At any given time I’m usually in the middle of reading three books. One that could be considered “serious literature,” one nonfiction and one light-weight escapist read. More often than not the escapist read is a chick lit title. But here’s the thing that bugs me, frequently I’ll read a review that classifies a certain book as being chick lit only to find out that it’s not chick lit at all. It’s a book written by a woman about a woman set in contemporary times and for some strange reason, the critics of the world have decided that all such books should be labeled chick lit. So what if the book isn’t really funny or even trying to be. So what if the issues that are being addressed have nothing to do with fashion and dating and everything to do with child abandonment and drug addiction. If the protagonist is a young woman who occasionally worries about her weight, it’s chick lit, period, end of story.
Of course no one would read Kenneth Miller’s excellent nonfiction book, Finding Darwin’s God and say, “hey, he just cracked a joke! This book belongs in the humor section!” No bookseller has ever said, “Check it out, somebody in this latest Grisham novel gets laid, let’s call it a romantic suspense!” No, those kind of mistakes never happen. But then again, those authors are men. Yes, I know, I just played the sexist card, but if the stiletto fits…
The reason I take issue with all this is because, as an author, I like to see books be judged for what they are, not what they were never supposed to be. If you’re going to call my books romance novels then they pretty much suck. Romance novels have nice happy romantic endings. Sophie gets “jiggy with it” in the second book, but she doesn’t get to go out on a date. She doesn’t fall in love and nobody falls in love with her (with the possible exception of the reader). But if you call the Sophie novels what they really are (chick lit murder mysteries) then it’s fair to say they achieve their goals. They’re funny, suspenseful and a little gossipy (at least I hope they are). My books deserve to be classified as being part of a chick lit subgenre.
And Martha O’Connor’s book The Bitch Posse deserves to be classified as women’s literature. It’s intense, it’s compelling and it’s at times chilling. It is not chick lit; in fact in the introduction, Martha writes “You are now entering the “chick free zone.” I know there are chick lit authors out there who would take offense at that but I’m not one of them. I simply see this as Martha’s attempt to force the critics to acknowledge an obvious fact that they don’t want to recognize: not every book written by a young new female author is chick lit.
That’s why, upon reading an online review of her book that said, "Drugs, crime, mental illness…in chick lit? Got that right." I literally yelled at my computer screen, “No, you got that WRONG! Didn’t you read the introduction? Does the woman have to put a neon sign on every book telling readers what her book is and isn’t?”
Maybe she does. Or you could just take my word for it. It’s not chick lit. It is not what I would consider a beach read. It is good and it is definitely worth your time. If you like you can stop by Martha’s blog and get a sense of her voice or you could just stop by your local bookseller and check out the book. It’ll probably be shelved with the chick lit stuff.
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