I vaguely remember the debate around Kamila Shamsie's Challenge a couple of years back that 2018 should be a year that the book industry only published female writers. I don't know if it was ever a truly serious suggestion, it was certainly a provocative one, with reasonable condemnation from most quarters. One publisher has taken up the challenge though, And Other Stories are small enough for it to make sense, and to benefit from the publicity.
I'm not sure if I'd heard of them before I saw the BBC article (I thought I had, but non of the titles look familiar, so maybe not) but I'm intrigued by what I've read so far - and actually more impressed by the move out of London than the all female list for 2018. I'll be combing through their backlist with interest, as well as being excited to see what they've found for this year.
I was less impressed (downright annoyed) by this article in The Guardian and the news that Penguin and Waterstones are teaming up to run a pop up shop in Shoreditch for a couple of days in March which will sell only books by women.
Why just Shoreditch? London isn't short of bookshops with the floor space to accommodate all sorts of displays or pop ups to focus on women, the rest of the country isn't so well provided for. My city certainly isn't, we have a very small Waterstones, a Christian bookshop, a branch of The Works, and WH Smith to sell us books. My local university bookshop closed down through lack of use. We do have any number of empty units throughout the town centre which would benefit from some imaginative pop ups.
Leicester (the city, rather than the county which has an entirely different demographic) does not do well in quality of life surveys (as This Guardian article also demonstrates). We're not a cultural desert by any stretch of the imagination - this is a fantastically multi-cultural city with an impressive history, and some great things going on, but there's plenty of space for more. We really need to see more of what we can be outside of London.
Specifically promoting the brilliant range of women's voices in print deserves a much better effort than a publicity stunt in Shoreditch, and definitely needs a much wider, more diverse audience then this will reach.