“I don’t disagree with James about the phenomena he observes: a literary industry with white women in gatekeeping roles and with white women set up as the archetypal consumer to be pandered to.
I do, however, disagree with the implied notion that white women are the powerful and designing force behind the institution.
In reality, the literary industry has been forged by a patriarchal system that decides what would be in its own interest for women to want, tells women that they want it and then sells it to us.”
“For many years, people have been asking, “are books dead?” The answer is no, they have just been passed to women like a hand-me-down. The infrastructure and implicit values in the literary establishment guarantee the reproduction of patriarchal values, as Vaye Watkins so clearly identifies. The women in the industry have all grown up in this society, have all been schooled in what makes a “big” and “important” book. Women’s concerns are consistently belittled.
We have a canon of “great literature” that dates back for several hundred years and is etched in stone. So the addition of a Toni Morrison and a Junot Diaz and a Maxine Hong Kingston and a Sherman Alexie can be grafted on as branches of the tree, or perhaps more like leaves. Branches? Leaves? Whatever. The industry’s roots are grounded firmly in Europe and White America and men’s voices. Vaye Watkins said, “I have built a working miniature replica of the patriarchy in my mind.” The literary industry is the same: fully imprinted with the values and preoccupations of the patriarchy. Once that’s firmly entrenched, it’s safe to leave the girls in charge.”
Read the entire blog post by the effortlessly brilliant Aya de Leon on her blog: On Pandering, White Women as Scapegoats, and the Literary Industry as a Hand-Me-Down .