I recently attended an SCBWI workshop in Los Angeles about girl books and boy books. Cecil Castelluci (YA novelist) and Michael Reisman (middle grade sci fi) led the discussions, and everyone in the room had plenty to say about the subject. We talked about girl books, boy books, and “unisex” books. [Unresolved question of the day – without Hermione Granger, would Harry Potter be a boys’ series?]
Throughout the day, not a word was spoken about nonfiction, but that didn’t stop me thinking about it. Looking at the Sibert award books and the YALSA nonfiction award books this year, (see http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pr.cfm?id=6048) it’s harder to assign gender categories, and it seems to me that nonfiction appears more “unisex” than fiction.
Robert F. Sibert Medal
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot, by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop; Part of Scientists in the Field series.
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (art/music/dance history)
Lafayette and the American Revolution, by Russell Freedman
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing, by Ann Angel
They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement, by Rick Bowers
The Dark Game: True Spy Stories, by Paul Janeczko
Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates, by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw
One for dance/music/art history
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, co-authored by our own Jan Greenberg.
Apart from the occasional Billy Elliot, ballet is usually meant for girls, but the composer and set designer were men, and so this book has hooks for girls and boys.
Two for science.
• Kakapo Rescue combines biography, zoology, and conservation. All kids love animals and saving them is a challenge that attracts both genders. Unisex all the way.
• Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates Forensic science, history, mystery, archaeology – the appeal is broad enough for both genders.
• Lafayette and the American Revolution Lafayette - a male subject and war stories: boys like those; but all biographies are about relationships and girls like those.
• Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing – about a girl, but full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll – what’s not to attract any YA?
• They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group
• Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement
• The Dark Game: True Spy Stories
All three of these books are multi-faceted: part mystery, part thriller, part civil rights history. The first two books feature men; the third includes women spies as well. The sensationalism of the subject must surely cross the gender line.
I began this posting meaning to discuss the issue of gender in writing nonfiction. But I see that it has morphed into the multi-disciplinary approach that award-winning nonfiction authors are pursuing. Don’t you love it?!