In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chick lit: Mona's definition

Dear Annie,

Back from travels!  Back to blog!

I've only read Homecoming and Dicey's Song -- got started on them in Lizzie's mother-daughter book group.  I like them a lot.  You've been talking about such great books.

I wouldn't call the Tillerman saga or A Wrinkle in Time chick lit, though.  Mona (pictured in hammock to right) developed a definition of gender and books some years ago when she was a big reader of what we call domestic fiction (think Beverly Cleary).  There are two kinds of books with girls as the main characters, she said.  In one kind, the girl's experiences, actions and thoughts have a universal quality: easy to identify with for both girls and boys.  I'd put A Wrinkle in Time and Homecoming in this category.  The Ramona books too.  The other category of book is one which focuses more on inner life and feelings of the main girl, often (but not always) including feelings somewhere on the romantic scale about boys.  I've found this a helpful definition when talking with parents about what books their sons will or won't read.

Now I'm going to fast-forward to this past weekend when I was talking with Mona at college about chick lit.  When she hit middle school, chick lit (including Joan Bauer and Sarah Dessen -- who I'll get to in one of these posts) became part of her reading.  Neither of my girls went over the deep end into Twilight land. So Mona offers to us this definition of the chick lit she likes:
  • good female characters
  • female characters are critical of other characters, they're not just mooning over boys
  • attractive male characters get together with deserving female characters in the end
  • the attractive male characters don't suck blood
  • male and female characters have meaningful conversations about life and love
  • then the characters get awkward because they realize they're in love -- but they get together in the end
  • good characters, especially good minor characters, are an important part of good chick lit.
  • and often the action takes place during the summer
 This is a working definition -- I invite anyone to work on it.

My jet-lagged self is going to stop here, but will happily pick up the thread in a few days.



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