The NYTimes is at it again. Robert Lipsyte wrote a lovely little article on boys and reading. The book blogging community has already reacted (also: here and here), but there was a specific aspect of the article I wanted to address. The problem, he writes is that:

The current surge in children’s literature has been fueled by talented young female novelists fresh from M.F.A. programs who in earlier times would have been writing midlist adult fiction. Their novels are bought by female editors, stocked by female librarians and taught by female teachers. It’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters. (emphasis mine)

Not only does he not back up his claims with statistics, his condescending tone implies that the highest a female M.F.A can go is midlist fiction (which is usually true-only 30% of Pulitzer Prize winners for Fiction are female). While editors, librarians, and teachers do tend to be female, male authors still dominate the bestseller lists. Currently, seven out of ten authors on both the  children’s chapter and paperback lists are men.

Aside from that, he does not go on to expound on how we can change the trend that “teenage boys will rarely read books with predominantly female characters.” Guess what, women have been surviving and thriving in a male dominated world for, I don’t know, all time? And we’re doing just fine. We read, enjoy, and fall in love with books that are written by men as well as women, because that is what brings us the best life experience. We are not taught from an early age, as men are, that engaging with or emulating characteristics of the opposite sex will make us worth less. And because of it, yes, teenage girls will pick up a book about a boy and enjoy it.

So where is the part of the article where he asks why boys don’t read books about girls?

I am not saying that boys don’t deserve books that were edited, heralded, and taught by men. Women understand the importance of stories and culture that is by and for the same group. I am saying that in some ways, men need to get over it already and start teaching the next generation that women have voices that are of value to people who don’t also happen to be female.

Really, Robert Lipsyte, boy culture won’t implode if you suggest they pick up a book about a girl. We’ve been reading about men and boys for hundreds of years, and, as you say, girl culture is as strong as ever.

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