A Waterstones branch is dedicating its ‘Staff Recommends’ bay to female writers to celebrate the 'Year of Publishing Women'.
Victor Meadowcroft, a fiction expert for the Norwich branch of the chain, has decided that staff will recommend only women writers on the bookcase of around 30 rotating titles.
The initiative follows author Kamila Shamsie's suggestion that 2018 should be a 'Year of Publishing Women' to help reset the gender imbalance when it comes to published authors which would help This would help with the gender inequality female authors experience when it comes to reviews, media coverage, prize shortlistings and winnings. Indie press And Other Stories accepted her challenge and will only publish books by women this year, which also marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which enabled some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time. Online project, Read Women, formed in 2014 and is described by the New York Times as a “rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers”, coordinated by author Joanna Walsh, writer Sian Norris, translator Lillie Langtryand Hurst Street Press.
Meadowcroft said: “I saw this momentum building and wanted to do something in the branch to celebrate that. I am also a translator and have an insight into how publishers deal with this issue.”
As well as And Other Stories, Meadowcroft said recently-formed feminist publisher Silver Press inspired him to develop the idea as well as Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada (Portobello Books), translated by Susan Bernofsky, which won the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation in November.
He said: “Everyone in the branch has been really excited about doing it, they thought it was a great idea. It has been infectious and now another branch nearby at the University of East Anglia are considering doing it. We’ve had lots of enthusiasm on social media with other shops saying, ‘we wished we’d done that’.”
The store tweeted from its account @NorwichStones and cited the @Read_Women initiative: “To commemorate 100 years since women in the UK got the right to vote, we will only be recommending books by women in our Staff Recommends bay throughout 2018.”
The tweet has been retweeted 100 times and favourited more than 350 times within a day of being posted.
Meadowcroft, who has worked for Waterstones for 10 years, said: “There will still be staff recommendations for books by both male and female writers throughout the store although the central bay for staff picks, which consists of around 30 titles, will only be from women authors. The titles will rotate throughout the year so there will be around 100 altogether.”
However, he admitted there had been some apprehension from customers about the project. “There have been a few people who are concerned,” he said. “It was interesting to see. Some seemed to say, ‘if the only choices are from women writers, there won’t be any good books’. And that is an interesting conversation to have.
“Normally with our staff picks, we include around fifty-fifty women and men because it’s something we’re conscious of. But I am aware [of the issue] when we have a table of ‘classsics’ and it’s all men. It seemed like publishers were less likely to publish books in translation by women until Elena Ferrante.”
Among the titles currently being recommended in the bay are Man Booker shortlisted Elmet (John Murray) by Fiona Mosely and Madame O by Sarah Hall (Faber).