Put Meg Wolitzer on Your “Top Shelf”
June 2018

With the publication of her latest book, The Female Persuasion, one of my favorite authors—Meg Wolitzer—is finally getting the attention she deserves.

She has written almost a dozen novels, but as she has pointed out herself in an article entitled “The Second Shelf,” books by women do not get the serious attention that men’s do—and are often demoted to “Women’s Fiction,” that lower shelf in the bookstore where books by women are often relegated.

My favorite of Wolitzer’s (Meg Wolitzer, that is, not to be confused with novelist Hilda Wolitzer, her mother) books is The Position.  This is the funny and moving story of the family complications arise when the children discover their parents have written a best-selling sex manual, full of illustrations of their parents making love.  “Hilariously moving, sharply written”  (USA Today); “novel of sexual politics and family farce. . .  Wolitzer’s comic timing never wavers”  (New Yorker); “Wolitzer is a witty, bold, and upbeat satirist, and this is one scintillating, wily, and wise novel.”  (Booklist)

Another favorite is The Interestings, about the lives and times of a group of friends who meet at art camp.  “Remarkable . . . With this book [Wolitzer] has surpassed herself.” (The New York Times Book Review)“A victory . . . The Interestings secures Wolitzer’s place among the best novelists of her generation. . . . She’s every bit as literary as Franzen or Eugenides. But the very human moments in her work hit you harder than the big ideas. This isn’t women’s fiction. It’s everyone’s.” (Entertainment Weekly)

Her latest book, The Female Persuasion, is third in my gallery of Wolitzer favorites.  In it, a shy college freshman gets sexually assaulted at a frat party then meets a Gloria Steinem-like character who changes her life.  “It’s that sort of fraught, earnest, deeply felt emotion that powers this book, that gives it its beating heart. The politics are more or less incidental, but the ways these characters relate are profoundly moving.” (Vox) “It also takes an unflinching look at the intricate nature of family, the elaborate give-and-take of friendship, and the perils of hero worship.” (The Washington Post)

It has been well documented that books by men are reviewed more and receive more literary awards. If you are interested in the “second shelf” phenomenon for books written by women, see The Second Shelf,The Franzen Feud,” and the VIDA website, which tallies gender disparity in book reviews.