Growing up, realistic fiction, as they dubbed it in school, was always my forst choice. Sure, there were times when my loyalties flitted to historical fiction (the covers were always the best) and there was that odd relationship with fantasy, but over the years I’ve always found my way back to stories that tell stories that might almost be true. Though, when you grow up, they call those types of books, when written by women, “chick lit”.
I’ve never liked that term. Chick sounds like something you find on the farm and lit, well, it sounds like a watered down form of “literary”.
In school, teachers (well some teachers) made it seem like reading anything was good. You’re reading, congratulations! I miss that. Why can’t we celebrate anyone who chooses to open a book? Just because someone isn’t reading the next so-called War and Peace doesn’t mean what they are reading isn’t amazing and helping them.
Everyone reading romance novels, science-fiction, chick-lit, old white guy lit, plays, poetry, non-fiction, memoirs, that book you found in the airport, biographies, anyone who picked up a book today and read it, I salute you.
Perhaps this perceived societal prejuidice towards chick lit stopped me from picking up a fiction book for so long. In fact, I can tell you that the last fiction book I read was the final Pretty Little Liars (so addicting). My non-fiction kick has, however, been extraordinarily satisfying. In some ways I may prefer non-fiction, but I’ll always enjoy the all-encompassing excitement of a story.
I chose to read Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close after a few good reviews I had heard of it. The book has been likened to Commencement, one of my favorite books. It tells the story of a group of girls on different paths navigating their twenties in New York, Chicago and, for a few, the suburbs. While I expected a traditional narrative, the structure resembled a collection of short stories. This could have been an odd choice, but the detactched atmosphere mirrored the tone of the story perfectly.
As much as I liked the book, there were several points that made the book a bit difficult to truly enjoy. There was a constant feeling of separation from the characters, you didn’t quite learn enough about them to feel like they are your new best friend. This story wasn’t exactly about feeling for the characters, but rather about witnessing the new challenges facing twenty-first century women in their twenties.
It’s that narrow lens that makes this book a bit difficult to find the wide audience. Sure, I loved it, but it’s something that does impact my life. I am a twenty year old woman in the twenty-first century (I can’t tell you what a kick I got out of writing that sentence!). While the story is interesting, you need to understand it in order to get the most out of it.
So yeah, I really enjoyed Girls in White Dresses. It may not be the most acessible book, but the characters are interesting and sympathetic if not particularly memorable. Perfect for the beach, perfect for summer in the city and perfect for right now.
Do you think stigma against certain book genres is warranted?