Although I will admit that I haven't been keeping upon my non-academic reading since school started (the much-loved but still mostly unread Rohinton Mistry book on my bedside table is testament to that), I still call myself "a reader."
Books are the best, y'all.
BUT, here's the catch. People of colour and female authors are still often pushed into obscurity, told that their writing is somehow "not universal" (?), are subjected to a hell of a lot of tokenism, or not represented on the"Top Ten" lists, which are hugely influential in kickstarting careers.
The Publisher's Weekly Top Ten of 2009 list, for example, featured absolutely no female authors. (They made some sort of vague pronouncement about this, saying that it "distrubed" them, as if the composition of the Top Ten list was preordained and not a totally subjective set of picks.) While I don't think that authors should be given the Top Ten distinction simply because they are female or a PoC, I do find it odd that the publishing world refuses to cast its net a little further out. Because I am sure that non-white-non-males have written some pretty damn good books too.
The New York Time's Top Ten of 2009, on the other hand, featured a number of female authors, including Kate Walbert's "A Short History of Women," which is all about feminism--just the way I like it. Just as with my badass female musicians post about a month ago, I am 100% sure that, if you enjoy reading, you know at least 2 or 3 excellent female authors. I will kick start the list with some picks of my own, but feel free to add your own in comments:
-Tamora Pierce. I know, I know, she's a fantasy writer whose target audience is the 12-15 range, but C'MON! No mockery. She writes strong, powerful female characters who are compassionate, ambitious, smart, just as capable as any boy, and always save the day!
-J.K. Rowling. Kind of obvious. But you can hardly write a list of female authors without her. I will not, however, be including Stephanie Meyer. Because everyone knows that Harry Potter is better (one of the many reasons why: Hermione is active, intelligent, brave, competent, and not a passive little lump on a log like Bella).
-Amulya Malladi. Writes fiction about India, America, family, and culture shock. Light reading, but very interesting, funny, and engaging.
-Toni Morrison. I haven't read anything by her, but have heard enough about her, from both family and friends, to convince me that she should be on this (not exhaustive) list.
-Jane Austen. I could not, in good conscience, exclude her from the list. I know that her Regency-era wordiness does not endear her to everyone, but dear god, I love her.
-Stephanie Bolster. Her book of poems, Two Bowls of Milk, is, in my opinion, utterly beautiful. She's also a Canadian who lives and teaches in Montreal.
-Margaret Atwood. I mean, really now. Can't forget Margaret, especially if you're Canadian. (Funny story: Yamina and I once thought that we saw her in the crowd at Ottawa's Tulip Festival and spent ten minutes mustering up the courage to go talk to her, and when we finally did, discovered that the woman we thought was Atwood was actually a tourist from California. I swear, she looked just like her!)
-Maya Angelou. Obvi.
Fill up this list with some great female authors of your own, because I know there are TONS of amazing authors that I've forgotten/don't know about. I would love to add a couple new authors to my holiday wish list this year!