Why Should We Read New Books? Why I’ve Deliberately Chosen to Bring Exposure to the Work of Emerging Female Authors

By: Lorenia Salgado

As a contributor for a literary journal, I was initially intimidated at the thought of assessing the work of contemporary writers. Why? Coming from a background in philosophy (that’s what I got my BA in), most, if not all, of my academic research had been devoted to ancient authors. I felt embarrassingly “new” to this realm of literary contemporaneity.

But then another alarming thought crept into my mind: a large number of my literary and philosophical background stems from male authors. Though extremely grateful to them for such challenging and inspirational knowledge, I knew it was time for a change of literary scenery.

Photo credit: Winsor McCay

Photo credit: Winsor McCay

A couple of months ago I volunteered with VIDA, an organization working to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing and gender inequality in literary culture. The VIDA project I worked on involved gathering concrete data on the number of authors, translators, book reviewers, and books reviewed in a prestigious poetry magazine to figure out who dominated their pages. My experience working on this project signaled the direction I felt necessary to work towards: identifying emerging female authors and their literary and philosophical contributions. Of course, this is not to say that from now on my book repertoire will consist of a “boys not included” situation; this is simply a matter of expanding my pool of literary voices.

But why is this important? Because part of what makes the literary and philosophical discussion captivating is inclusion. If we let it, there is a broader literary spectrum ready for us to become a part of.

Even though I am aware of the fact that there are writers who do not identify themselves as male or female per se (e.g., transgender men and women, intersex individuals, and/or people who self-identify as androgynous, genderqueer, or gender neutral), my lack of exposure to different types of literature has inspired me to fully immerse myself within the writing community, with all of the voices it has to offer.

This commentary is a continuation of the discussion that took place on Tuesday December 2, 2014 at Hammer where five female writers (Elaine Blair, Ruth Franklin, Michelle Huneven, Carmen Jimenez Smith and Mona Simpson) discussed if women are fairly represented in modern literary criticism and the publishing world.

What are your thoughts on this? Should literature and gender matter? Join the conversation. Watch the full discussion here!

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