One Lump or Two – In defense of women’s fiction

I love women’s fiction.  I’m not ashamed to admit it, even if literary critics, college professors and Jonathan Franzen don’t agree.

There have been times when my life sucked.  Really sucked.  Maybe for a day, or a week, but sometimes longer.  There were days when I’d tell my husband I was going to drop an iron on my foot just to avoid going to work.  My husband, ever the pragmatist  would say, call in and say you did.  You don’t actually have to do it.

Invariably, when I would take a mental health day, I’d spend it on the sofa, a cup of tea by my side, a cat, a bowl of popcorn, and a really good read.  It would take me away from my problems, and into someone else’s messed up life.  It was like the story held my hand, and told me it would all be okay.  If I could just hold on until tomorrow, I’d get another shot at it.

Got the scene in your head?  Flip the book over.  It doesn’t have text on a plain background.  It has a porch swing, or drying laundry, or shy little girls, everything literary critics decry as “women’s fiction”, and Meg Wolitzer dissed in her NYT article.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love to chew on a great work of art.  There are literary authors whose words I feel in my bones, that resonate like a perfectly tuned A string.  Margaret Atwood, Richard Russo, Barbara Kingsolver.  But Jennifer Weiner’s books are like blankets, warm from the dryer.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

I’m sure it’s nice to be known among the pantheon of great writers.  But I don’t long to be on the syllabus of an MFA program.  I just want to make someone’s day better.  Given the huge size of the women’s fiction market, I’m not alone.

So why all of the snobbery about where the book is shelved, or sold?  I don’t care if it’s Target, if it’s in someone’s hands it’s all good by me.

I want to write books that change hands so many times you can’t remember who it belongs to, that get dropped into bathtubs and covered with sunscreen.  I want the pages velveted from being turned and folded and bookmarked with random receipts.

So Mr. Publisher, if you want to put girls in white dresses, or mittens, or a pair of high heels on my book. Go ahead.  Just make sure you put my name in nice big letters, and spell it right.  I promise I won’t complain.

If you like my writing, check out my sister blog – momaiku, where I share the experience of parenting in seventeen syllables.  Behind every great mother is a child, pushing her buttons.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Key Lime Pie

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One comment on “One Lump or Two – In defense of women’s fiction

  1. Claire Cappetta says:

    I agree, some books are for pure escapism, Critics and professors get so far into the literary angle they fail to see the woods for the trees. Give me a hero a herione, a sruggle a love worth fighting for and won in some distant state, elevate me to somewhere new, even if just for a day 🙂

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