London Review of Books editor: “We are getting better” on gender equality

A staffer responds to criticisms that the publication doesn't have enough female contributors

Topics: london review of books, lrb, Gender Equality, london review of books women, Books

London Review of Books editor: "We are getting better" on gender equality

The London Review of Books has come under fire for its dearth of female reviewers. But Deborah Friedell, an editor at the publication, wrote to Salon to argue that gender parity at the LRB is improving. Her response, in full:

I started reading the London Review of Books in college, in part because one of my favorite professors, Ruth Yeazell, regularly wrote for it. In its pages I first read Hilary Mantel, Anne Enright, Terry Castle, Jenny Diski, Rosemary Hill, Jenny Turner, Bee Wilson, Jacqueline Rose and Marina Warner — all much better known now in America than they were ten years ago. I went to graduate school in England to study with Hermione Lee, who also wrote for the paper, but I left academia when the LRB gave me a job. I’ve since written for the magazine about Pearl Buck, Lorrie Moore, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elizabeth Taylor, Wendy Moore, and Condoleezza Rice, and my review of Lionel Shriver’s new novel is in the current issue. The magazine’s editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers, and deputy editor, Jean McNicol, both women, coaxed, cajoled, flattered and threatened me into finishing my pieces, and then improved them through the kind of painstaking editing that’s now almost completely out of fashion. Even when I write for one of our competitors, I usually end up asking Mary-Kay to go through my drafts: she makes fun of my chutzpah, and marks them up.

On the editorial staff, men are now in the minority. The LRB should have more female contributors, but we are getting better, particularly when it comes to promoting and publishing the next generation of female critics. Mary-Kay pushes me — and my colleagues Joanna Biggs and Alice Spawls (who also paints many of our covers) — to write frequently, and we’re proud to feature work by Elif Batuman, Lidija Haas, Chimamanda  Adichie, Sheila Heti, Emily Witt, Katrina Forrester, Amia Srinivasan, Emily Cooke and Pooja Bhatia. We’re trying; we’ll try harder.

Anna North is Salon's culture editor. Follow her on Twitter at @annanorthtweets.

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