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You Tell Me: Writing The Opposite Gender

March 30, 2010

In light of yesterday’s post, TELL ME,

What books have you read where the author successfully wrote about the opposite gender?

Some examples I had were:

  • Garth Nix (Abhorsen Trilogy)
  • Neil Gaiman (Coraline)
  • J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)
  • William Tyrone (Sophie’s Choice)
  • Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, when told from Lola and Bell’s perspective)
8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2010 7:33 pm

    Good question! How about writing AS the opposite gender? Most of the novels I’ve ghosted have had masculine names on the cover. No reader seemed to spot I wasn’t a bloke… It makes no difference what chromosomes you have, writing convincingly is about so much more than gender.

    • March 31, 2010 8:59 am

      I never even thought of that! It reminds me of JT Leroy, who people thought was a guy for years until *she* revealed herself! I still have a copy of a collection of her published short stories where they used masculine programs in the “About the author” section. And why did they assume she was a guy? Because she wrote about guys, and heaven forbid a girl is able to accurately depict a guy’s mind!

      Why do you think most novels are ghosted with a masculine name on the cover? Significance? What does it say that women comprise the largest reading market, but men comprise the largest share of books sold? Interesting phenomena? Hmmmm….

  2. March 31, 2010 10:04 am

    Nick Hornby’s HOW TO BE GOOD. It’s flawless.

  3. April 6, 2010 9:50 am

    I wonder why literature classes still continue to refer to authors like George Eliot by their pseudonyms. It’s time to toss what was a authorial necessity for women in the 19th C, me thinks. Give Mary Ann Evans her due, fer cryin’ out loud.

    And thanks for stopping by my blog. Glad you enjoyed Jemima’s post over at the INTERN. Maybe I’ll invite her over to my blog some time, presuming she lives much longer. You can’t take much for granted when you’re 103.


    • April 6, 2010 10:51 am

      Hmmm, so I guess we should start calling J.T. Leroy, Laura Albert? Buit c’mon, don’t you love seeing kiddies’ jaws drop when they find out Leroy or Eliot are gals? Gets me every time…

      My lord, 103? Good for her. Well, once you get past the century threshold, I’m sure a little blogging here or there is no biggie 🙂

  4. attackoft3hrolo permalink
    April 13, 2010 12:13 am

    Sophie was absolutely the worst thing about Sophie’s Choice. Absolutely a male conception of women. Totally controlled and defined by her emotions and her children and her S.O.s. I didn’t read Styron’s book about slavery, but I heard it garnered pretty similar criticisms–a white conception of the struggles of a slave.

    As for good ones–
    The Scorpion King, Farmer
    Kill Your Boyfriend, Morrison
    Monstrous Regiment, Pratchett (he uses female narrators a lot, actually, and 70% of the time it’s good. this is one of the best)
    All I can think of off the top of my head.

    • April 13, 2010 12:15 am

      I never actually read Sophie’s Choice, haha, but good to know. Can you think of any good books by girls about guys? I’ve been racking my brain and I only come up with J.K. Rowling and J.T. Leroy. You think there’s something less than coincidence that they both use initials? Curiouser and curiouser….

      • attackoft3hrolo permalink
        April 13, 2010 12:23 am

        Well, the Scorpion King is about a male protagonist and written by a lady.
        A large chunk of Mrs Dalloway is written from the perspective of a male protagonist, but it’s far from the whole thing.
        OH shit! Of course! The Left Hand of Darkness, written by Ursula K. LeGuin! Protagonist is a guy, and the whole thing is a really interesting exploration of gender from a sci-fi angle.

        There’s almost definitely more, I’m just not coming up with it.

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