American writer Roxanne Gay checked the books reviewed last year in ‘The New York Times’ Of the 742 books reviewed 655 were by Caucasian authors, 33 by Asian writers, 31 by African or Afro-American, 9 Hispanic, 8 Middle-Eastern and 6 were not identifiable. This does not represent the American population. Is there bias in selecting books to be reviewed or are proportionately fewer books from ethnic minorities submitted for review? How do Australian reviews compare? I’ve no idea. Has any study been made? Certainly I don’t think our literary award judges exhibit any bias. For instance our most prestigious award, The Miles Franklin, has been won by indigenous authors in 3 of the last 12 years. Kim Scott won in both 2000 and 2011 with ‘Benang’ and ‘That Deadman Dance’ respectively. Alexis Wright won in 2007 with ‘Carpentaria’.
Of ‘Benang’ The Weekend Australian reviewer wrote, “…..’Benang’ soars to the level of superb storytelling with an emotional punch to the guts, not unlike Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved'”.
‘Carpentaria’ is an Aboriginal epic which sings with oral tradition. It is a big book in every sense and should not be read on the bus or while eating dinner. It demands solitude, quiet and brainspace in order to weave its magic.
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