Friday, March 26, 2021

Guest Post: Stephanie Gayle, Vice-President Sisters in Crime

I was asked to write a piece about Sisters in Crime (SinC) because, in part, March is Women’s History Month and SinC was founded to address the disparity in opportunities and book reviews women crime authors received in comparison to their male peers. I could’ve written a piece about how much our organization has done, and changed, and grown, and what great initiatives we have planned. We’re doing good work, work I’m very proud of, but I can’t write about it now. Because I’m too angry. My hands keep clenching into fists.

Last week’s murders of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent, is still on my mind. The brutal shooting of Breonna Taylor is something I think of, often. These are real crimes committed in the real world against real women. Weaponized misogyny. And the responses to them by the police and the media beggar reason at times. The extension of sympathy to the killers, the “othering” of the victims, the rush to provide excuses for these terrible actions: it is too much to bear. And it keeps happening.

Reading fiction transports you to the interior of another person’s mind, feelings, and world. The reader ‘feels’ what the character feels. This creation of empathy is fascinating, and one of fiction’s most magical powers.

I often see calls to read fiction by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) creators in the wake of events such as the Atlanta murders. There is usually an associated uptick in calls for queries from BIPOC creators. I don’t how that strikes BIPOC writers. It seems like the world’s worst consolation prize, to me. Here, for your suffering, a chance at scaling the very white walls of publishing, for a limited time only.

Women’s History Month, like Black History Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Native American Heritage Month, is a time to celebrate the rich cultural history of a group of people who have been disregarded, excluded, and forgotten. I understand why some folks do not embrace the idea of relegating such a celebration to one month (especially one that happens to be the shortest of the year). I think, this year, my real trouble is that history involves looking backward. Lately, the rearview mirror is affording me few treasures.

So, I am setting my gaze ahead. And I am trying to figure out how best to uplift those demeaned, degraded, and devalued in our lives and in our fiction. And it is hard when those people are my friends. Because I know they are suffering, reliving past traumas with each fresh racist and sexist incident. If I feel paralyzed to write a jaunty blog post, what must they be feeling? They are expected to endure and to create in a hostile world that routinely silences them.

When we reckon what we have lost it is simple, but not easy, to count lives, to calculate families harmed. What is more complicated is to calculate the works that might have been, the rich stories that might have existed, if the world had been a place where all people could create and be heard and valued at the same rate.

I hope Sisters in Crime can help more writers tell their stories, can welcome people of all identities into our community, to share their visions of what justice means. But I’ll be honest. Hope is hard to nurture when your hands are clenched into fists.

Bio: Stephanie Gayle is the Vice President of the national board of Sisters in Crime. She wrote the Thomas Lynch mystery series, which starts with Idyll Threats. She co-created the Boston reading series Craft on Draft. A graduate of Smith College, Stephanie works at MIT doing finance stuff for "people too smart to do basic math."

If you'd like to find out more about Sisters in Crime: click here to connect to Sisters in Crime website


Susan C Shea said...

Thank you, Stephanie. There is progress within the crime fiction writing community, but as Rachel Howzell Hall said recently in a zoom interview, there's a whole lot more room for inclusion.

Stephanie said...

So much room

Catriona McPherson said...

The world's worst consolation prize is a great way to put it, Stephanie