October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, an event created by the United Nations in 2012 to “highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.” This occasion, combined with recent events in the United States, has us thinking about female voices and how they are reflected and recorded in our culture. In our case, that means thinking about books.
At Bas Bleu, we’re booksellers, not political commentators. But our company does have a decidedly female bent. Our namesakes, those learned eighteenth-century bluestockings, were predominantly—though not exclusively—women. Bas Bleu was founded by a woman, and our long-time brand manager and editorial and purchasing teams are all female. Most important, our bookshelves are stacked high with stories by and about women.
The non-profit organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts was created, in part, to “create transparency around the lack of gender parity in the literary landscape.” VIDA’s focus is usually on literary journals and book reviews, not booksellers like Bas Bleu. Nonetheless, in preparation for this blog post, we conducted a quick VIDA count of the books in our Autumn 2018 edition, just to see how Bas Bleu stacks up. The results: 56% of the books were written by women, with 44% written by men. A whopping 80% of our Book a Month picks for 2019—which we’ll reveal here on the blog next week!—were written by women.
We believe that a compelling story is a compelling story, no matter the gender of its author or subjects. Bas Bleu’s editorial choices are influenced by subject, plot, writing style, recommendations from friends, familiarity with the author’s canon, book title, and, yes, even the book’s cover. But if we can play even a small part in helping female voices occupy equal space alongside those of men—and for stories and experiences traditionally downplayed or ignored to gain a larger audience—then we will consider it a good day’s work indeed.
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