Philip Cook's opinion piece about the Oregon Book Awards and Oregon Literary Fellowships programs (Lace curtain falls on male authors, March 15) contains erroneous information about Literary Arts (not Oregon Literary Arts).
Literary Arts has supported the writing careers of numerous Oregonians during its 15-year tenure, including Chuck Palahniuk (author of 'Fight Club'), Barry Lopez and Primus St. John. As Cook pointed out, we've distributed nearly $350,000.
Since the inception of the two programs, 55 percent of the finalists for a book award and recipients of a fellowship have been women. Last year, 64 percent of the Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients were women Ñ as were 59 percent of the total applicants. In 2000, 53 percent of the fellowship recipients were women, from 60 percent of the total applicants.
Cook pointed out that four of the OBA's five judges were women in 2001. If he had investigated further, he would have discovered that in 2000, four of the five were men.
Let's not discount other kinds of diversity: Recent judges have included Rohan Preston (African-American), Rolando Hinojosa-Smith (Hispanic-American) and Chitra Divakaruni (Indian-American). At last year's award celebration, Peter Ho Davies (Asian-American and the 1998 winner of the OBA in fiction) was the master of ceremonies.
As a nonprofit group, Literary Arts is always seeking funds with which to support writers. There is a fellowship for women because Harriet Denison approached us with the funding to endow it. So far, no one has asked to endow a similar fellowship for men.
We agree with Philip Cook: A good book is a good book; its author's gender should not matter.
Kristy Athens coordinates the Oregon Book Awards and Oregon Literary Fellowships. Applications are available online (www.literary-arts.org), or call 503-203-2271.