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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 .
Thanks to poet Mary Cresswell, who has done a bit of sleuthing, I can add a postscript to my post about Poetry & Gender in NZ Publishing. Mary has looked at all the poetry books published in New Zealand over the 5 years 2008-2012 and noted which ethnicity the poets identify with, based mainly on their author/publisher webpages. So it may not be 100% accurate, but I think it’s a good estimate.
Apologies for the poor quality of the graph below – there’s a clearer version if you click on the link underneath it. What it shows is that, over the five year period, 90% of the poetry publishing pie went to Pākehā/European poets, 4% to Pasifika poets, 3% to Māori poets and 2% to Asian poets. Middle Eastern and African poets accounted for 0.4% of books respectively. When you compare this to proportions in the New Zealand population (70% Pākehā; 14% Māori; 11% Asian, 7% Pasifika and 1% Middle Eastern/Latin American/African – figures from Stats NZ Census 2013) it’s not looking very representative. I do think it’s important for a country’s literature to reflect the diversity of voices in its population.
In a comment on the ‘Poetry and Gender’ post, Tina Makereti said that her research for her PhD “also identified a lack of any real indigenous literary studies in New Zealand (no courses at tertiary level, limited commitment to indigenous literatures in high schools), and few Māori literature scholars. I think if the commitment were there from the universities, and Māori saw themselves represented in the study of literature, the numbers would increase.” So – universities, high schools, publishers – over to you!
PS: I should have mentioned that, as with the ‘Poetry & Gender’ data, the source for titles and authors, etc is The Journal of Commonwealth Literature
Just a wee reminder that this is coming up next Tuesday. It’s for a good cause and everyone gets a 20% discount off the Recommended Retail Price on the night!
Date: Tuesday, 4th November
Time: 5.30 p.m.
Place: The Grand, 69 – 71 Courtenay Place (upstairs)
Here’s the list of contents and further information from the editors:
‘Sweet as’ is a typically New Zealand term meaning okay, cool, better than good, or even awesome. However, the stories in this collection are not all ‘sweet’ in the traditional sense. New Zealand is a country of light — both strong and bush-dappled — but it also has a dark side.
These short stories speak to us of the diverse world we live in. They take us on a journey, or offer a glimpse into another’s life. Some show the struggles, tough questions and challenging situations people face. Some stories are sweet or humorous, while others are quirky or just plain entertaining. They provide us with a snapshot of life in New Zealand and how New Zealanders experience life overseas.
For this collection, we sought contributions from New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. This gives a breadth of story lines — ‘sweet as’ in their variety and quality. Our aim was to continue one of New Zealand’s finest traditions: its strong culture of reading and writing, especially in the area of short fiction.
Links to more information:
eBook and book orders:
For more information email us at: SweetAsShortStories@gmail.com
Since 2008, I’ve been looking at all the poetry books published in New Zealand each year and reporting on the gender balance. That first year, a little over a third (36%) of the poetry books published were by female authors, but there has been significant change over the five year period and women are now responsible for almost half (47%) of NZ poetry books. Here is a graph showing how things have changed.
The quality’s not great, sorry. For a better version, click on this link: poetry & gender graph
Another way of looking at it is that men (green in the graphs) were getting almost two thirds of the poetry publishing pie in 2008 and this was down to just over half in 2012 (mmm – pie).
Click here for a clearer version: poetry pies.pdf
(Disclaimer: yes, I realise this is a very binary way of looking at things, but if anyone on the list is intersex or does not see themselves as either male or female, I wasn’t aware of it. I have made assumptions around gender according to whether the poets look male or female to me or have male/female-sounding names.)
Now, I don’t know the ethnicity of all the poets published in 2012, but out of the 55 poetry books published, I only noticed one that I know was written by a Māori poet, two written by Pasifika poets and none by Asian poets. So what’s with that? There are obviously plenty of Māori poets, as evidenced by AUP’s Puna Wai Korero – An Anthology of Māori Poetry in English. I look forward to seeing a body of poetry that better reflects our population make-up.
