who published collections in 2014 were Maori (whereas Maori made up 15% of the NZ population), 3% were Pacific (cf 7% of the population), 1% Asian (cf 12% of the population – no pressure, Chris Tse) and 1% Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (cf 1%). Yes, Pakeha have an ageing population and are therefore more likely to produce published poets than more youthful sub-populations, but that’s not enough to account for the disparity.
Well, I do. I want to see a rich, diverse published literature that more closely reflects the range of poetic voices of this country. Also, I care about equity of access to goods and services and that includes access to being published (wait – didn’t someone sign a Treaty way back when?)
But surely it’s all based on merit? And women have got the vote now – what more do youse sheilas want?
Merit is subjective. If it’s only Europeans judging the merit of poetry, then there’s a chance we’ll miss something that a different group would find meritorious or inspirational or recognise their own lives in.
Whatevs. Where do the figures come from?
I rely on the Journal of Commonwealth Literature which includes an annual round-up of the literature of Commonwealth countries. I copy the list of published poetry collections from there into an Excel spreadsheet and bake it into pies (just kidding – I don’t bake). The journal comes out late in the year that follows the year in question which is why there is a delay. I can’t be certain the list is complete, but I feel sure that the good folks who compile it have done a thorough job.
How do you know everyone’s gender and ethnicity?
Ah, I’m not promising this is 100% accurate. I go to at least 3 websites (eg author pages on publisher websites and the NZ Book Council writer files) and I try to work it out from that. If there is nothing at all to suggest that a poet is not European/Pakeha, I count them as Pakeha. I do this because I figure when you’re part of the bigger group, you are less likely to identify yourself as such. I think it’s a reasonable assumption. Only a handful of poets actually say they are Pakeha, but some say they were born in the UK or US or mention that their ancestry is Irish, so I go by that.
Why is it just collections? Why don’t you look at poetry in journals and so forth?
Because I have a day job. But, you know, you should totally go for it.
Have you thought about looking at reviews?
Funny you should ask. I am part of an intrepid bunch of volunteers who are trawling through 2015’s many and varied reviews of NZ books as we speak (and not just for poetry ). If you’d like to join our merry band, please do leave a message on this site.
Wishing you all a merry 2016, filled with poetry and wonder.
Links to previous posts on this topic: