Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.
Silly English Major, Chick Lit is for not for serious readers.
Or at least that what I thought until my third year of university when I took a course called The Woman Writer. We read a large variety of literature written by women including a harlequin book, a blog, a memoir, and bestseller fiction. The large lesson I took away from this course is the value that all writing has and the genre it is put in should not dictate your judgement on that writing.
Chick Lit gets this reputation as silly books for women. It is a label often put on light-toned books centred around romance with a female protagonist. I’m not going to get into an opinion on why chick lit gets that reputation and what it says about society. But I am going to say that I enjoy Jane Austen, Alexandre Dumas, Margaret Atwood, Ann-Marie MacDonald (insert other “serious” authors here both classic and contemporary)…AND I enjoy Chick Lit. Jojo Moyes, Philippa Gregory, and Emily Giffin.
After finishing “Sweetland” by Michael Crummey, I needed something I little more light-hearted to delve into, so I pulled out my Emily Giffin books and quickly read through each book. They were like a glass of deliciously sweet, refreshingly chilled pink wine.
I used to feel guilty about reading books that do not belong in “serious” literature. Then I finished my English major degree and thought, “Who cares? People have been telling me what to read for the past 4 years, I am going to read what I want to.” So I started trying books from different genres and selecting more books by authors I enjoyed instead of those that one the Man Booker prize or were declared the “Dickens of our time”. (On a sidenote, I’ve also stopped trying to develop a more sophisticated wine palate and admitted that I like sweet rose wines, so that’s what I’m going to buy!)
Giffin’s books “Something Borrowed”, “Something Blue”, and “Baby Proof” deal with some pretty serious topics like adultery, divorce, and pregnancy. But the tone that Giffin uses is more like one friend gossiping to another about their mutual friend’s story. There are lots of personal details and fashion updates, and the focus stays on the relationship to self and others. I love that in all three of these books the protagonist is a strong, independent woman who stands true to who she is while also evaluating what she really wants, and by the end, pursuing what she really wants.
It’s not just the personal, casual tone that makes Giffin’s book fall into a category like Chick Lit but also the fantasy that plays out in a real-life setting. All three books describe a scenario of falling in love that is unlikely to happen in reality (most love stories I know are a little bit more down-to-earth: friends meeting each other other, falling in regular love, and then living a normal life together). In Giffin’s books it is: a romantic trip to Lake Como, Italy in a life already filled with spontaneous high-end travel; finding a rich, handsome boyfriend while unemployed and pregnant with twins in a foreign country; settling into a comfortable life of love with your best friend’s fiance with little guilt repercussions. Not really that realistic.
But who cares?! Part of the reason we read books is for entertainment. I do think we should read books that broaden our perspective, but I also think that we should read books just because we enjoy reading that particular book! I enjoyed reading these books by Giffin. I give them all 4/5 bacon strips.
So Mr. Rabbit grab your bowl of Trix and chow down happily with the kids. And Dear Reader, whether you like graphic novels, harlequin, young adult fiction, vampire series, children’s fantasy, Chick Lit, or any other genre, celebrate your consumption! And let’s stop judging others for the books on their shelves, and just be glad that we are all readers.