Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Women Write Serious Nonfiction

The cover of the latest Creative Nonfiction issue reads, "Who says Women Don't Write Serious Nonfiction?" And this issue proves that women do. Lee Gutkind writes in his editor's note that they didn't intend to publish and all-women essay section: "CNF consistently receives more submissions from women than from men. As we read for this issue, we were drawn to a number of essays about, in some way, 'the senses'—hearing, sight. Or maybe it's more accurate to say they're about 'perception.' It just so happened that all of them were by women." And in correspondence with the cover, Gutkind says, "I think there are a lot of women writing serious nonfiction; they're just not getting the serious attention they deserve."

The first feature of the issue is a conversation between Cheryl Strayed and Elissa Bassist, titled "How to Write Like a Mother#^@%*&." Bassist is the young writer who requested advice from "Sugar" on The Rumpus's popular column and who received the now-famous response, "Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker." This feature is a conversation via email correspondence, two years later. It is both entertaining and insightful. At one point, Strayed addresses the gender bias in writing:

"I think gender bias exists in forms that are more discreet and ingrained. I've had an incredible experience with Wild. It's been received warmly by critics and readers alike. But a running theme has been how many men have said something along the lines of, 'Wow, I was so surprised I loved your book, because I'm a man.' These men mean no harm—I don't take those comments personally—and yet the fact that they were surprised that they loved a book by and about a woman is an indication of the sexism women writers are up against every time they write. It tells me that women writers are still perceived as less capable than men writers of telling the big universal human story."

The all-women essay section is comprised of Sara Dailey's "The Memory Train," Marissa Landrigan's "Elk Country," Mary Quade's "The Collection," Danielle R. SPencer's "Looking Back," Elizabeth Mosier's "The Pit and the Page," Brenda Miller's "Regeneration," and Pria Anand's "Far, Far Away."