This fall, titles from Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist
) and Lena Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl
) have been getting a ton of press, but the staggering truth is that when it comes to the genre of nonfiction, women writers are largely overlooked. Just last week in The Millions
, writer Anne Boyd Rioux lamented the scarce representation of women on this year’s National Book Award longlist for nonfiction writing. Out of the 10 nominees on the short list, only one was a woman writer. What gives?
According to the VIDA Count
, which tallies the coverage of books
penned by female authors across almost 40 lit publications, even the New Yorker
and the New York Review of Books
each devoted a whopping 75% to the coverage of male authors in 2013. Woof.
Erin Belieu, cofounder of VIDA tells us, “Nonfiction in particular is a hard nut to crack in terms of gender imbalance. The very few awards that women are given every year are for ‘personal,’ memoir kinds of writing. There is a cultural assumption that the hard, factual issues are going to be coming from male writers. This unconscious bias is a self-perpetuating thing that ends up happening.”
Though the stats may appear bleak, Belieu is optimistic that the trend is changing. “When I see how prevalent this conversation has become — not just about women in literature, but women of color, queer and trans women, and everyone else who is basically not white, male-identified — it is everywhere. And, that is very different than it was five years [when we first started the VIDA Count].”
In keeping with that spirit, we’ve rounded up 11 brain-expanding nonfiction titles penned by women authors, all worthy of recognition, that were released this year. From a historical tale of sister spies in Nazi-occupied France, to a music journalist’s in-depth dive into the world of rare-record collectors, these are the real-life stories that deserve a spot on your must-read list.