This bookstore found the perfect way to show how sexism affects publishing.

If you walk into the fiction section this month at Loganberry Books in Cleveland, Ohio, you'll see a whole lot of white staring back at you.

Like this:

Photo courtesy of Harriett Logan.


And that's no accident.

Store owner Harriett Logan — with the help of her employees and a few volunteers — deliberately flipped around all the fiction books written by men, hiding their colorful spines from view.

"I wanted to do something provocative and interesting for Women's History Month that also displayed the disparity of women working in a certain field," Logan explains. And that field, naturally, was book publishing.

Logan estimates that of the approximate 10,000 fiction works at her used bookstore, nearly two-thirds were written by men.

Photo courtesy of Harriett Logan.

The gender gap in book publishing isn't limited to the fiction section at Loganberry, of course. It's reflective of a much bigger pattern.

Female authors still face hurdles getting their work published — hurdles that their male peers often don't encounter.

Although it might seem like there are just as many women as men writing books and working in publishing overall, power structures and implicit bias still influence which books get published and reviewed and, as a result, reach commercial success.

A 2011 study by VIDA, a women's literary group, found many more men were writing book reviews for major publications, such as The New York Times, and (maybe unsurprisingly) the significant majority of the books reviewed in these same publications were written by men too. In other words, book publishing, the study found, tends to be a boys' club where women's work is more easily overlooked.

One anecdote that puts this reality into perspective is author Catherine Nichols' shocking 2015 experiment submitting her novel to be published: After sending identical queries to dozens of agents under both her own name and a fictional male-sounding name, Nichols found her fake male counterpart was 8.5 times more likely than her to get manuscript requests from agents. Or, as Nichols put it, he was "eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book."

Stories like Nichols' illustrate why many female authors choose to publish their work under male or ambiguous-sounding pseudonyms (J.K. Rowling's publisher, for example, was afraid a woman's name on the cover would hurt book sales).

This inequality gets to the heart of why Logan is honoring Women's History Month the way she is: by challenging booklovers to think more critically about the titles they choose to read.

Photo courtesy of Harriett Logan.

It's damaging to all of us when books only reflect a certain perspective, Logan explains. But when we read books by people who've lived different experiences than our own, it challenges us to grow.

"Reading — and especially reading fiction — is a wonderful tool for building empathy, for building an understanding and awareness of places and times and people who are different than you," she explains, noting it's not just important to read more works by women, but from other marginalized groups as well. "That’s an important educational tool, no matter what your age is."

She made sure to point out her store's book flip certainly doesn't mean it's opposed to celebrating male authors — "We still buy and sell, read and love, novels written by men," Logan says — but Loganberry is simply taking the opportunity to do its part in righting an industry-wide wrong decades in the making.

The response to the book flip has been very positive thus far, Logan says — although she has seen a few bewildered faces upon entering the fiction section.

If you're wondering how to help solve the gender gap in publishing, you can start with your next trip to the bookstore.

Logan encourages all of us to "look at your own shelves at home" — both the titles you've already finished, and what's coming up next in your to-be-read pile — and make sure to read more works by women and other groups whose stories have been overlooked too often for too long.

"You learn empathy by listening to other voices," she says of why reading diverse books makes a difference. "You learn to have constructive criticism about the world and your place within it when you realize you’re not the only person in that world."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less