What is perhaps most alarming about the trends over the past few years is how few poetry books were published in 2012 – 55, compared with 88 in 2008.
Better version here: Poetry books
The three main publishers of poetry in New Zealand remain Steele Roberts (13 titles in 2012, similar to the 12 published in 2008), Victoria University Press (12 titles in 2012 compared with 6 in 2008) and Auckland University Press (5 titles in 2012 compared with 8 in 2008).
My source, as usual, is The Journal of Commonwealth Literature (December 2013 48: 541–553, and . The list includes a handful of books by New Zealand poets that were published in other countries. Thanks to Rebecca Pilcher for helping me source the latest information.
Last year, the Goethe-Institut New Zealand (in association with the New Zealand Listener and the International Institute of Modern Letters) ran a short story competition to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Brothers Grimm’s book of fairy tales. Competition entrants were invited to write a modern-day Grimm fairytale with a New Zealand flavour, beginning with the words “Once upon a time . . .”
There were over 300 entries which the Goethe Institut has been publishing on a blog – one story per day. They are keen for feedback to help them identify the 12 most popular fairytales that will be included a print publication at the end of the year. With this in mind, they have introduced a 5 star system to enable readers to rank the stories.
The blog is here and the story I entered (The Kind Fisherwoman and the King of the Fish) is here. It was a fun idea for a competition and I’ve really been enjoying the many and varied stories. I heartily recommend having a browse – and don’t forget to have your say!
News in Brief: the boys are still winning; the girls haven’t yet caught up.
Since 2008, I’ve been looking at the Journal of Commonwealth Literature’s annual summary of what was published in New Zealand the previous year. Despite a general perception that more female poets are being published here, it’s actually the other way around. Here’s a little table showing that, in each year since 2008, male poets account for around six in every ten poetry books published in New Zealand; female poets for about four.
Where it gets interesting, is breaking the books into those published by “larger” poetry publishers (and in here I’ve included AUP, VUP, Steele Roberts & Random House – who put out Hone Tuwhare’s collection in 2011) and those published by smaller presses (such as Headworx, Seraph Press, Titus and Earl of Seacliffe). Women outnumber men at the larger presses (18 female poets and 15 male poets in 2011), while men outnumber women at the smaller presses (9 female poets and 22 male poets in 2011 + one person I couldn’t put into a gender box from their initials). So that probably explains why people have a sense that more women are being published. It would be interesting to look at sales figures too.
Previous posts on the matter:
Disclaimer: I haven’t checked all the books listed by the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, but I did notice they had included at least one novel on their list of poetry books (which I omitted from the analysis) – Mark Stephenson’s No Second Chance.
And because this is the internet, here is a picture of a cat.
Crawling out of their green shirts…
Coughing a little in the dawn…
And the church…
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule–
That’s where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz…
How many codes for a wireless whisper–
And corn flatter than it should be
And those chits of leaves
Gadding with every wind?
From Connecticut to Maine:
Lola Ridge (Rose Emily Ridge, 1873 – 1941) was an anarchist poet and political activist. She was born in Dublin and lived in Australia and New Zealand before moving to the United States. She was well known in her day as an advocate for immigrants and the working class, as well as for her poetry. She wrote five books of poetry and edited for avant-garde magazines Others and Broom.
In the garden of cats
the deserted lover
learns to purr again
& threads the sun around her neck
in a garland of golden oyster shells.
Violets grow quietly
dragonflies come to call
she smells lavender
listens to the sea.
Inside her shut shell
the deserted lover makes pearls
from the gritty bits.
Thinks: If I were a cat
I’d live off parakeets
& keep my love.
This is an old poem I wrote years ago after I’d been house-sitting for my friends Anna-Marie and Mary-Jane in Paekakariki – “the ridge where the parakeets perch”. It was summer and their cats and I spent a lot of time sitting about in the garden.
You can read the other Tuesday poems here.