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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:
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.
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:
Recently some of my Alice Spider poems were chosen to be part of an excellent online anthology about Pukehau/Mt Cook. The poems were first published in the online journal Turbine in 2002 and reprinted in AUP New Poets 3 in 2008. This got me thinking about the various Mt Cook flats I lived in, back when I was in my twenties.
In 1985, I flatted in a two-storey house in Rugby Street by the Basin Reserve with three other people – different people at different times. There were parties. There were squabbles over who had burnt out the element in the jug. There was meatloaf, an alphabetised record collection and a weekly gathering around the television to watch Dallas. German journeymen would occasionally appear on the couch. A three-legged cat we called Tripod would wander in for a pat. One flatmate made great homemade Irish cream (similar to Bailey’s); another had a terrific recipe for marinated raw fish. A flatmate who cleaned for a law firm occasionally liberated a nice bottle of wine from the partners’ stash and brought it home to share.
Some years later, I was disappointed to learn our house had been bowled – along with three other perfectly good, sound houses – to make way for a Repco Autoparts store. Every time I walked past, I felt like pasting up a photo of the old place that said ‘LOST: Have you seen this house?’
My second time in Mt Cook came a few years later – a flat in Hankey Street with two other women. One stormy evening, a friend brought a kitten around, wrapped in her raincoat. She’d found him, apparently abandoned and half-starved, near the dairy. She already had cats of her own and couldn’t take in another. I hadn’t planned to get a cat, thinking I moved around too much, but I couldn’t resist this tiny, shivering, flea-infested bundle. My flatmate had spotted him previously but he was wary of people and she hadn’t been able to catch him. Now he was close to giving up.
I took him to the vet the next morning in a cardboard box that said Whole Baby Beans and Whole Baby Carrots. ‘Snatched from the jaws of death,’ the vet proclaimed, before pumping him full of antibiotics and offering a 50:50 chance of survival. He told me to keep the kitten warm and give him baby food. I took him to work in his little box (the kitten, not the vet), stopping at a pharmacy on the way for tinned baby food, Bone-Gro and a hot water bottle shaped like a cat. He spent the day under my desk at the Department of Conservation, good as gold, climbing out to eat his meals and back in again where his hot bottle water kept him warm. Workmates who might normally have taken a dim view of cats popped around during the day to see how he was getting along.
Over the next few weeks, he struggled back to health. I called him Spike. We lived together for nineteen years and I loved him.
The third time I lived in Mt Cook was in a flat in a block of four in Anderson Terrace. This time it was just me and Spike, my first time living (almost) alone. The only part I didn’t enjoy about being there was that my next-door neighbour worked shifts and I routinely woke up at 2 am when I heard his car.
Later, Spike and I moved to Mt Vic, then Berhampore and finally Vogeltown, where I promised him he’d never have to move again. He’s buried in the garden. I still miss him.
I will be reading at an event in Lower Hutt on Friday evening. Here’s more:
Poems of Place; Landscape Poetry and Open Mic
We live in a land of hills, river and sea. We experience wild changes in our weather and our remoteness affects who we are as a people in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Much of our literature and poetry reflects our unique landscape. This National Poetry Day event held in Lower Hutt will feature writers reading their landscape poetry and reflecting on what this means for them. There will be an opportunity during the open mic for people to read their own or their favourite author’s poetry on the subject of nature, landscape and the environment. Everyone is welcome, poets, poetry-lovers and those interested in the local environment. Featuring the poets Anne Powell, Harvey Molloy, Kerry Hines, Keith Westwater, Tim Jones, Adrienne Jansen, Kerry Popplewell, Keith Johnson and Janis Freegard.
Entry Details: Free. Open to all ages. Sign up for the open mic on the night.
Date/Times: 28 August, 7.30 – 9.30pm.
Location: St Marks Complex 58 Woburn Road, Lower Hutt. Opposite the Lower Hutt Library
Further Info: www.facebook.com/events/667972266672138/
A number of people have kindly enquired as to the wellbeing of ‘The Year of Falling’ and ‘The Glass Rooster’, so I thought it might be time for an update. I do feel as though I have released hand-reared orphaned wild things out into the world to seek their fortunes and I’m very much hoping they don’t fall into a ravine or get eaten by bears.
So how’s The Glass Rooster?
Thank you for asking. He’s been somewhat elusive lately, but is no doubt striding about happily somewhere looking for hens to impress. There was a sighting on Beattie’s Book blog in June, where Elizabeth Morton gave the book a very nice review which starts:
“Grab your knapsack. Pack for all conditions. Janis Freegard wants to be your travel companion, and she has a cross-country junket in mind. ‘The Glass Rooster’ takes you through forests and oceans, deserts and space, all the while chaperoned by the eponymous bird who ‘was nothing if not well-travelled’. An unlikely tour guide, perhaps, but he will strut and call and pose for photographs like the best of them.”
And what about The Year of Falling?
There have also been some lovely reviews. Emma Bryson on Beattie’s Book Blog, said:
“Quirky, funny and inspiringly touching, Freegard has a knack for writing scenes which are painfully human. I watched as Selina’s life start to drift away from her, and screamed in frustration as she ‘reasoned’ her way into further trouble. And I became a silent observer (albeit slightly tearful) as the stoic Smith dealt with the heart-breaking complexities of losing a friend, raising a child, and caring for a sister.”
“This is a story of searching for one’s self, trying to identify and then hold onto the important things, and finding a place to call home whether it be a physical place, or simply in your own head and heart. There is hope, forgiveness, joy and love. It is a wonderful story, I very much enjoyed reading it. I really hope this book gets widely read and promoted, because it certainly deserves to.
And Catherine Roberston said in the NZ Listener: “…the pace and assuredness quickly increase, building layers of tension and pleasingly ambiguous characterisations that hold interest to the end.”
I’ve also had some very nice emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook messages from people saying they’re enjoying the novel or were up all night reading it, or they really like one of the characters, which is exactly what any writer loves to hear when wondering whether anyone will ever read the book you spent years fretting over.
Where can I buy them?
Indie bookstores like Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), University bookshops, Page and Blackmore (Nelson), Almo’s Books in Carterton and some Paper Pluses (like the one in Coastlands on the Kapiti Coast). They’re also available directly from AUP and Makaro Press and online retailers like fishpond.
I was chuffed to see both books squeaked into the Indie Top 20 list for 20 June 2015, which means I am on a list with Patricia Grace, Kate Atkinson, Anne Enright, Atul Gawande, Helen MacDonald and other great writers.
Many thanks to everyone who’s bought, read or plans to read the books, who’s requested them from their local library, reviewed them, rated them on Goodreads or told me they enjoyed them. Makes it all worthwhile.
So, yesterday I was interviewed (live – eek!) by the lovely Lynn Freeman on National Radio about The Year of Falling and The Glass Rooster and here is a podcast link in case you’d like to listen to it.