Did you get the memo? Apparently, one was released announcing, “Chick Lit is dead.” Yet, like the viral hoax email circulating the Web since 1997 insisting if you “pass this on to at least ten people, AOL and Bill Gates will award you $100 each," this net rumor keeps making the rounds since 2002.
My opinion? It’s not dead. Chick Lit is in dire need of a makeover.
Chick Lit novels and their authors gained notoriety in 1996 when Helen Fielding stormed our American media with “Bridget Jones” and her tales of lovable human error and humorous girl-next-door antics, all performed while vying for the attention of not one, but two men who were courting her. Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City” books, Sophie Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” series, and many others followed suit and the genre began a boom much bigger than anyone ever predicted.
The Independent defines this genre as novels that "explore the conflict between the independence enjoyed by young, professional 'singletons' and the emotional security offered by a partner." To me, that defines the days of yore or pre-recession thinking of many women. Men, too.
Now about that recession. . . the big piano that dropped on our collective heads. Thousands upon thousands of people were laid-off, forced from work and homes, losing their cars and their pride as they were jolted from a way of life.
With the changing face of our economy, women like me were forced to look at our lives and make changes. We were packing boxes at our 9-5 jobs, not sure how to pay bills, and sending out resumes that received no acknowledgments. This blip in the American history was the beginning of the end for some, but for others, it was a wake-up call. It was the beginning.
With the metamorphosis, a new breed of woman emerged. We go to flea markets and clip coupons. We make dinner at home and shrug off the idea of a dinner out. No longer do we want to read about women who buy Manolo’s or sport their Prada handbags all while complaining about the lack of men in their lives over a cosmopolitan with friends. The old version of this genre gave us women who defined themselves as they were seeking love and success, determined to have it all with hilarious consequences. It came at a time when a generation of women were filing into the workplace, putting on their power suits, lifting their chins high and busting their asses in their professions.
Then, they got laid-off.
These same women who devoured these books and bought Prada and Louis Vuitton, who were lunching at the best spots in their hometown, suddenly stopped. They sold their Prada or Louis V. on eBay or discovered the consignment shop. Power lunches became power-packed lunches as they hunted for jobs and began restructuring their lives and the lives of their families. It was the beginning of the redefining of a generation and the literary genre feeding that generation.
Why did we redefine ourselves? Because it was an evolution due to the shift in our value orientation of what is important to us. Chick Lit was declared dead due to audience absence--no longer interested. It needs a face-lift as a redefined genre appealing to the redefined women who have reworked themselves to succeed personally and professionally.
We want to read about a relatable woman who has been through some sort of hell, maybe laid-off and single or maybe she’s juggling a family, but can still laugh at herself and her circumstances while trying to figure out her love life and find balance. Why? Because that sounds like us.
We need a new heroine, a new imaginary-yet-kinda-normal-but-still-like-us world where we can disappear in between its pages, a new genre that defines our now. Women today make Herculean efforts to still “have it all,” only our values and wants are so much different than they were ten years ago. It’s time we reflect this.
So check out the memo: Chick Lit ain’t dead, it's just under construction.