I wanted to take a moment a look at what I read in 2015 to see if I am staying true to the goals for my book review site, Grab the Lapels.
My goals for Grab the Lapels are:
- Only review books written by people who identify as women.
- Only accept additional book reviews from reviewers who identify as women.
- Provide a space for women to feel confident that they can get their book some attention when they may not in other venues.
- Be conscious of creating a fair balance of authors of various ethnicity.
- Provide at least one post per week so as to not make Grab the Lapels a sad little webpage.
- Read in a variety of genres.
After tallying up the numbers at Grab the Lapels, here’s what I learned about my reviews. There results were:
- 8 short story collections
- 22 novels
- 8 non-fiction books (almost all memoir)
- 12 graphic novels (many of them also memoir)
- 1 book of poetry
- 9 of these women were either non-white or born outside the U.S. in countries like Guyana, Czech Republic, Russia, and Iran.
- 26 of these books were sent to me.
- 25 books that I read were not submitted to me by the publisher or author.
- There were a few evaluations of poetry collections reviewed by Kim Koga, a poet I met in my MFA program (I was in the fiction half of the program).
What this means:
At Grab the Lapels, I am severely lacking on poetry. Truly, I do not feel confident enough to examine poetry with the close eye that Kim Koga does, so I often defer to her when she has the time to provide her insight at Grab the Lapels, and I am totally grateful.
I started Grab the Lapels because I was mad that many books sent to me to review (at different fantastic blogs/magazines run by other people) were by men. It’s not that the blogs/magazines were doing something terrible; they were simply accepting books sent to them for review. It’s just that men are more likely to review and get reviews–they’re willing to ask and demand things they want, whereas studies show women do not.
I really wanted women who felt left out–who couldn’t get anyone to pay attention to their work–to have a home at Grab the Lapels. I will always be honest in my reviews, but at least someone would be providing these authors a platform to talk about their books if limited the books I accepted by the gender of the author.
Yet, only about half of the books I read in 2015 were from authors who needed a platform. People like Jenny Lawson, Kate Beaton, Roxane Gay, and Alison Bechdel don’t need my help being famous; they already are. Sometimes the allure of reading a book that everyone else is raving over proves too difficult to ignore. In 2016, I’m going to try and redouble my efforts to read books by women who are struggling a bit to get readers/reviewers.
I think this is going to be a challenge because I have a massive TBR pile from over the years. A lot of those books come from black writers who are mostly deceased: Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, and Octavia Butler. I teach Black Lit of America at colleges and am fascinated by the rich culture that comes from the black American population.
I also have a number of small-press books that I bought over the years: there’s the lesbian-themed pulp fiction from Monica Nolan, a number of books from publisher FC2, and I have a stack of Featherproof books just waiting for me. Since these are small presses, though, I am going to reach out to conduct interviews with the authors of these books in addition to writing reviews; many of the books have died down since their releases and could use some more publicity (Dolly Dingle, Lesbian Landlady only has 38 reviews on Goodreads. That’s just not enough for such a great concept).
In addition to Grab the Lapels, I review about one book per month for the mammoth blog, The Next Best Book Club. Creator Lori Hettler provides a great community for readers, writers, and reviewers (she’s always looking for new reviewers, if you’re interested!). TNBBC is where I publish my reviews for books by men. The numbers are much smaller: I read only 10 books by men in 2015. Still, I try to keep diversity in mind with books by the guys, too. The authors were from places like France, England, the Netherlands, South Korea, and there was one Vietnamese-American.
If you maintain a book review blog, do you have goals for what your site is meant to provide? Do you need to adjust what you’re doing to meet your goals in 2016?
Melanie @ Grab the Lapels