Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why Do Women Authors Dominate Young-Adult Fiction?

That's the question explored recently by Salon.

From the piece...

Ask anyone in the book business if Lewit is right, and they’ll probably agree; with a few exceptions, the most successful and prominent contemporary YA writers are women. Furthermore, the cultural infrastructure supporting their books — from agents and editors to librarians, teachers and that formidable new force in the YA world, bloggers — is predominantly female. Some observers blame this state of affairs for the drop-off in boys’ reading habits as they reach their teens; it’s a system ill-suited to producing books that will interest boys, they argue. But if YA has indeed become a gynocracy, few ask why.

The answer, I believe, is prestige. YA is a prestige-free zone, or at least it has been for most of the decades of its existence as a self-identified genre. Perhaps this is changing, now that we’ve seen certain very popular YA series bestride the bestseller lists: Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games. Yet I don’t think the prestige of YA has changed all that much, not really. Unfortunately, I can’t prove it.

That’s the maddening problem with prestige: It can’t be measured. Immaterial and unquantifiable as it may be, it still lies behind many of the ongoing debates among book lovers. The pitched battle waged by genre fans against literary fiction is largely about the allocation of prestige. So is the campaign to highlight the gender imbalances in literary journalism. Even Jonathan Franzen vs. Oprah, a face-off that’s beginning to fade from the collective memory, was ultimately about prestige.

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