“What do you write?”
“Contemporary romance and women’s fiction.”
“Oh, I see.”
I never realized there was a stigma with “chick books” until I started writing them. For me, I’ve always been a fan of women’s fiction/chick lit/any other genre for women. From Debbie Macomber to Liane Moriarty to Jojo Moyes, many of my favorite writers pen books in this sometimes loosely defined genre. Looking at my book list, many of my favorites could be labeled as chick books.
Once I published my first two “chick books,” though, I quickly realized people do not always understand or appreciate the genre. There is a misconception that a chick book cannot hold the weight of a “real literary” piece. There are labels such as “mindless” or “light reading” thrown around in the genre, all of which are far from the truth.
Misconceptions About Chick Lit
1. Everyone gets a happily ever after.
2. There are a lot of women being “saved” by men.
3. The only decisions grappled with are what man is hotter, what makeup is better, and which outfit to buy.
4. It’s all about sex.
5. They are glorified soap operas in writing.
Chick books are often treated like the drugstore beauty brand of lipstick standing beside the designer brand. They are looked down upon…but why?
As both an avid reader and writer in the genre, I’ve come to realize the misconceptions sometimes stem from a lack of reading of modern books in the genre. Despite their reputation, chick books cover the same depth of issues as any other genre.
Realities About Chick Lit
1. Many chick books deal with heavy issues like suicide, loyalty, identity, self-realization, infertility, marriage, monogamy, death, and loss. Not everyone gets the rosy, rainbow ending. There is often a lot of drama, even if things do eventually turn out okay.
2. There are also strong women in chick books. Jojo Moyes writes about a lot of strong female characters, as does Janet Evanovich. Louisa Clark from Me Before You does not strike me as a weak woman needing saving. She’s bold, sassy, and perhaps the stronger character in the book.
3. Sure, there may be discussions of hot men and makeup, but there are so many other issues grappled with in chick books. Modern chick books deal with the tension of opposites women face—how do you balance the call of motherhood and domestic life with the desire for a career and other successes? How do you find who you really are when society is always trying to tell you who you should be?
Chick books go beyond the obvious “girly” topics and delve into situations and choices that real women face. My favorite chick book, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, deals with memory loss but also the main character’s identity crisis. What happens when you wake up in the middle of your life and don’t recognize who you’ve become? What happens when you realize your life isn’t what you want?
4. Chick books often focus on the emotional development of characters and relationships. In my own writing, any sex scenes are closed door scenes and few and far between. My focus is on the magic of the development of the relationship—the first look, the first kiss, the first argument.
Real love doesn’t become apparent during a rated R moment. It happens when a character opens her heart again after the tragic death of a husband. It happens when a woman regains her confidence and goes for hot chocolate after an ugly divorce has stripped her of her confidence. It happens when a character realizes a physical disability doesn’t have to prevent him or her from finding connections.
5. Okay, I’ll admit: I’m a fan of soap operas, so this misconception doesn’t bother me. Chick books, though, get this stigma of being cheesy, corny, and unrealistic. This is simply not true. I’ve read gut-wrenching chick books that speak to me at the core. I’ve read chick books about affairs and lying, about confusion and death. I’ve read chick books that speak to inner questions we as women often face. While in soap operas every woman gets a new man every few minutes, chick books are much more true to reality, where sometimes we find ourselves all alone.
Foundations of Chick Book Stigma
The stigma surrounding chick books (and chick flicks, for that matter) perhaps stems from the false, antiquated view that women only care about superficial, lighthearted issues. In a way, it stems from longstanding beliefs that a woman’s intellectual ability and, thus, life issues are inferior to the heaviness of issues in the other gender.
Certainly, we know this is not the case. I would argue that the modern woman is, in fact, facing more difficult identity issues than in the past. There is a constant battle between being the social acceptable child bearer and wife our culture values and the strong willed, “go get it,” achiever our culture also promotes. Somewhere in the crosshairs, many women find themselves confused about what they want out of life and who they should be. These issues are far from superficial, and chick books give these scenarios a platform to express themselves in combination with other conflicts presented in other genres.
Thus, in a society that has come to realize women are, in fact, an equal gender, I think it is important to re-evaluate our views of literary genres geared toward women.
Improving Views of Chick Lit
A part of the solution must stem from both the authors and readers of chick books. We must stop shying away from the genre and stop contributing to the falsities drowning out the value of these books. We must own our reading preferences and start seeing them in a positive light.
My newest book, Then Comes Love, will be classified as chick lit…and I couldn’t be prouder. Sure, there will still be some who squirm at the genre, who dismiss it to the doldrums of “mindless” literature.
But not me.
I’ve read enough life-changing chick books, books that speak to me as a woman, to know the beauty and value of the genre.
To give a woman the chance to find herself in a book, to see her own life issues mixed with a touch of humor and fun, is a truly beautiful thing. Literature is about creating connections. For me, I will continue to make those connections with fellow modern women who are able to juggle identity crises, love, and everything in between.
How about you? What are your favorite chick books?
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