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What's new in Chick Lit

What’s new in Chick Lit (and is that even a thing?)

(The following column was published in the Frankenmuth News on Nov. 11, 2020, by Roz Weedman.)

How do you browse when you come inside the library? Lots of people, me included, head straight to those stands of books directly across from the circulation desk. Those have the ten-day books so they are hot and recent.

One thing I noticed about the current ten-day books is there’s a little core of pretty good books that might be classified as “chick lit.”And yes, that’s a thing. Of course, since chick lit has women protagonists, normally some kind of romantic entanglements, and has everything to do with sorting out relationships, on the screen we call these romcoms. Stories are characterized by happy endings, a light tone, and women protagonists. Think Bridget Jones Diary and Sex and the City back when, and more current, Crazy Rich Asians.

But just in case your thoughts are headed in a more historical direction, no, Jane Eyre isn’t chick lit (at least from Rochester’s point of view who winds up a bit worse for the wear, not to mention his wife’s point of view who perishes in the fire she set after years of confinement in Rochester’s attic.) But Jane does get her man. Still – this is no light-hearted book.

Going back further still, though, what about Pride and Prejudice? Well . . . I can see a dissertation making the case that Austen’s work is the original chick lit. And I can see the arguments that would ensue, too, associating as meticulous and fine a writer as Austen with a term that’s easily dismissible. (You’d need a friendly committee, but . . . it’s doable.)

Let’s not forget the legitimate argument that women have come a long way from tolerating being labeled as barn yard animals, even tiny adorable fuzzy ones (the easier to be stepped on). Chick lit is not without its controversies. But readers are the ultimate judges of value and almost all those readers are women.

Here are four well reviewed chick lit novels, if you will, that are currently on the ten-day shelves that you might enjoy.

Abbi Waxman’s I Was Told It Would Get Easier: Waxman gave us The Bookish Life of Nina Hillwhich I loved, so I’m all in for this, her newest. This is a mother – daughter road trip story about east coast college campus tours as daughter Emily tries to decide her collegiate future. Of course, the complexities of mother daughter relationships are front and center, and Waxman is funny in all the right places.

Laura Zigman’s Separation Anxiety: Those of us with dogs know this term, but in this story, it might not be the dog that’s anxious. Judy, while cleaning her son’s room, finds an old sling and starts carrying her dog around in it. All the time. She is in a difficult marriage and every time she takes steps to improve her life, disaster ensues. Critics have referred to this book as “fierce and funny.”

The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John: This is a period piece set in the 1950’s that some critics call a comedy of manners and a comic gem. The black refers to black dresses that employees of the department store Goodman’s wear. Our four women in black are one unhappy wife who wants a child; another whose dreams of college and poetry are discouraged by her father; another who simply wants to settle down with a nice man, but it isn’t happening; and one more who wants to own her own boutique. This is one that is hard to make sound great just by explaining the plot, but I believe is much better in execution and worth a look.

Gina Lamanna’s Three Single Wives: This could be a little out of the chick lit frame, but I doubt it since it involves a women’s book club, murder, and domestic secrets.

If none of these sets a fire in your readerly soul, come on in and take a peek for yourself at the ten-day shelves and see what’s there for you.

See you at the Library!

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