Whether you enjoy reading it or not, “chick lit” deserves respect. Just like scifi, mystery, romance, literary, fantasy, YA, or whatever. No, not every “chick lit” title is a thought-provoking look at the complex juggling act of modern-day womanhood — but not every title is about a thin twenty-something meeting Mr. Right on a shopping spree, either. As with any genre, there is a variety, a spectrum from serious to light content, from good to bad writing. And let it be said that those two spectrums are NOT related.

On Facebook, I saw an announcement about International Chick Lit Month, and some of the comments really frustrated me. After I took a deep breath and counted to three, this was my response:

The “chick lit” I know celebrates women who make choices about their lives — whether it’s who to love, what career to pursue, what dress to buy, or how to embrace their weaknesses along with their strengths. I don’t live in a world where those kinds of decisions are silly or shameful. I feel sorry for anyone who does.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about that.

Except this one last thing: I once heard the phrase “smart chick lit,” and I thought, “What a great term!” Because I knew what it was trying to say, what it meant. But now I’m having second thoughts. Because the opposite of that is “stupid chick lit,” and I don’t like what that implies.

22 responses to “In defense of "chick lit"”

  1. Sarah Wedgbrow Avatar

    Go Kristan! Talli Roland http://talliroland.blogspot.com/ often defends the genre in which she writes, and I really respect her for it. But, isn’t it shameful that it must be defended. Some people don’t like sci-fi…well, don’t read it then. (but they’re missing out)

  2. Jeffrey Tang Avatar

    I admit, I tend to be a little judgmental about chick lit, but you’re absolutely right. Genre is by no means an indication of a book’s quality.

    As someone who is quick to defend all forms of sci-fi/fantasy fiction, I should probably extend the same courtesy to other genres, even if they aren’t my particular cup of tea.

  3. Les Avatar

    Yeah pretty much… if you don’t like it don’t read it. No one should have any say in what genre someone else finds entertaining.

  4. Julia Avatar

    Sometimes, I feel so out of the loop. When did this genre get added and what does it encompass? Is it just any novel with a female protagonist? Is there a “guy lit” genre?

  5. T. S. Bazelli Avatar

    Sometimes I think these genre tags are more harmful than good. In the end they’re just stories, but the tags will turn some people off before even trying something. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘chick lit’

  6. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    T. S., I agree that genre tags are not that meaningful, but it’s hard to ignore them because that’s how books are selected and marketed these days. It has nothing to do with the quality of the story, it’s just a category to shove it into.

    And yes, “chick lit” is a way to dismiss stories, or movies, that women happen to find interesting, and I agree that “smart chick lit” carries the implication that regular “chick lit” is dumb.

  7. Sonja Avatar

    I read a wide variety of genres because a good story is a good story, no matter the genre. Perhaps because I read in so many genres, I’m also well aware that there are bad stories/poor storytelling in each and every one, and from what I’ve read, chick lit doesn’t seem to have any more crappy stories than any other genre.

  8. Joelle Avatar

    I once saw it written as chic-lit. I’m not sure if it was a typo or if the author of the book review did it on purpose but, I liked it. Chick, always reminded of the word chicken. Anyway, I agree with Sarah and Les – if you don’t like it then don’t read it. It’s like watching television, if you don’t like what’s on then change the channel.

  9. Kristan Avatar

    Shameful indeed.

    I’m glad if I’ve helped you look at chick lit in a new way. :)

    Les and Joelle-
    Exactly! What’s the point in being a hater? Says a lot more about you than the thing you hate on.

    T.S. and Anthony-
    Yeah, labels are kind of a necessary evil. I get that. So the question becomes, what are WE making these labels into, and why? I’m just trying to be more aware of it.

    “a good story is a good story, no matter the genre. ”

    Exactly! And I couldn’t agree more: every genre has their share of good and bad. (And even good and bad are subjective!! Which makes the hating even more preposterous!)

  10. Shari Avatar

    Could NOT agree more!!

  11. Natalia Sylvester Avatar

    I get so angry when I see people discriminating against genres. I think in most art forms, comedy doesn’t get the respect it deserves, and since chick-lit is usually witty and fun (and usually revolves around less serious “feminine” topics) it gets even less respect. I’ve never thought this was fair.

    Some of the most well-developed characters I’ve read have been from chick-lit. Some of the most intriguing, page-turning plots, also chick-lit. I write literary/women’s fiction, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into all forms of writing. I wish more people would just keep an open mind and not judge writers and readers for their genre of choice.

  12. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    Natalia, I agree completely. My father was a humorist, so I was raised with the idea that comedy was just as important as drama (and harder to do :-) ). As my father used to say, the two hardest literary forms are poetry and humor, because those are the only two where one wrong word can ruin an entire piece. Plus which, comedies often have at least as much to say as dramas. I was just talking about I Heart Huckabees on another blog, and that movie is really deep (and funny as hell).

    Kristan, I never worry about genres and labels myself, but that’s one of the advantages of being an amateur. If someone really insists on knowing what I do, I say it’s gritty urban magical realism. Except now you’d have to tack on “mystery stories” to the end of it.

  13. Mari Passananti Avatar

    As the most famous character to grace the genre would say, Hurrah!!!

  14. RenaissanceTrophyWife Avatar

    Good for you. Life IS all about those decisions– and regardless of content, the quality of the story is really the determining factor. Seriously some people have nothing better to do than to try and disparage others. What a waste of energy.

  15. asrai Avatar

    I’m glad “chicklit” (maybe the use of the word chick is why people attack it) is getting some good press. Not my preference for reading most of the time, but it shouldn’t be attacked by anymeans nor should it’s readers have to defend themselves for reading “drivel.” Any reading is good reading.

  16. Kristan Avatar

    Natalia and Anthony-
    Could not agree more! I find it is (fairly) easy to make readers cry, but much, much harder to make them laugh. True wit is just as intelligent as good drama. And fewer people have it.


    Exactly: To each their own, but that doesn’t mean we have to disparage what isn’t ours.

  17. Tamara Paulin Avatar

    I love good chick-lit and good chick flicks. When I was a teen in the 80s, most of the YA novels I had access to were written not by teens but by women of my mother’s generation, and were a bit old-fashioned. I love how much choice is available today.

  18. Bronnie Avatar

    I think “chick lit” has become such a broad term for fiction aimed at female readers.

    I agree with you, it’s all too pigeon-holed!

  19. Jon Avatar

    Chick lit is ok. I haven’t really delved into the genre. It’s guy lit like Tucker Max I’m trying to stay away from!

  20. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    I’ve been thinking about this more now that I’m critiquing a YA novel for a friend. I don’t read YA, and some of the plot developments seem rather trite to me, but that’s the genre (and the book is very well written, so it’s easy to read).

    But it occurred to me that other people’s genre conventions can always be off-putting. If there was suddenly a murder, in an impossible situation, with limited suspects, I’d be right at home, but a lot of other people would think, “What a bunch of cliches!” But those are my genre conventions, and I have some idea how many different things you can do within them.

    “Chick lit” is, I’m sure, the same way.

  21. Kristan Avatar

    That’s a very thoughtful observation.

  22. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    I wrote a bit more about this over on my blog.