Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May is International Chick Lit Month

It's International Chick Lit Month! Visit this page to find out what chick lit is all about, and how diverse the stories have become over the years. I want to post about this because as an Asian and Filipino writer of "chick lit", writing about women in Asia/the Philippines, I feel like I should provide some context.

How diverse can chick lit be, you ask? Isn't that just about a shallow girl looking for love and buying clothes?

On being shallow
My book covers come in pink and other candy-reminiscent colors, and some of them have cutesy illustrations and photos. I've seen them called "shallow," "superficial" and "mindless." But because they were designed to be "light," "fun" and "unpretentious," I don't mind if some readers just get lost in the semantics. What I hope is that, maybe if they were paying attention, they'd notice that they now know about cognitive dissonance (from My Imaginary Ex), Vladimir Propp's morphology of the folk tale (Fairy Tale Fail), what happens during a despedida de soltera (Love Your Frenemies), new ways to do a class presentation of El Filibusterismo (No Strings Attached), and an alternate origin story for Diyan Masalanta (Interim Goddess of Love). It hasn't been that easy to take these concepts and not beat you over the head with them. Because who wants to be head-beaten really?

The way I see it, a woman in her twenties is shallow only to people who don't pay attention -- and then they miss so much of what makes her great.

On diversity
I've called my books "Asian chick lit." What does that really mean? To me, it means: expect Asians, and not as much sex. Not that everyone is a prude here (no not at all) but some things are just different, for better or worse.

This is the problem I have with choosing the categories for my books on Amazon. "Women's fiction" and "contemporary romance" sound like they should have more sex, which my books don't. "Teen romance" and "YA" don't seem like the right fit for stories about twenty-somethings either. ("New adult" is a term I've seen used to describe this in-between, but the online stores don't offer that just yet.)

As of right now, all my books are set in the Philippines. And yet they're not about politics or poverty or how we were involved in WW2. It is a totally different setting, and probably not what regular chick lit readers expect.

So for now I'm banking on these readers accepting that some of the details may change, but the story can be essentially the same, where it counts.

Yay to celebrating these stories! I hope more are told, from even more places around the world.

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