A ‘Larry Summers Moment’

Amy Hoffman, editor-in-chief of the Women’s Review of Books, recently reported that she attended a lecture at the Radcliffe Institute by Barry Gewen, an editor at the New York Times Book Review. In what even he described as a “Larry Summers moment” he explained that the reason so few women reviewers appear in the NYTBR is that they just can’t write for a general audience about such topics as military history. He explained that NYTBR editors find reviewers by talking to colleagues and reading publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The New Republic, insisting that he and his colleagues are not overtly prejudiced people but admitted they might have subconscious prejudices.
In the Harvard Crimson‘s account, Gewen acknowledged his staff wasn’t “doing the outreach they shouldâ€? in order to recruit more women and minorities.

“Looking for reviewers of a certain ethnicity simply because of an ethnicity makes me a little squeamish,� Gewen, a 17-year veteran of the Book Review, said.

During the Q&A session, Hoffman suggested that it wasn’t necessary for the editors to psychoanalyze themselves to find the source of the problem — all they had to do was look at their process for finding reviewers, which guarantees that they’ll find the same old guys to say the same old thing.
(Cross-posted at TAPPED.)

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