Women authors’ Web site fills void of information

by Megan Boldt

Three and half years ago, two University professors and a graduate student developed a Web site to inform Web users about the lives and works of women authors of color.
Now, this site is getting attention from all over the nation and different parts of the world.
English department professor Toni McNaron and American studies professor Carol Miller created the Web site, Voices From the Gap. Laurie Dickinson, a former English graduate student, designed the site.
“There was not enough information on women authors of color,” McNaron said. “There basically is a gap in literature we wanted to start to fill.”
Miller was inspired by Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison, who spoke at the University several years ago.
“She spoke about how minority women authors are invisible when it comes to literature. Information about them is extremely difficult to find,” Miller said.
This site is a collaborative effort of the University’s Department of English and the Program in American Studies. Many types of people contribute to the authors’ pages, which contain biographical and critical information about female writers of color.
“We see it as both a resource and a pedagogical tool,” McNaron said. “It’s a fresh source. Sites are not only made by scholars, but students and independents also. Anyone who knows and cares about another author is more than welcome to submit a page to us.”
During the past six months, Voices From the Gap has recorded more than 98,000 visits. About 1,200 people have written via e-mail.
“Most of the remarks we receive are those of gratitude,” McNaron said. “Also, many have shared their experiences of racism and sexism.
“Other responses give us more names to include on our site,” McNaron added. “Many people just like to open up and talk about their favorite books. We do respond to every response we receive.”
Most of the e-mails sent to the site are complementary.
“Wow, wow and wow again. This looks to be a truly informative and inspirational site,” one Web user wrote.
“Your coverage of women writers of color is wonderful, and something that, even as we approach the 21st century, is still very much needed,” wrote another user.
Voices From the Gap also has attracted a broad and diverse audience including students and teachers from colleges, and elementary and high schools, Miller said. “People across the country and even the world access this site.”
Maintaining a full staff to edit the Web site has been difficult because of a lack of funding. However, the site creators have received tremendous help from many students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
“Right now, we rely mostly on word of mouth for outreach,” McNaron said. “If we had financial support, we could focus more on outreach.”
“We have done a lot, with a little,” Miller said.