is it called the ‘man’ booker prize for a reason?

The judges for the Man Booker Prize were announced some time ago. However, given that this is the beginning of the literary prize season (commencing I believe, with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s prizes last Monday), I thought it would be interesting to have a look at what is arguably the most prestigious literary award in the world.

This year’s chair for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction is Amanda Foreman. A novelist and columnist, her book ‘The World Made by Women’ will be published in 2017. Ok. Pretty feminist then. Cool!

The other judges are Jon Day, Abdulrazak Gurnah, David Harsent, and Olivia Williams. Pretty good, gender-wise. Gurnah is the only judge of colour, but the fact that he was included at all is a good sign.

No one can chair more than once, although Amanda Foreman has been a judge before. From what I can gather, none of the other judges have ever been been part of this committee.

Not bad at all! However, I took a deeper look into how exactly these judges are selected. They are recommended by the Booker Prize Foundation Advisory Committee – how this committee is selected, I’m not sure.

It was extremely interesting to take a look at the less famous committee – out of the fourteen members, three are female. And two of them work for the Booker Prize Foundation anyway. Oh. Oh, dear. Other than that, the committee was very pale and middle-aged.

It makes me wonder – this Advisory Committee is chosen to represent all aspects of the literary world – publishing, the BBC, the National Literary Trust, literary agents, The Sunday Times’, Waterstone’s…. it would not be a great leap to say that this is indicative of a larger problem in the literary world. However, everyone knows that. Everyone is becoming more aware of the need for diversity, and that’s great! However, looking at the Advisory Committee, I’d say that there has been only a token effort, rather than the total re-haul that the literary world needs.

I’m not saying that the Advisory Committee hasn’t done a good job in their selection of judges, because they have. I’m saying, diversity shouldn’t only be seen in the public side of literature. It’s getting to the point where, when looking around a secondary committee like this, you shouldn’t have to be blinded by the male and the white.

The ‘Man Booker Dozen’ shortlist will be announced in July 2016.


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