Chick lit

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Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.[1] The genre became popular in the late 1990s, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit.[2] Although it sometimes includes romantic elements, chick lit is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because the heroine's relationship with her family or friends is often just as important as her romantic relationships.[3]

Composition[edit]

Chick lit typically features a female protagonist whose womanhood is heavily thematized in the plot. Though most often set in a contemporary world, such as in Waiting to Exhale, there is also historical chick lit. The issues dealt with are often more serious than consumerism. Marian Keyes's Watermelon, for instance, features a protagonist who wrestles with how to be a mother in a modern world. There is a growing market for religious chick lit. As with other types of genre fiction, authors and publishers target many niche markets.[2] Protagonists vary widely in ethnicity, age, social status, marital status, career, and religion.

History[edit]

Origins of the term[edit]

"Chick" is American slang for a young woman, and "lit" is a shortened form of literature.

The term appeared in print as early as 1988 as college slang for a course titled "female literary tradition".[4] In 1995, Cris Mazza and Jeffrey DeShell used the term as an ironic title for their edited anthology Chick Lit: Postfeminist Fiction. The genre was defined as a type of post-feminist or second-wave feminism that went beyond female-as-victim to include fiction that covered the breadth of female experiences, including love, courtship and gender. The collection emphasized experimental work, including violent, perverse and sexual themes. James Wolcott's 1996 article in The New Yorker, "Hear Me Purr", co-opted the term "chick lit" to proscribe what he called the trend of "girlishness" evident in the writing of female newspaper columnists at that time. Works such as Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City are examples of such work that helped establish contemporary connotations of the term. The success of Bridget Jones and Sex and the City in book form established chick lit as an important trend in publishing. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank[5] are regarded as one of the first chick lit works to originate as a novel (actually a collection of stories), though the term "chick lit" was in common use at the time of its publication (1999). Serena Mackesy's The Temp appeared in the same year. Chick lit is also not exclusively written by females; recently there have been some male-authored novels, such as Zack Love's Sex in the Title, that center on the traditional themes of chick lit: dating, relationships, and love.

Currently[edit]

Publishers continue to push the sub-genre because sales continue to be high. Various other terms have been coined as variant in attempts to attach themselves to the perceived marketability of the work. Publishers Weekly editor Sara Nelson suggested in 2008 that the definition of what's considered to be within the genre of chick lit has become more accomplished and "grown up".[6]

Criticism[edit]

Common criticism that arises from this genre is the emphasis of western liberal views.[7] The plot typically centers on a white woman’s narrative of the issues that surround her.[8] Critics argue that these stories often reflect a fixation on consumerism of designer brands and sexuality rather than addressing global issues such as equality.[9] Although there are subsections of this genre that include protagonist of various ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds, these generally fall second to the dominant ‘white’ chick lit.[9] However, there are also issues in the women of color genres. The woman of color genre often incorporates instances of stereotypical behavior. The protagonist in this genre may have traditional beliefs about marriage or family from their culture, which may not be the case in modern society of the same ethnic group. Kavita Daswani’s For Matrimonial Purposes, for instance, features a protagonist from Bombay whose failure to marry before her mid-twenties causes her to question her life.[10] This gives the impression that marriage is required in early age in the South Asian community; otherwise, one is considered a failure. By incorporating this view, it further constructs a stereotype that is now passed onto and accepted by the reader. Although it encompasses this problem, the women of color genre addresses issues not evident in the dominant chick lit. This includes views that address the intersectionality of gender and race.[11] For example, in dominant chick lit the western protagonist doesn’t think twice of her independence and rights in the western world, however the idea that immigrant women of color also have this independence ignores the legal and political realities these women have to deal with.[12] The women of color genre of chick lit is becoming increasingly important as it presents questions regarding the issues these women must deal with that relate to race, the state and political economy, even if it is in a fictional sense.[13]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "In the Classroom or In the Bedroom" Review of Chick Lit: The New Woman's Fiction.
  2. ^ a b Rebecca Vnuk (July 15, 2005). "Collection Development 'Chick Lit': Hip Lit for Hip Chicks". Libraryjournal.com. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  3. ^ "What's in a Name?". Publishers Weekly. July 2, 2001. Retrieved 2007-04-30.  Archived August 11, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Don M. Betterton, Alma mater: unusual stories and little-known facts from America's college campuses, Peterson's Guides, Princeton, N.J. (1988); p. 113 ISBN 0-87866-579-X : 9780878665792
  5. ^ Melissa Bank's Salon Interview
  6. ^ Olivia Barker (May 29, 2008). "'Prada' nips at author Lauren Weisberger's heels". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-10-05. "Nelson says. "The definition of chick lit has expanded to include some things that are a little more accomplished and grown-up and literary than what that term used to mean." 
  7. ^ Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 4. 
  8. ^ Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 2. 
  9. ^ a b Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 6. 
  10. ^ Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 9. 
  11. ^ Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 7. 
  12. ^ Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 17. 
  13. ^ Pamela Butler & Jigna Desai (2008). "Manolos, marriage, and mantras chick-lit criticism and transnational feminism". Meridians: feminism, race, and transnationalism 8 (2): 27. 

Further reading[edit]

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