Writing wrongs: Bookseller focuses on forgotten female authors • Brooklyn Paper

Writing wrongs: Bookseller focuses on forgotten female authors

Turning the page: Author and rare book collector Allison Devers will give a talk on gender inequality in the literary canon at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair in Greenpoint on Sept. 9.
Jo Emmerson

She’s seeking equal pay for equal words.

A Kings Countian-turned-Londoner will return to the borough to shine a light on forgotten female scribes, at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair in Greenpoint on Sept. 9. Author and rare book collector Allison Devers hopes that her talk “Feminize Your Bookshelves!” will bring more attention to women writers, and help to level the playing field for women in the literary world.

“Women have to fight for our space in the world and on bookshelves,” said Devers, who lived in Carroll Gardens before decamping for the United Kingdom. “Even though women buy and read more books than men, we’re still not getting equal treatment in literature, and the literary canon seems to suggest that it’s because our work is not as good, and I just don’t believe that at all.”

At her talk, Devers plans to discuss the works of a few late local women writers, including two who lived in a Brooklyn Heights artist commune called the February House: novelist, playwright, and poet Carson McCullers, and burlesque performer and playwright Gypsy Rose Lee. She will also discuss well-known wordsmiths — including novelist Gertrude Stein — whose works are undervalued at the cash register due to their gender, she said.

“Her books are not very expensive [to collect], yet she’s the mother of modernism,” Devers said of Stein. “I just think that if she were a man and the ‘father of modernism,’ her books would be astronomically expensive.”

The book fair will also highlight the work of another woman writer: Mary Shelley, in honor of the 200th anniversary of her novel “Frankenstein.” Two curators from the Morgan Library in Manhattan will preview their upcoming exhibit on the mad scientist tome, in a talk titled “It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200” on Sept. 8 a t 5 pm.

But even Mary Shelley, arguably the founder of the science-fiction genre, was dismissed by naysayers who believed that her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, actually wrote the classic horror story, said Devers.

“It’s a classic way that women are devalued in the literary canon, to say, ‘You couldn’t possibly have written this,’ ” she said. “[Shelley is] sort of great evidence of the inequality of women writers.”

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair at the Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble St. at Franklin Street in Greenpoint, www.brooklynbookfair.com). Sept. 8–9; Sat, noon–7 pm; Sun, 11 am–4 pm. $10–$15 ($5–$10 in advance).

“It’s Alive” Frankenstein talk on Sept. 8 at 5 pm. “Feminize Your Bookshelves” with Allison Devers on Sept. 9 at 2:30 pm.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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