Living the dream: feminist book publisher memoirs and the business of Anglo-American feminist life writing in the 21st Century

Jolly, Margaretta (2022) Living the dream: feminist book publisher memoirs and the business of Anglo-American feminist life writing in the 21st Century. In: Edinburgh Companion to Women in Publishing, 1900-2000. Edinburgh University Press. (Accepted)

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Memoir has been a money-spinner since the emergence of modern publishing itself, and today’s publishers churn it out on an industrial scale. Yet, as Julie Rak argues in Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market (2013), memoir can also shape the relationship between personal and public life in creative and powerful ways. In this light, I explore the life writings of veteran feminist publishers, notably Virago’s Lennie Goodings and the Feminist Press’s Florence Howe, which have striven to position themselves in the market for literary or life narrative products and at the same time as feminists in relation to social movements often critical of market capitalism itself. I suggest that their insider-outsider stories can help demythologise the working of the trade, revealing what it takes to develop and sell a book, while exploring its potential to enhance cultural inclusion and diversity. A career in publishing remains highly sought after. I posit that feminist publisher memoirs are especially pertinent to this dream. Their narratives of struggle and survival against the odds, especially in today’s era of conglomerates and digital distribution, both challenge and embrace the memoir’s conditions of production, to assert lives as professionals, social entrepreneurs, enablers of others’ stories and seekers of social justice together. In exploring how a publisher’s own memoir is brought to market, we can appreciate still further the complex and paradoxical ways in which running a business may also be an act of cultural citizenship.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Book publishing, Memoirs, Feminist, Virago, The Feminist Press
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Life History and Life Writing Research
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 19 May 2022 08:14
Last Modified: 19 May 2022 08:14

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