Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is Chick Lit?

It’s a curse and a blessing.

Wikipedia defines it as “a term used to denote genre fiction written for and marketed to young women, especially single, working women in their twenties and thirties”

However, in recent years the term “Chick Lit” has evolved and now applies to almost any contemporary novel written for an adult audience set in the here and now with a female narrator. Usually the author is female and under 50.

I explained this to my father and he replied “Oh, it’s books by chicks for chicks.”


As a curse:

It’s dismissive. Just because it’s market at women it implies that all content is only worthy as romantic fluff for women.

“Chick Lit” mostly has to do with marketing more than content. It is marketed mainly at women between the ages of 18 and 50. Which is a pretty big fricking chunk of the population when you think about it. But stuffing the word “chick” in there makes men think they would have no interest in any of it. The problem is that there is some amazing writing out there that is being marketed under the title “chick lit” that isn’t about finding the perfect man to match your designer shoes ... but the term “chick lit” encompasses both and thus limits and alienates.

Why is it also a blessing?

Because it’s how many young women are breaking into the publishing world. There’s also a set model now for marketing these things as “beach reads.” Walk into any chain book store and look at that “3 for 2” table. Locate a $13 paperback with some kind of fresh but funky cover art, an appropriately sassy title and a blurb meant to make the main character seem just like you. That’s chick lit marketing. And it pulls both ends of the spectrum into this more widely read category of “chick lit.”

So both literary fiction and romance fiction is getting pulled under the term. I believe there is a time and place for all types of writing. And if the new marketing style can get women to read a wider range of work that’s fabulous. But at the same time it’s limiting because it tells men not to bother.

Why is a story that concerns a woman dealing with real issues and problems suddenly not important to men as a story? How many stories have we read about men dealing with family issues but when it’s the woman dealing with the issues of grown siblings and perhaps her own marriage and children it’s “chick lit”?

I now find that any time I read a book with a female narrator and I want to recommend it as a very good novel, that I have to make the case for it that it is not “chick lit” otherwise people think I’m just recommending fluff.

Highly Recommended