#women gay talese should read

Ah, how dangerous is a little myopia. At a recent conference in Boston, Gay Talese, journalist icon and keynote speaker, named four male writers who inspired him as a young man (Frank O'Hara, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Irwin Shaw). In the Q & A, poet Verandah Porche asked him if there were any women writers who played the same role in his literary life. He first named Mary McCarthy, then after a disturbingly long pause corrected himself: “Um, none.” That registered with a jolt. What might have been an interesting discussion quickly became a kerfuffle, as he did not, and was not asked to, expand on his original answer. Then, when USC journalism prof Sandy Tolan called out “Joan Didion?” Talese used the present tense to say that “educated women” prefer not to get into the trenches with unsavory or “anti-social” characters. Uh oh. Audience members took to Twitter and soon #womengaytaleseshouldread was trending. Accounts of the incident and its aftermath appeared in many newspapers, but I thought that one on Rewire, by Amy Littlefield (who actually attended the Power of Narrative conference) was one of the best. Hell hath no fury like a (journalist) woman scorned, but anger isn't the point. Edification is. Here are two lists of women writers who might enlighten Gay Talese. The names come first from the Twitter users—including writer Susan Orlean, Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery, and me—who joined the fray. The lists are amplified by other lists (inspired by the hashtag or not) and put together by The Cut at NYMag.com, Buzzfeed, and the New York Public Library: The first offers the women Talese really should have been able to cite:
Renata Adler Shana Alexander Svetlana Alexiyevich Isabel Allende Hannah Arendt Margaret Atwood Nellie Bly Katherine Boo Taffy Brodesser-Akner Edna Buchanan Janet Campbell Hale Rachel Carson Iris Chang Virginia Cowles Sara Davidson Joan Didion Annie Dillard Maureen Dowd Elaine Dundy Barbara Ehrenreich Lucy Eisenberg Gloria Emerson Nora Ephron Oriana Fallaci M.F.K. Fisher Frances FitzGerald Barbara Grizzuti Harrison Martha Gellhorn Natalia Ginzburg Veronica Guerin Alma Guillermoprieto Patricia Highsmith Lynn Hirschberg Maxine Hong Kingston bell hooks Molly Ivins Flora Johnson Moira Johnston Jane Kramer Janet Malcolm Katie McCabe Jan Morris Toni Morrison Zora Neale Hurston Debby Miller Flannery O’Connor Mary Oliver Susan Orlean Gayle Pemberton Charlotte Perkins Gilman Mary Roach Marilynne Robinson Lillian Ross Loretta Schwartz Gail Sheehy Mimi Sheraton Rebecca Solnit Susan Sontag Alice Steinbach Gloria Steinem Sara Suleri Dorothy Thompson Elizabeth Vorenberg Sarah Vowell Alice Walker Ida B. Wells Rebecca West Edith Wharton Ellen Willis Virginia Woolf
The second list offers some exciting contemporary writers (and a few hard-core journos) who may not yet have written the classics (or mere bestsellers) penned by the women above, but whom we should all be watching, and citing as inspiring models:
Rania Abouzeid Joan Acocella Atossa Araxia Abrahamian Jill Abramson Christiane Amanpour Anna Badkhen Kim Barker Eula Biss Wendy Brenner Connie Bruck Katy Butler Rukmini Callimachi Gail Collins Pamela Colloff Helene Cooper Jennifer Egan Amy Ellis Nutt Mona Eltahaway Sonia Faleiro Kiera Feldman Sheri Fink Angela Flournoy Jean Friedman-Rudovsky Rivka Galchen Michelle García Roxane Gay Elizabeth Gilbert Melissa Gira Grant Brooke Gladstone Michelle Goldberg Jennifer Gonnerman Lucy Grealy Cynthia Greenlee Vanessa Grigoriadis Paula Gunn Allen Nikole Hannah-Jones Melissa Harris Perry Anna Holmes Anne Hull Charlayne Hunter-Gault Leslie Jamison Margo Jefferson Kathryn Joyce Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah Louise Kiernan Naomi Klein Elizabeth Kolbert Brooke Kroeger Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Jill Leovy Jill Lepore Louisa Lim Larissa MacFarquhar Alia Malek Jane Mayer Mary McGrory Rebecca Mead Mac McClelland Stephanie McCrummen Laura Miller Janet Mock Michelle Nijhuis Joy-Ann Reid M.R. O’Connor Alexis Okeowo Lynn Povich Lisa Pollak Samantha Power Claudia Rankine Katie Roiphe Hanna Rosin Elizabeth Rubin Dale Russakoff Aisha Sabatini Sloan Delphine Schrank Ellen Schultz Erin Siegal McIntyre Asne Seierstad Somini Sengupta Rebecca Skloot Claire Vaye Watkins Danyel Smith Tracy K. Smith Zadie Smith Megan Stack Susan Stamberg Elizabeth Strout Meera Subramanian Mimi Swartz Jen Szalai Hannah Tennant-Moore Sarah Topol Rebecca Traister Katrina vanden Heuvel Lindy West Marjorie Williams Penny Wolfson Frances Wright Sheryl WuDunn Karla Zabludovsky Rafia Zakaria
In an afternoon session of the conference, journalist-historian Adam Hochschild was prepared when he was asked, in the Q & A after a panel discussion, about women writers he admired. He began to praise one writer in particular for her insights on the Spanish Civil War (the subject of Hochschild’s just-published Spain in Our Hearts). I was sure it would be Martha Gellhorn, the often-overshadowed third wife of Ernest Hemingway, herself considered one of the 20th century’s greatest war correspondents. Instead he named someone he considered even better: Virginia Spencer Cowles. Born in 1910, she was an American who spent her long career covering first fashion, then the Spanish Civil War, then the turbulence in Europe in the late 1930s, then World War II. After the war, she published a number of critically acclaimed biographies of historical figures. Another name on the list, and a positive outcome from the conference controversy. Happily, I'm publishing this on the Web, and I can add subtract, amend, or append names to this list. Who would you add? The #womenbywomen project from The Washington Post will give you more names, too. (as suggested on Twitter by @e_vb_). And for another argument about how this topic matters, check out an essay by Caroline Paul, the author of Gutsy Girl, about why boys should read “girl” books.  

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Responses to #women gay talese should read