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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and Women’s History Month In General

March is Women’s History Month.  I did a great display at the BPL of award winning female authors-- in all genres. I have, of course, the literary women but also horror, romance, mystery, historical fiction, graphic novels, suspense, SF, and fantasy...literally every possible genre that gives an award, I have a female author who has won that award representing their genre proudly. Because female authors and genre fiction are both worth your time.

We always do a display for Women’s History Month.  In the past we have done historical women, female mystery authors, or more traditional women’s fiction titles, but this year I really wanted to make a point that in every genre, women are doing fantastic, award winning work; work that is judged to be the BEST against all comers-- men or women.  I also made sure to include diverse women.

I am happy to say, yesterday, I saw a few men grabbing the annotated list and looking through some of the books.  I think this is because all genres are there. The men see the SF or Horror sticker on a book on the “Women’s” display and feel like it is okay for them to stop. Don’t underestimate that. Our display is not all pastels and flowers for this month. It is about good books by female authors that will appeal to all.

So that’s what I am doing to promote female authors at my library.  But something with a much broader reach is the Baliey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, which released it’s long list last night. To the right, I included their awesome image of the 20 titles stacked up.

Click through for the full list, but I was so happy to see 2 of my favorite reads of 2014, Station Eleven (which got tons of accolades) and the debut The Bees (which deserves more accolades) both on the list.  [Click on the titles for my full reviews of each book].

As you promote female authors at your libraries this month, make sure to promote the Bailey’s Prize and their #ThisBook campaign where people, both famous and regular Janes, can tell them about a book by a woman that has made an impact on their lives.

But even more important than either of these is the fact that this prize, under different names, has been given out continuously since 1996. Click here for a full history and reasoning behind the creation of this award [hint, it has to do with a major award having zero women on its longest back in the early 90s].

With this link you can go back to 1996 and the beginnings of The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction to find a plethora of award winning suggestions. I cannot stress enough how important archives of awards lists are as an RA tool. These past year’s lists are a rich treasure trove of “sure bet” reading suggestions.  I have this full post on Using Awards Lists As A RA Tool.

But for example in this specific award’s case, using this link, you can see that Bel Canto won in 1992, and also see the entire shortlist of nominees from that year.  Click through and look for yourself, but these are great titles. Books from over a decade ago, a few of which I know off the top of my head that I currently own and can probably find on the shelf today. Books I am confident, again off the top of my head, that I have multiple patrons who would love them right now! Books, I had forgotten about.

Gulp...see even I learn from my own advice.

This archive of past winners and nominees is a wonderful place for you to find backlist gems to suggest to people who want to celebrate Women’s History Month with a book.

But just so you don’t only get one source's opinion, I also found this great list from Off the Shelf, on 11 Essential Reads for Women’s History Month.  From that page:
We are all familiar with Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Doris Lessing, Simone de Beauvoir, and the contributions they made to feminist literature. But great literature concerning feminist themes is not confined to these classics. Many of our most exciting contemporary literary writers are expanding and complicating our understanding of what it means to be a woman today. Encompassing the thrill, rage, devastation, and range of the female experience, these essential voices should not be ignored.
For the list itself click here.

So that’s my Women’s History Month post [rant?]. I am a big proponent of using the media attention that goes with any “Month” or “Week” celebration to our advantage. Others are talking about it, patrons are aware, that means we should be suggesting books to go with what’s on their minds already. Let the larger media do the hard work of promoting for us.

If you want to share what you are doing for Women’s History Month, leave a comment.

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