What Chick Lit Is and What It Is Not
Recently, when I mentioned to someone that I am writing a chick lit novel, this person responded with, "Is chick lit even literature?" Instead of taking offense to that, I chose to point out that chick lit should be taken seriously, despite what critics say or how it is perceived in the media. However, I quickly realized that a lot of questions and misconceptions were coming my way about chick lit and what it actually is. "Aren’t those just books about shoes?" "All they talk about are breakups and fashion." "Chick lit, chick flicks, it’s all the same…boring and mindless." In doing research for this blog, I came across several articles that denounce chick lit, saying that it has no merit and that some authors are mistakenly labeled as being part of a non-existent genre that is passe and all fluff, at best. Like anyone who strongly believes in chick lit and greatly admires the work that has been done in this genre (yes, it’s a genre or rather a sub-genre of women’s fiction) so far, I got annoyed. It is one thing to like different types of books. That is completely understandable. We are not all the same and we like to read different kinds of stories. However, it is another thing, a totally inappropriate thing, to belittle and mock novels that have been labeled as chick lit. I wonder if people who criticize chick lit have even read enough of it to form such negative opinions. Perhaps all they see are some of the bright, colorful covers and immediately assume that it is nothing more than books filled with shopping tips and advice on how to get over a breakup. Admittedly, some books may have those elements but they also have so much more. These stories provide humor, support, hot topics, romance, and entertainment to readers. Authors have the ability to connect with readers through these stories and show readers, with the words on each page, that they are not alone. These stories are mainly for women by women. I do not see the harm in putting these books into one genre where readers can find stories that they can relate to. Issues that women face are depicted with humor, humility, joy, sadness, and triumph through chick lit.
Chick is slang for woman. Are critics really that offended by slang? Slang is all around us in our vocabulary everyday. Chick lit is basically the same as saying woman lit. Literature is the production of book-related work and the body of work on a particular subject. Chick lit is literature for, about, and by women. The point here is that people should not get hung up on labels. So what if a book is considered chick lit? Why is that negative? It isn’t. Does a label alter the actual work in any way? No. The writing speaks for itself. People and things are labeled and categorized constantly but labels and categorizations do not change their existence. What do authors really have to lose by being in a category of chick lit authors? Nothing. They are part of a group of intelligent, thoughtful, creative writers. They are part of a group that understands love for dialogue and developing characters. They are part of a group that understands the issues women face. They are part of a group of those who have been given the gift of being able to write about these issues in a way that speaks to readers. The novels in the chick lit genre should represent a united front of strength and courage among women. They should not be torn apart or dismissed by critics who are too focused on the name of the genre.
I also want to address what chick lit is not. Chick lit is not the mindless ramblings of scorned women. It is not stupid, dumb, idiotic, or boring. It is not meant to change the world but it is meant to change people, affect attitudes and moods through entertainment. It is not only about fashion. It is not about superficial, unrealistic characters but rather characters who remind us of our close friends and family.
Bottom line: chick lit is a collection of novels that deal with topics women are interested in by showing character transformations through uplifting stories. That’s my definition and I’m sticking to it. If people do not want to read these books, then that is their choice. My only request is that critics base their opinions on knowledge of the genre and on the author’s ability to tell a story. They should forget about those two little words and evaluate the writing for what it is and how it makes them feel. The genre is constantly changing and evolving as new authors are welcomed into it. Chick lit is a genuine form of entertainment and should be treated as such, just like other forms of media. For a few hundred pages, let it take you on an adventure and try to enjoy the ride.
How do you feel about chick lit and the way it is perceived? What do you think of Nancy's thoughts on this topic? Let us know!