Okay, this is why I’m doing this: I’ve always loved women’s writing but hated the way some people use “women’s fiction” as a slightly derogatory term for beach books (many with the word, “beach” in their titles) and light reading. There are plenty of those, sure, some quite marvelous . . . but if that’s “women’s fiction,” then why isn’t there something equivalent called “men’s fiction”?
For me, women’s fiction has always meant the whole, broad world of women’s concerns (which is not to say men aren’t concerned with many of these things as well).
What do I write? Women’s fiction, often about women’s friendships, sometimes serious, often on the edge of “literary,” always with real issues at its core. What do I read? Women’s literary fiction, women’s historical fiction, women’s mystery fiction, women’s political fiction – everything from the brainy novels of Louise Erdrich and Barbara Kingsolver and Anne Patchett, to Janet Evanovich’s laugh-out-loud thrillers and Alice Hoffman’s magical realism. For me, women’s fiction includes equally Anne Rivers Siddons’ lush depictions of the Carolina coast and Lionel Shriver’s biting attack on the American health-care system. I’m tickled by the way Elizabeth Berg’s lyrical novels have given a generation of career women permission to find beauty, as well, in the small rituals of domestic life. I admire Erica Jong for being brave enough to publish her funny and fearless, Fear of Flying nearly forty years ago, and I admire Allegra Goodman for taking on the difficulties of the fast-moving digital world we live in today. Women’s fiction is not inconsequential. It entertains us, teaches us, nourishes us. Sometimes it changes our lives.
That’s what these posts will be about. Why we read what we do. Why we write what we do . How the fiction impinges on our “real” lives (and vice versa). How it deepens our understanding, empowers us, makes us more whole. At its best, that’s what women’s fiction does.
Think of this as a celebration.