An imprint of their own

Viking creates a new book imprint aimed at women.

Published August 29, 2006 3:58PM (EDT)

The New York Times reports today that next spring, publishing house Hyperion will launch Voice, an imprint aimed specifically at women in their mid-30s and older. Voice was founded by Hyperion publisher Ellen Archer and Pamela Dorman from Viking.

Archer told the Times that despite the ongoing "mommy wars" being played out in the press, as a 44-year-old married working mother, she "did not see [her] life reflected in any of the media stories." So she set out to "create a demographic of women in their mid-30's to later that could better illustrate the landscape of a woman's life." I'm a little unclear -- and queasy -- about the notion of "creating a demographic," especially when it is widely believed that women make up the vast majority of the publishing market (see Lakshmi Chaudhry's recent piece on "the fiction gap"), but I guess she means identifying grown women as a group whose concerns are worth writing for and about.

I'm also a little suspicious of some of the reasons Dorman gives for creating the imprint, including that "people are overwhelmed by choice" at the bookstore, and that she wants Voice to be like "a book group giving an imprimatur" to help them narrow their options. Give me a break. I like to think that readers are perfectly capable of making their own choices about what to read, and that if they want guidance, there is plenty of criticism out there, along with actual book clubs. That said, I'm all for an imprint taking seriously the interests and concerns of adult women.

The Times gives quite a bit of ink to an issue that will interest those who debate the merits of blogs like Broadsheet, with several publishing insiders questioning whether creating a women's imprint is a progressive or a regressive move. Simon & Schuster's David Rosenthal tells the paper that he's "wary of ghettoization," while Jane Friedman at HarperCollins, which has imprints for African-Americans, Christians and Latinos, wondered about whether women readers would define themselves by gender or as part of cultural, ethnic, geographic and religious groups.

But the most exciting thing about the piece, as far as I'm concerned, is the announcement of one of its first books, by Vanity Fair contributor Leslie Bennetts, called "The Feminine Mistake." According to the Times, Bennetts' book will assert that "women who 'opt out' of careers to raise children forfeit the financial, intellectual, emotional and even medical benefits of working outside the home." In other words, Linda Hirshman was no flash in the pan, and Caitlin Flanagan, eat your heart out.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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