Chick lit

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For similar-sounding terms, see Chiclet (disambiguation).

Chick lit or Chick literature is genre fiction, which “consists of heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists.”[1] The genre often addresses issues of modern womanhood – from romantic relationships to female friendships to matters in the workplace – in humorous and lighthearted ways.[2] At its onset, chick lit’s protagonists tended to be “single, white, heterosexual, British and American women in their late twenties and early thirties, living in metropolitan areas.”[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.[3] Chick lit critics generally agree that British author Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) is the “ur-text” of chick lit.[4]


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".[5] 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[6] is 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 women; 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.


Publishers continue to push the subgenre 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".[7]


Feminist Gloria Steinem and author DJ Connell have described the "chick lit" label as "offensive."[8][9] The genre was defended by Jennifer Weiner in an op-ed in The New York Times titled "The Snobs and Me." [10] Responding to an observation by anthropologist David Graeber that there have been few novels written on bureaucracy and work life, Lydia Kiesling argued in The New Yorker that "If the author is a woman, workplace fiction is also domestic fiction, easily disguised as 'chick lit,' 'girlfriend literature,' or even 'erotica.'” [11]


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.[3] Protagonists vary widely in ethnicity, age, social status, marital status, career, and religion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Smith, Caroline J. (2008). Cosmopolitan Culture and Consumerism in Chick Lit. Routledge. 
  2. ^ "In the Classroom or In the Bedroom" Review of Chick Lit: The New Woman's Fiction.
  3. ^ a b Rebecca Vnuk (July 15, 2005). "Collection Development 'Chick Lit': Hip Lit for Hip Chicks". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  4. ^ Whelehan, Imelda (2002). Bridget Jones's Diary: A Reader's Guide. Bloomsbury Academic. 
  5. ^ 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 9780878665792
  6. ^ Melissa Bank's Salon Interview
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Gloria Steinem (July 11, 2007). ""A Modest Proposal"". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  9. ^ DJ Connell (August 4, 2010). ""The chick-lit debate: who in Playboy Mansion Hell calls women chicks?"". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  10. ^ Jennifer Weiner (June 11, 2016). ""The Snobs and Me"". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  11. ^ Lydia Kiesling (July 27, 2016). ""The Office Politics of Workplace Fiction by Women"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2016-08-14. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]