I was lucky enough to attend a few writing courses and conferences last year. In addition to stepping away from each experience feeling revved up and inspired, my To Be Read list grew by the dozen, and then some. Most of the books were by Australian women authors. The question I kept asking myself was: “Why don’t I read more Australian books, this stuff is awesome?”
To be fair, I did read a few books by Australian women authors last year. I read The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth and added Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl to my TBR list. Justine Larbalestier’s Liar had me burning through the pages ’til all hours — trying to work out which aspects of Micah’s stories were lies and what was the truth (spoiler: I still don’t know for sure, but I have a theory. I won’t share and spoil the fun — your conclusions are almost certainly different. That’s the genuis of Liar). After Liar, I had to take a shower — partly because I’d gone into a skanky binge-reading state, partly because spending that much time with such a slippery (ie lying) protagonist made me feel dirty. Although I can’t think of the story with love in my heart and a dreamy smile on my face, it definitely made an impression. Justine Larbalestier’s Razorhurst is now on my TBR list.
A few years’ ago, I attended a session at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, discussing confronting issues in YA. One of the panellists, Margo Lanagan, read a passage from Tender Morsels. I don’t know how the rest of the audience responded — I was so lost in Margo’s words and world. Surely, this was the most beautiful writing I had ever experienced*, and it was describing something ugly. I came out of that session elated and depressed. Elated because I knew what gorgeous writing was really about. Depressed, because I knew my own writing was (is) a long way off achieving such effortless lyricism. I read a few reviews of Tender Morsels and knew it was a book I wouldn’t find easy to read (spoiler: it features rape and incest), so I put it off for a while. But, I’m proud to say it was my first read for 2015 and I really enjoyed it.
Which brings me to the actual point of this post — recently I stumbled across the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge. The mission statement of the challenge is to: help overcome gender bias in the reviewing of books by Australian women. Both men and women are encouraged to sign up. For me, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve been looking for a good excuse to read more books by Australian women — of the thirty-two books I read last year, only three were by Australian women authors**, and — not including all the Andy Griffiths*** I read with my son — I only read one book by an Australian male author: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Poor effort really.
So. It’s time to pull my socks up. Not only will I read and review more books by Australian women this year, I’ll read more Australian-authored books in general. It’s only fair. I wouldn’t want to bias the gender in the opposite direction. Right, that’s settled. First review (Tender Morsels) and reading list to come soon!
* This is a big call. Other books vying for the “most beautiful writing” place in my heart are: Chime by Franny Billingsley, and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I’m calling it a three-way tie.
** I can’t remember whether I read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta in 2013 or 2014. I have a feeling it was 2013, because I was blown away and I’m sure I’d still be feeling the love going into 2015. As it is, I think I’m going to have to read it again, soon.
*** One of the best things about having a seven-year-old boy, is having a good excuse to read twisted-humour boy books. The Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is pant-wettingly brilliant. I’m less attached to Andy’s bum books, the poo-puns do wear a bit thin after a while. I have a theory that Andy Griffiths was drunk at a bar one night and made a bet with one of his mates that he could write an entire trilogy about bums and still make it a hit (Andy, if you’re reading this please advise)