Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bad Lit, Good Chick? Or Bad Chick, Good Lit?

I read an interesting review of my novel the other day, picked up by my Google notifier that tells me anytime anyone mentions my book (so be careful!!). It was a fine review, but one part of it struck me. The author wrote about how, since she was happy with her husband during her child's first year of life, she couldn't identify with the protagonist in my book. Because of this, she didn't love the book.

Now what fascinates me is the criteria for judging books among the chick-class. We decide whether or not we like a novel based on whether or not we can directly identify with the main character. As someone who reads voraciously, who spent four years getting a higher education in English, I can assure you that I have loved many novel with a nasty protagonist I could not imagine myself into.

With all serious literature (and much of men's fiction), there is no need to read only what you can directly relate to as if it were one's own life. Why the limitation among women?

I've had countless women who have NO children tell me how much they liked my book. Is it possible that while many people read novels about life in Iraq or Italy, people who live in Ohio or Utah, that while many women read novels with male main characters, and many men read novels with female main characters (in fact one of my friend's husbands stayed up until one in the morning because he couldn't put my book down, yes, my book about a new mother), that CHICKS who read lit are so limited by their own experience they can't judge a book if they aren't the main character themselves?

Because where does that leave Shakespeare and Milton and Grisham, for that matter? Oh, I think chicks may be able to do better, stretch themselves out. After all, I'm a chick and I just finished a book about a Buddhist man. It was very funny. If you're feeling like a Buddhist man, you may even enjoy it: Breakfast with Buddha.


  1. I think this is an experience specific to mommy-chick-lit. We are all so isolated, and confused, and turned upside down in that first year of mommy-hood that we desparately seek affirmation (from books, blogs, whatever) that we are not the only ones going through this wackiness/hell-on-earth-sleep-deprivation/hormonal swings, etc. Sounds to me like her review wasn't about judging the book, but on finding that it didn't quite meet that need for her. She wanted one about going crazy as a new mom with no sleep AND a nice husband. :)

  2. Now how did you get to be so compassionate? See the upside of my book is that whoever reads it gets to say, "well, I never had it THAT bad," and, as we all know, that feels GOOD!