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The Chick-Lit Debate

Is this Chick-lit?

I have recently been reading blogs, discussions and articles on what should and should not be called Chick Lit, whether the term has its uses, and if it is being mis-used by editors, publishers and readers.

Tina Jordan quotes Linda Holmes in Shelf Life:

“If you’re going to try to report on the fact that a couple of women who write books have tried to start a discussions of whether the mega-response to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is symptomatic of a too-narrow view of interesting fiction, it might be a good idea to stay away from the formless and dismissive term ‘chick lit’ in discussing them.”

To me, genres are something publishers use to classify books, and chick-lit, with the covers full of cartoons, of shoes, bags and women, is their idea of marketing humorous books by and on women. End of story.

Here’s an interesting take on the issue by a chick-lit fan who says:

“I don’t exclusively read chick-lit.  I don’t exclusively read YA.  I don’t exclusively read anything.  You clearly see where I stand on the matter.  I am a fan of chick-lit, don’t mind it being labeled as such, and certainly don’t think having “a female name is like an affliction.”

To me, I’ve read a few chick-lits when I needed a light read, and can vouch for the fact that almost all were witty and well-written. But yes, I would be upset if a fantasy, horror or literary work is labeled chick-lit merely because it happens to be a book related to women’s interests and has been written by a woman. Not because chick-lit  is lowly, but because the label is wrong.

What do you think?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damyanti says:

    Thanks for commenting, Galdys. I believe a well-written book is a well-written book, regardless of genre….but then there are so many aspects to this particular discussion.

    Diving into bed, literally? LOL

  • Don’t think I have ever read chick lit, although I was given a book to read that might well be just that. The person who gave it to me (us) thought we would like it. My answer — not a lot. It was about a day-dreaming girl working in an office. She ends up marrying her boss after the usual conflict between them. The only thing I clearly remember is a boyfriend who leapt off a diving board onto the bed when making love, and her rise in erotic feelings when she and her boss were watching horses copulating. Both memorable because the first is plain daft and likely to do a serious injury, and the second is hackneyed. Throughout she hardly seemed to get any work done.
    So yes, I can see the appeal of such books to young people. I guess my sister-in-law (a little older than me) thought it really funny. I saw no real substance in it. Which perhaps says more about me? (Just as well I can laugh at myself)
    Putting books into categories is difficult. Where does my Blazing Embers go? A gran in search of an organism is humorous but there is love and pathos too. Is that granny-lit?

  • colleen says:

    The problem is like Holmes said there is no real definition. Jane Green is frequently considered ‘chick-lit’ author but I would find it very hard to classify her last book as ‘chick-lit’ yet I’ve seen it referred to using that category in multiple places.

    A book could be classified as chick lit simply because of the art that was chosen for the cover. And the term is almost always used in a derogatory way. I loved this interview with Weiner and Picoult. They have some good points:

  • DarcKnyt says:

    I’ve seen this discussion around the Internet lately. It will be interesting to see whether there’s an industry-wide shift in terminology for this particular book style. It’s funny to me that this is such a big deal now. What changed to make it so? Interesting.

    I don’t read it, obviously, but it could have impact on other styles as well. Dare I say genres? Who knows, there maybe a new categorization system to fall into place with this sort of protestation to a label.

    • Damyanti says:

      Darc, I suppose all this fuss might lead to some changes.

      LOL..”obviously” you don’t read “Chick-lit” 🙂