Edmund de Waal’s book, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance is a family history that has become a best-seller. It is a biography that follows the trail of small Japanese carvings as they were passed from owner to owner within the family while the family were entangled in the broader travails of nineteenth and twentieth century history.
Edmund de Waal received an unusual inheritance – over two hundred small Japanese carvings called netsuke (click here to see some of them). In this book De Waal retraces the lives of the previous generations of his family who had owned the netsuke. Thus the book is not a birth to death biography of the owners; rather taking up the story of the owners of the netsuke from the point when they first received them to when they passed them on to the next owner. I liked this approach. Continue reading
‘Pretend to be a man’. That is the advice that aspiring female author, Kasey Edwards received from a literary agent. Edwards refused to change her name. ‘Well at least you’re pretty. That should help with media.’ responded the literary agent.
Yesterday Kasey Edwards told her story in an article published on the Fairfax Daily Life website. She also wrote about a group of women and men who participated in an online book reading and reviewing challenge, The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge.
Over the last year I have written about the fact that women writers don’t receive anywhere near as many reviews as men in major media outlets. A number of readers including me, realised that for an unknown reason we were not reading anywhere near as many books written by women as men. I decided to bring balance back into my reading by signing up for the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge.
Then I decided to go a step further and volunteered to be an editor for this year’s challenge looking after the area of histories, biographies and memoirs. Today I posted an overview of the histories, biographies and memoirs that were reviewed by challenge participants in 2012. It gives an interesting insight into the reading habits of Challenge participants as well as the wonderful books written by Australian women writers that I would not have been aware of if not for the Challenge. If you want some ideas about what histories you could read you could read the overview, browse through the complete list of histories reviewed for the Challenge in 2012 or check out the list of histories written by women that I compiled last year.
The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge was more successful than Elizabeth Lhuede had dreamed of when she started the Challenge a year ago. This year it is back and we are looking forward to your contributions. While a lot of books were reviewed I know that many great books published last year missed out on a review. It would be great to see more reviews of histories written by Aboriginal authors, and I would love to see some family histories and local histories reviewed. Perhaps you would like to join me in reviewing some history of science books? Even if you feel that you read the kind of books everyone else reads we still would appreciate your review. Each person responds to a book in a different way so it is helpful to be able to read a number of reviews of the same book.
I will be writing regular posts about histories, biographies and memoirs on the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge website this year, bringing attention to reviews that have been written, new books published, topics and themes we could read more about, and books that have been shortlisted for awards. I’m looking forward to it and hope you will enjoy history on the Australian Women Writers Challenge as well!
Seals enjoying some end of 2012 warmth on Bruny Island, Tasmania.
This has been a busy year for Stumbling Through the Past. My policy is to only write when I feel that I have something to share rather than sticking to a regimented timetable. This year I have been inspired more times than in previous years to record my thoughts, writing thirty three posts in 2012. Continue reading
At the beginning of the year I reflected on my reading habits. Female authors do not receive as many reviews as male authors both in Australia and other western countries. How many books by women authors had I read in the last year? I was shocked to find that in 2011 I had read only one book written by a female historian. With the help of the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge I rectified this imbalance by reading and reviewing more books written by women. So where has the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge led me this year?
Not only did I read, I pondered. I wondered whether the imbalance of reviews varied according to genre. I have not seen any statistics regarding this so I did a survey of my own. Having limited resources to do such a survey I decided to look at two years of book reviews by three academic history journals. In some respects the results of this examination were as I expected but I was surprised by one of the findings. You can read about my survey here.
In response to a comment by prominent book blogger, Lisa Hill, I decided to make a list of histories written by Australian women to help people who were looking for histories written by Australian women. Oh dear, the task turned out to be way more difficult than I expected as it descended into the murky territory of determining who is Australian. You can have a chuckle at my expense by reading my post, It’s Not Just a List. Continue reading
All That Swagger by Miles Franklin (North Ryde, NSW: Angus & Robertson, 1984).
Today is the anniversary of the birth of Miles Franklin – 14th October. In a post for the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge I suggested that we remember Miles Franklin by doing what all authors want most and read a book written by her for the anniversary of her birth. But yesterday morning I awoke with some consternation – Miles Franklin was sensitive about her age during her lifetime and shaved off some years publicly. She would hate for the date of her birth to be remembered with precision. Never mind, I thought, I won’t disclose how many years it has been since her birth and at any rate, she has probably moved on from such concerns now!
I have just finished reading Franklin’s book, All That Swagger. I’m not a great reader of fiction and fussy about what I touch when I do read it. All That Swagger would not normally be included in my ‘To Be Read’ (TBR) pile. I chose to read it because it was Miles Franklin’s best-selling book and I have been encouraged to broaden my reading as a result of my participation in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge. All That Swagger won a major Australian literary award, the S.H. Prior Memorial Prize, in 1936 but I had never heard of it until I read Jill Roe’s biography of Miles Franklin. Would it stand the test of time? Continue reading