Often, chick lit gets a poor reputation for being “un-feminist” and “trashy.” But, these derogatory terms are usually unfairly attributed to a genre that’s far broader than some give it credit for. Some chick lit was written during the contemporary period and has been made into popular films and television shows, while other kinds are more commonly cited with classic literature and are studied in universities around the world. Readers can explore both types of chick lit below.
The term was coined in 1992 by Los Angeles Times critic Carolyn See who wrote a review of Waiting to Exhale.
Explore Chick Lit
Chick Lit Definition
Chick lit is a term that has been in use since the mid-1990s and early 2000s, with its popularity declining before 2010.
The term carries with it a great deal of baggage. It suggests that this type of literature could only appeal to women and is, for that reason, lesser than other types. Most publishers and writers have since rejected the term, especially as it started being used more and more derogatorily.
Characteristics of Chick Lit
- Traditionally aimed at young female readers.
- Elements of popular fiction.
- Relatable protagonist.
- Focuses on the trials a woman faces in the world.
- Romantic relationships and friendships are central.
- Female protagonist in her 20s or 30s.
Chick Lit Books
Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
Waiting to Exhale is a 1992 novel. It was McMillan’s third novel and the first to bring her national attention. The book was on The New York Times bestseller list for several months. Within the course of three years, the book had sold more than three million copies. Here is a short quote from the novel:
I think life is one long introductory course in tolerance, but in order for a woman to get her Ph.D., she’s gotta pass Men 101.
This novel is credited with shifting the popular culture to focus on the lives of Black women in literature in a more serious way. The novel was adapted into a film in 1995, staring several big-name actors like Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett.
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones’s Diary was published in 1996 and later made into a well-loved film in 2001. The novel takes the form of a diary, written by the thirty-year-old Bridget, chronicling her life working in London. Throughout, readers hear about her romantic relationships, career, vices, and friends. The book has sold more than two million copies worldwide. It was followed up by a sequel, Edge of Reason, in 1999. Here is a quote from the novel:
It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.
Other Examples of Chick Lit
- Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
- Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
- Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Some classic novels are today considered early examples of chick lit. They include:
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Why Do Authors Write Chick Lit?
Authors write chick lit for the same reasons that they write any other genre—because they have a story to tell, and there is an audience who wants to listen. These stories are about normal women who live normal lives. They appeal to wide audiences who are looking to see themselves represented in the literary world. Readers are intrigued by the drama, ups, and downs of these women’s lives and find the genre a pleasing escape from everyday life.
A book can be described as “chick lit” (or one of the above terms) if it features a female protagonist dealing with everyday problems. Traditionally these women are in their 20s or 30s and have career, family, and relationship issues.
Chick lit is essential because it is a genre that focuses on the everyday lives of women, stories that are incredibly relatable to readers. These stories feature protagonists struggling with the same things that the readers may be, including friendships, relationships, career problems, and more.
Today, the term “chick lit” has fallen out of favor. Some writers and publishers use terms like “funny women’s fiction,” simply “women’s fiction,” or “light women’s fiction.”
Some of the 21st-century genres include: speculative fiction, game writing, auto fiction, chick lit or light women’s fiction, specialist poetry, and experimental fiction.
Related Literary Terms
- Bildungsroman: a literary genre that focuses on coming of age stories, following a character’s progression towards adulthood.
- Biography: an account or description of a person’s life, literary, fictional, historical, or popular in nature, written by a biographer.
- Chronicle: an account of events that occurs in the order that they happened in. The term is usually associated with historical events.
- Comedy: a humorous and entertaining genre of literature, film, and television.
- Genre: a type of art, literary work, or musical composition that is defined by its content, style, or a specific form to which it conforms.
- Romance: a narrative genre of literature. It can feature elements that include mystery, adventure, bravery, and more.
- New Woman Movement and Writing: a feminist ideal that was profoundly influential on 19th and 20th-century literature, as well as broader feminist beliefs.
- External Conflict: a type of conflict, problem, or struggle that takes place in a novel, narrative poem, play, or other literary work.