Women Make Up Almost Half Of The Man Booker Prize 2017 Longlist

And half of them are women of colour

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Each time cultural prize lists come around there is something of a collective breath-holding in marginalised circles.

Pens are poised and fingers hovering over keyboards, ready to name the institution the longlist, shortlist or nomination came from as antiquated at best, and racist and sexist at worst.

Historically, the publishing industry is not the most diverse.

It was a boys club for years, and whilst writers like Jane Austen gained respect in the 19th Century, her peer George Eliot still felt she needed to disguise her sex.

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Jane Austen

This seemingly antiquated behaviour still, unfortunately, has a place now - J.K. Rowling was famously asked to veil her gender with the publishing of Harry Potter in the 90's.

J K Rowling

Though the needle is moving on female writers, the next big issue that needs to be addressed is people of colour.

The business is woefully white, so much so, people like our very own former Literary Editor Sharmaine Lovegrove has taken it upon herself to lead an imprint dedicated to inclusivity called Dialogue Books.

Sharmaine Lovegrove

The imprint's mission is to, 'source, nurture and publish writing talent – and reach audiences – from areas currently under-represented or not covered by the mainstream publishing industry.'

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Thankfully the Man Booker 2017 Longlist proved that efforts like this are taking effect in mainstream awards.

The list, chosen from a pool of 155 titles, sees literally heavyweights such as George Saunders, Jon McGregor and Paul Auster featured.

Though, most notable is the six out of 13-strong female presence.

Arundhati Roy

Previous winner Arundhati Roy (with her debut novel The God Of Small Things twenty years ago) is nominated again for the £50,000 award for The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

Her second novel follows the story of an Indian transgender woman.

Ali Smith

Ali Smith is nominated for the second time for her post-EU referendum novel Autumn.

Similarly, Zadie Smith is up for the prestigious prize again for her multi-focal tale spanning decades of two friends from North West London, called Swing Time.

Zadie Smith

Emily Fredlund's coming-of-age debut History of Wolves, Fiona Mozley's debut Elmet that charts a father and his two children's struggle over land in Yorkshire and the modern retelling of Sophocles' Antigone in Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, make up the rest of the women in line for the prize.

Alongside Roy, Smith and Shamsie, the other writers of colour on the list were Colson Whitehead for The Underground Railroad and Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

One of the judges, Baroness Lola Young, insisted that only when the judges concluded on their longest decision did they realise the diversity of their choice:

The Longlist showcases a diverse spectrum – not only of voices and literary styles but of protagonists too, in their culture, age and gender. Nevertheless we found there was a spirit common to all these novels: though their subject matter might be turbulent, their power and range were life-affirming – a tonic for our times.Together their authors – both recognised and new – explore an array of literary forms and techniques, from those working in a traditional vein to those who aim to move the walls of fiction.

The six shortlist choices will be announced in September, and we hope to see the diversity continue.

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