An unprecedented thirteen of the twenty finalists for the 2010 National Book Awards are women, according to author Pat Conroy’s Wednesday, October 13 announcement for the National Book Foundation.

For Fiction, these finalists are Jaimy Gordon for Lord of Misrule, Nicole Krauss for Great House, Lionel Shriver for So Much for That, and Karen Tel Yamashita for I Hotel. Jonathan Franzen’s latest critically acclaimed and bestselling novel Freedom was not the fifth finalist in this category; that honor is instead Peter Carey’s, for Parrot and Olivier in America.

While Fiction is the only category in which there is only one male finalist, female finalists comprise the majority in every other category as well. For Nonfiction, they are Barbara Demick for Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Patti Smith for Just Kids, and Megan K. Stack for Every Man in This Village is a Liar: An Education in War. Kathleen Graber for The Eternal City, C.D. Wright for One with Others, and Monica Youn for Ignatz are the female finalists in Poetry. Kathryn Erskine for Mockingbird, Laura McNeal for Dark Water, and Rita Williams-Garcia for One Crazy Summer round out the list of female finalists in Young People’s Literature.

Recognition of women writers on so large a scale is exciting and long overdue. In the category of Fiction, for example, only thirteen of the fifty-nine winners since the award’s inception have been women.

Given that the majority of finalists in every category are women, odds are that some of these women are soon to join the ranks of William Faulkner in Fiction, Gore Vidal in Nonfiction, W.H. Auden in Poetry, and Louis Sachar in Young People’s Literature.

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