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The Chick Lit Chick: Meet Chick Lit's Frenemy

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“Bored of chick lit? Why not check out bitch lit, a new genre featuring female anti-heroes who are mad, bad and dangerous to know.” The Guardian

Lately publishers and reviewers have been throwing out the term Bitch Lit. I recently finished reading Erica Kennedy’s Feminista, which has earned this label. Mary Sharratt, who co edited the short story collection Bitch Lit, describes the genre as “a smart and subversive celebration of female anti-heroes — women who take the law into their own hands, who defy society’s expectations, who put their own needs first.”

Feminista‘s heroine, Sydney Zamora, definitely fits that description. Sydney’s brazenly unapologetic for getting what she wants, making her the poster child for this new type of lit. Sydney isn’t out and about with the hopes of landing Mr. Right; She wants Mr. Right, right now — and she’s willing to get him by any means necessary. But it’s not just her take-charge attitude that distinguishes her from the archetypal leads in most Chick Lit novels.

“One of my goals was to write something unabashedly Chick Lit, but give it more edge to show that could be done,” Kennedy told us, via her blog The Feminista Files. “I think the reason we get so annoyed when Chick Lit/flicks are just fluff is because we all basically go through the same girl shit. So I think we want these books to tell our story which is why we’re so annoyed with them when they don’t.”

And while Kennedy purposefully “hit all the chick lit cliches,” she did them in a different way. Though she has a pretty cushy magazine job, Sydney isn’t one to just throw money around recklessly. She grapples with spending $300 on a new pair of shoes, when most characters in her position would have bought them in a heartbeat.

Check out this excerpt from the book:

She was furious at him, at herself, at the world, really, but Quo was no place to make a scene. It was the überhip restaurant of the moment, the kind of New York it spot that had an unlisted phone number and a menu people called “creative.” All the senior editors at Cachet had been raving that the Thai fusion fare was a-maaaaaaaaaazing, hype Sydney was disinclined to believe. It was never about the food at these places. It was about being seen.

And that was exactly what she didn’t want now. Beating a hasty retreat through the dimly lit, ridiculously pretentious subterranean dining room, Sydney flipped up the collar of her trench and donned her plaid newsboy cap, tugging the brim down low. With her healthy five-foot-nine-inch frame, bronzed skin, and chocolate waves of hair falling just past her shoulders, she stood out like a penny in the snow at these trendy hangouts where most of the women were white, blond, and thinner than Darfur refugees. Her honey-brown eyes flicked about the room, on the lookout for Omnimedia employees. The last thing she needed was for this to get back to the office. Those catty bitches (male and female) gossiped about her enough.

Sub-genre Soup

Chick Lit has seen the emergence of sub-genres like Chica Lit (Latina characters, namely in books written by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez), Hen Lit (which is aimed at 40-plus readers), and Mommy Lit (for, well, moms) in its decade-long existence and I wonder how Bitch Lit will fare. Unlike similar books, Feminista at least acknowledges the presence of non-man problems, which some say makes the book more realistic. But, do new generations of women look for characters to relate to? Or is it just nice to kick back and read about someone insanely rich, beautiful, and successful?

While Bitch Lit may be relatively new to Stateside readers, it’s not exactly news to British readers. Bitch Lit was published in 2006 in the UK. A reviewer on Amazon.com described the book as, “a collection of bright, darkly funny women.”

And while the verdict is still out on whether Chick Lit in general actually empowers young women (one blogger recently called the genre’s books a “repetitive story line that was neither empowering or encouraging”), any author who can switch up the usual formula and add a little sass and flair gets a vote from me.

Ashleigh Menzies

Ashleigh is a bonafide chick lit addict (with the pink collection to show for it), and will be bringing you the best of the genre every other week.


Written by whitney teal

October 6, 2009 at 5:56 pm

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