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An Introduction To Breaking The Book Bias

Mar 7, 2022 | Comment

Think back to the last book that changed your life. Or, the first time you read a story you truly related to, or even the first time you were submerged into a dystopian universe. When we read, we are transported into the lives of the characters; some books make us feel seen and validated; some books allow us to empathise and respect the experiences of those whose lives are different from our own. That’s why it’s not only important to read but to diversify the books we actually choose to read! 

At Books That Matter, we celebrate the work of female authors and the stories of underrepresented groups so we can re-examine our own biases and learn about the systematic oppression experienced by others. However, women have long been on the margins of the publishing industry, and women of colour even more so. The UK’s Publishers Association 2021 Diversity Report found that BAME employees only made up 13% of their workforce. And although women now make up 50% of the bestselling authors each year, less than a third of the authors in the GCSE English curriculum are women. 

This year, the official International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, a slogan designed to encapsulate the importance of achieving equality for women on multiple levels. However, we appreciate this can at times be a little vague. That’s why, this year, Books That Matter are taking a closer look at #BreakingTheBookBias; a movement dedicated to tearing apart the stale, white male domination of the publishing industry. 

As our viral Men Writing Women series dictates, women are far too often not adequately or accurately represented in the books we pick up. Men’s words zoom into our bodies, not our minds, and can narrowly box women’s stories. However, the experiences of women are ultimately different, multi-faceted, interesting, emotional and so much more. At Books That Matter, we refuse to characterise a woman under a single label. 

For far too long, women’s writing has been negatively categorised. Why is it that bookshops host a ‘Women’s Fiction’ section? Does a female writer not have a label, genre or interest point beyond her gender? Or, why is it often presumed in interviews that a woman must base her work on her life’s story? Is a woman not capable of writing creatively outside of her own experiences, or, do we simply just expect women to unveil their personal lives as gossip, in a way which we don’t for men. These are questions we have to ask.

Women of colour are left creatively staggered by an expectation that their books need to focus on race In a recent podcast episode, Zaina Arafat explains how frustrated she was by many publishers’ insistence that she appealed to blatant stereotypes associated with The Middle East. A woman is not enabled to write freely; she is pinned down by narrow expectations and limitations. At Books That Matter, we are championing a change for female writers. This International Women’s Day, next International Women’s Day and simply every day! 

In order to facilitate change in this industry, rebellion can look as simple as picking up a book written by a woman. One of the biggest powers we have as readers is our purchasing decisions. By financially supporting female and POC authors, we’re signalling our desire for more of their work to be published. Time to join a book club, sign up for our monthly book subscription box, or take a look at our Break The Book Bias reading lists if you’d like some ideas on where to start breaking your book bias!

Books That Matter is the award-winning subscription box empowering women, powered by women. We platform marginalised voices by curating unique and inspiring reading experiences. We’re here to change the world, and introduce you to your favourite book, of course…

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