Over five years of on-the-ground research. Almost three years of writing and rewriting. And my book about migrant workers and African refugees in Israel just isn’t selling.
I’ve spent more than two years addressing everything in my control (with the help of an excellent literary agent who has sold some very big books). My experiences as a journalist–and some appalling numbers from the publishing industry–leave me to conclude that editors are passing on my book because I’m a woman.
I’ve also gotten the sense that publishers aren’t interested because the discourse about Israel-Palestine is locked into an overly simplistic discussion of a bilateral “conflict” when—as Israel’s treatment of migrant workers and African refugees shows—the conversation needs to be about the Jewish state’s denial of human rights to ALL non-Jews.
And then there’s the issue of violence. As the old journalism adage goes, “If it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t read.” My experiences with the publishing industry suggest that this holds as true now as ever.
In this post, the first of a three-part series, I’ll talk about what it means to be a woman in journalism and publishing.
I should have known that I was battling gender bias the moment my agent asked me if I could turn my original draft—a journalistic, semi-academic, discussion of non-Jewish, non-Palestinian “others” and their place in Israel—into “Eat Pray Love meets migrant workers.”
Yes, memoir was big at the time. But can you imagine an agent asking a male journalist to turn his investigative work into something less deliberate? Can you imagine a male journalist being urged to write about how “you bumped into this person who introduced me to that person”?
And doesn’t the term “male journalist” sound funny? That’s because we’re not used to hearing it. Male journalists are the norm and we don’t bother describing norms. We only describe the exception to the rule. Articles exclaiming how far “female journalists” have come or the “Unique advantage of ‘female war reporters” actually suggest that we haven’t come that far… otherwise, participating in our profession would be unremarkable, so unremarkable it wouldn’t need to be discussed in an article.
That’s not to say that my agent is to blame. He’s just a salesman—he’s a conduit for and reflection of market forces. And when it comes to publishing, women are relegated to particular corners of the industry.
Writing in The Washington Post...Read More