Nominations for the Book Critics Circle Awards for the publishing year 2013 are in, and it's proving to be a pretty good year for the ladies. Women constitute a majority of the nominees in three of the six categories, and are making an especially good showing in fiction where four of the five nominated novels were written by women: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (above), Someone by Alice McDermott, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Javier Marias' The Infatuations also received a well-deserved nomination.
Overall, literary awards have been rather good for women over the past year, which is somewhat of a welcome surprise given how much attention has been paid of late to sexism in the publishing industry. From Maureen Johnson's Coverflip to the overrepresentation of men in literary reviews, plenty of people were calling out sexism in the publishing industry over the last year. And yet, though reviewers and even publishers may have a male bias, 2013 was (and continues to be, I suppose, since these are the Book Critics Circle Award is still dealing with 2013), a good year for women in literary awards.
Women were well represented at the National Book Award and even more so at the American Book Awards (though the latter are always rather delightful). Even more significant, however, on this year's Man Booker Prize shortlist women outnumbered men two to one, and the eventual winner, Eleanor Catton, won despite a fair amount of sexism directed at her and her lengthy novel, The Luminaries.
So are literary awards somehow immune to the sexism found elsewhere? After all, since women are less likely to receive reviews or possibly even as much attention from their publishers, it stands to reason that only the best of the best female authors would be the ones highlighted, exactly the people literary awards are supposed to focus on. So perhaps they are the great equalizers. Or perhaps literary awards this year have made a conscious effort to pay more attention to the female authors who are often all too easily brushed aside. After all, women haven't been a majority of the fiction nominees at the National Book Critics Circle Awards since 2009, which itself was the first time women had been a majority of nominees in the category this millennium. So maybe all the uproar this year really did some good.
Or maybe women just happened to publish an exceptional number of amazing books this past year. Whatever the reason, we're excited to see who wins.
Also worth nothing: Jonathan Franzen, who recently came under fire for sexism in an essay run in The Guardian, was also nominated in the category of criticism for the same book from which the essay was excerpted. So the nominations may register as a bit of a mixed bag to some. (Comments withheld from this side of the peanut gallery.)
The National Book Critics Circle also honored Rolando Hinojosa-Smith with a lifetime achievement award and gave its first John Leonard Prize to Anthony Marra for his much acclaimed novel set in Chechnya, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena.
You can find the full list of National Book Critics Circle nominees on the their website.
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