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Chica Lit

Chica Lit: Popular Latina Fiction and Americanization in the Twenty-First Century

Tace Hedrick
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    Chica Lit
    Book Description:

    InChica Lit: Popular Latina Fiction and Americanization in the Twenty-First Century, Tace Hedrick illuminates how discourses of Americanization, ethnicity, gender, class, and commodification shape the genre of "chica lit," popular fiction written by Latina authors with Latina characters. She argues that chica lit is produced and marketed in the same ways as contemporary romance and chick lit fiction, and aimed at an audience of twenty- to thirty-something upwardly mobile Latina readers. Its stories about young women's ethnic class mobility and gendered romantic success tend to celebrate twenty-first century neoliberal narratives about Americanization, hard work, and individual success. However, