Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is it only chick lit if a woman writes it?

One of my favorite authors is Alexander McCall Smith. I love how he takes the mundane and examines it to give it meaning in the 44 Scotland Street series, and I love the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency, a light humorous series with a lot of heart. 

I'm writing another book, and its very much in the spirit of Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency. A light, humorous, [hopefully] series, with a lot of heart. When discussing it with my agent, I tried to tell her the genre when chick-lit stumbled out of my mouth.

Why? Because its a story about women. It's light and its funny and it delves into relationships.

But- Alexander McCall Smith's book is about a female detective agency. It's about women. It's light. It's funny. It delves into relationships. But its not listed as chick lit is it?

I love the so-called genre of chick-lit. Emily Giffin. Sophie Kinsella. Great stuff. But for some reason when I think about it, it feels like a derogatory term. Maybe because if a guy called me chick, I wouldn't like it. Chick isn't how you address a judge, a doctor, your mother, anyone you respect. But its being used for me- when I pick up that chick-lit book. So it makes me feel like the people who are trying to label it are telling me I'm silly for picking it up. I'm just a chick.

For now, with my new manuscript,  I am embracing the term multicultural women's literature. I am not opposed to the wonderful, hilarious, insightful stuff that good chick lit books contain- but the label does give me pause for thought.

What about you? What are your thoughts on the chick-lit genre? Does it pigeon hole women into a narrow category? Is it a derogatory term, or perfectly acceptable for novels labeled such?


  1. Good luck with your new manuscript:)

  2. Best of luck with your writing career. By reading several blog posts, I'd say it looks promising.

  3. I tend to agree with you on the chick- lit thingie. The term does have negative connotations attached to it. Its like one is not as smart if they read the 'shoppaholic' series instead of the 'eternal golden braid' when both these books cater to our intellect very differenly and to me having both perspectives is kinda cool!
    If I was to write, I want to be free and I want to be read with freedom (no preconceived ideas) so perhaps I would opt for multicultural women's literature.
    Besides, relationships are as much a part of a man's life as they are of a woman's and that reminds me of my all time favorite, 'of human bondage.'
    Alll the best :)

  4. You're lucky you can be "multi-culti" instead of getting lumped in with "chick lit" I hate the term. It's used for anything that's funny and interests women. As if we are lesser beings.

    I actually wanted to comment on your Barbara Kingsolver post. Her first book, The Bean Trees, was actually sold as kind of "chick litty"-- A wacky single girl raises a "borrowed" baby. If she hadn't written that first, and chick lit hadn't been popular then, maybe she never would have made it.

    Could you put something on the blog to let people know how to comment? I could comment here, because there's a place that says "4 comments" but on the above post, there are no comments--and there's nothing to click.

    An insider secret, I guess. I clicked all over the post and all over the page--nothing. I've seen this on other blogs. I figure the poster doesn't want comments. But if you ask a question, it's nice if people can answer it.


  5. Thanks Diane! You are so kind :)

    A. I never heard of these books, will definitely check them out! Thanks for sharing your take on this.

    Anne, I read and very much enjoyed Bean Trees, you're right that was very much more action paced and I guess paved the road for her to write a novel like Poisonwood Bible. Thanks for letting me know the comments were messed up- I had tried installing a comment system that clearly didn't work- back to the tried and true I suppose :)

  6. Love Emily Giffin's books and Sophie Kinsella's. But I love them for different reasons. They both write great fiction, but their approaches are different. And that's probably why I'm not the biggest fan of the "chick-lit" label: I think it's applied indiscriminately to many books. There's nothing wrong with light fiction geared toward women and written by women (and in fact it can be quite fun to read!) but to assume that every non-literary novel by a woman is chick-lit just seems shortsighted to me--at best.

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  8. It's an interesting perspective, and I agree with those who've said that the term "chick lit" ends up sounding derogatory. It's funny, too, that the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books end up in mystery most of the time, even though the mysteries feel secondary to the relationships (and I wonder if this is because the author isn't female?). Good luck with the multicultural definition. Why is it that literature that is fun and light can't be good literature? Does it have to be dour, or not fun to read, in order to be "good" in the larger sense?