The Atlantic

The Female Persuasion Should Be a Literary Breakout. Will It Be?

Meg Wolitzer’s novel is a timely, dynamic examination of women and power that male readers and gatekeepers should take seriously.
Source: Bianca Bagnarelli

Last November, I went to a swanky party to celebrate the release of advance copies of The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer’s 11th novel. Bartenders created bespoke cocktails named after sections of the book; the evening’s highlight was a public conversation between Wolitzer and New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister. The mood was festive verging on jubilant. The Harvey Weinstein scandal had broken a few weeks earlier, and an anonymously sourced spreadsheet alleging misconduct by various men in media had already resulted in the resignation or firing of a handful of prominent figures. All anyone wanted to talk about was smashing the patriarchy—a conversation that flowed freely, owing to the circumstances, the cocktails, and the fact that nearly all the guests were women. In a room of 100 or so people, I counted only a handful of male faces.

This couldn’t have been lost on Wolitzer, who published an essay in The New York Times Book Review in 2012 lamenting that literary fiction by men tends to be received differently from literary fiction by women. When a well-regarded male novelist such as Jonathan Franzen or Jeffrey Eugenides publishes a new novel—even one preoccupied with relationships, like Freedom or The Marriage—publishers and readers automatically take the book seriously, Wolitzer argued. It’s packaged respectfully, reviewed widely, and marketed to people of all genders.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic7 min readSociety
When Abuse Victims Commit Crimes
New laws in New York and elsewhere could keep women out of prison for crimes against their abusers.
The Atlantic5 min read
The Complicated Cliché of ‘Bran the Broken’
Game of Thrones, which always commented on the social effects of disability, ended by selling its final twist as inspirational.
The Atlantic3 min read
The College That Gives Graduates the Wrong Diploma
Smith College’s annual commencement ceremony begins like any other: Graduating seniors at the women’s liberal-arts college are called up one by one to collect their diploma from the president. Perhaps some students exchange a wink with the regalia-cl