March is Women's Lit Event Month at Lost in Books and today we are celebrating with Kelly, The Well-Read Redhead. Kelly is sharing with us why contemporary women's fiction is her go-to genre. You'll be wondering why you don't read more of it by the time she is done, guaranteed. Check it out:
My husband will tell you that anytime “Call Me Maybe” comes on the radio, I throw a hand up and yell, “THAT’S MY JAM!!!” Followed by horrifically awkward dancing and off-key singing.
Likewise, whenever I find a new contemporary women’s fiction novel, I throw the hands up and shout, “THAT’S MY GENRE!” Followed by much rejoicing and impulse-buying.
It might not be exactly like that. But it’s close. I read a wide variety of genres, but I am not afraid to say that contemporary women’s fiction is my favorite. Jane Green, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, etc: these are the authors that make me excited for the “pre-order” option.
Does this mean I LOVE every modern women’s fiction novel out there? Definitely not (though obviously I like the majority). However, I find their descriptions compelling enough that I’m sure to give them a read, whether or not I end up enjoying them in the end.
The question is: why? Why am I so drawn to these authors? Obviously I’m not alone…the authors I named above (and their contemporaries) are consistently on the bestseller lists. What is it about their wildly popular books that draw in so many avid readers?
In honor of this month’s Women’s Lit event, I sat down and tried to think about all the reasons why this genre has blown up so much in the reading world. Here’s a few ideas:
1. It recognizes that women are smart…AND emotional.
We women: we’re a smart bunch. Back in the Brontes’ day, women weren't trying to prove to the menfolk that they could hold it down at work/school while also caring for the kiddos and giving their BFF a shoulder to cry on. But now? Beyonce said it best: we run this motha. Modern-day ladies are working, going to school, keeping the kids in order, being awesome colleagues/friends/wives/moms/etc…
But guess what? We still get a little dramatic sometimes. And your “OMG my period is late and my boss hates me and dinner is burned and my car won’t start” crying time doesn't always mesh real well with your plans to take over the world. Women’s fiction novels RECOGNIZE THIS. The inherent struggle between being master of your domain and still having ALL THE FEELS is often central to these books. How many women can relate to that? HANDS UP, LADIES.
2. It makes us hopeful.
Think of all the awful womanly troubles that are covered in these novels: broken friendships. Divorce. Cheating boyfriends. Miscarriages. Lost jobs. Cancer diagnoses. BAD THINGS. But rarely do these novels end on a bad note. There is usually a glimmer of hope (if not a totally awesome ending) for the protagonist by the time you get to the last page. Some may say this makes the genre feel “fluffy”. I say, it makes readers (who have often gone through that very problem) feel like there might be something good to come out of even the worst situations. Optimism is not a bad thing!
3. It laughs at our faults.
There are some women’s fiction novels that take a more silly/humorous view on their characters. A primary example is Becky Bloomwood in Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. She’s a compulsive shopper, in terrible debt…who gets a job as a financial columnist, and has to come up with money advice for the masses. Farcical? Maybe. But how many women can admit to being overzealous shoppers…and all the worry, stress, and guilt that goes along with it? Kinsella found a way to take a common, stressful problem, and let us laugh at it for a little while. Before we go back to ignoring the collection agency messages on our voicemails.
4. It holds a mirror.
This last point is a culmination of the other three. What’s the best thing about modern women’s fiction? IT’S ABOUT US. Nearly every novel in this genre has a character that I can either relate to personally, or I can pick out a friend/family member that fits the role. Of course, I often choose novels that take me completely out of my comfort zone, and teach me about locations and lifestyles vastly different from my own. But sometimes, I want to read about me, or my mom, or my best friend. It’s comforting, and fun, and engaging. (Maybe a little narcissistic too? I won’t deny it.) The relatability of these novels speaks volumes about their popularity.