By REBECCA SPARROW
In April 2003 I was a little bit smug.
My first novel had been published to universally glowing reviews and I took great delight in telling anyone who would listen that I was an author. (A fact that my chemist seemed somewhat non-plussed about frankly…)
My days were spent loitering around bookstores trying desperately hard to look like my author photo and indulging in brief stints of author espionage (read: putting copies of my book in front of The Da Vinci Code. And in a sheer moment of desperation The South Beach Diet).
It was an incredibly thrilling time in my life and I didn’t think anything could possibly burst my author bubble of happiness.
Until something did.
You see, I thought, when I wrote The Girl Most Likely that I’d written a comedy. A comedy about a twenty-seven year old woman trying to find her place in the world. A story inspired by my very own quarter-life crisis that involved plenty of humour but also (I hoped) plenty of heart. A story about career expectations. Self-identity. Friendships. Loss. And yes, love.
But that’s not what I wrote, apparently.
Nope. What I actually wrote was ‘chick-lit’. The cutesy name of a new genre encompassing any work of fiction written by women about the contemporary lives of young women. A genre, which quickly became a derisive slur.
What became crystal clear to me that month and in the 10 years since, is that actually ANY stories written by women that explore the hopes, desires, fears and challenges of women are frequently dismissed off-hand. No matter the quality of the writing. No matter that in years to come these stories will provide a window into the feminist leanings, sexuality and self-identity of women of that time. Just ask Jane Austen.
Nope. Terms like ‘Chick-lit‘ and ‘Women’s Fiction’ (remind me again how women’s fiction is different to, you know, FICTION?) infer that narratives centred around the lives of women lack value and intelligence and they exist as yet another way in which women’s lives are trivialised.