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An interesting debate prompt posed to my Young Adult Literature class this spring:
Chick lit should be purchased and displayed for young adults but not actively encouraged through book clubs, book talks, and so on.
Well, before we dive right in, let’s talk about what ‘chick lit’ is and why it gets a bad rap: like romance novels and ‘women’s literature,’ chick lit is usually written by women for women. And, for whatever reason, literature specifically for women usually gets smeared with negative adjectives: “escapist” at best, “trite” and “vapid” at worst. It’s true that chick lit doesn’t aspire to win a Pulitzer Prize in Literature any time soon. There are often lots of pop culture references and plenty of brand-name-dropping on expensive shoes, bags, and other accoutrements that make these titles age faster than fashion magazines.
So what’s the appeal? As Chick Lit Books points out, chick lit’s tone is lighter and funnier than other by-women-for-women books, and often focuses on ridiculous work or dating situations. There’s also some social reassurance in the stories:
Chick lit offers fun, entertaining reading… The genre’s aim of eliciting a response of “I’m exactly like that” or “That just happened to me!” has really struck a chord with women in their twenties and thirties who want to be reassured that they are not alone in screwing up their lives—or that screwing up doesn’t preclude a happy ending.
Gossip Girl is a teenaged incarnation of the chick lit defined above, but sports many of the same characteristics. I didn’t particularly like the book– you can read my review on Goodreads— but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, there’s a market for chick lit in the YA universe, and plenty of readers–obviously, mostly girls– love it.
To debate the original assertion: It’s condescending and frankly undermines a library’s commitment to intellectual freedom to purchase and display, but otherwise ignore such popular titles. Sure, if your teen patrons aren’t that interested in Gossip Girl, then there’s no reason to arrange a special book club for it. But avoiding it during a readers’ advisory interview when it is a genuine match for a patron is a misuse of a librarian’s professional skills. What is this, 1889? Are we really still grappling with the ludicrous notion that libraries are there to “enlighten” the lowly masses with wholesome, non-fictional reading?
A public library’s function is to serve the intellectual and entertainment needs of its community. And if that community wants Gossip Girl, have at!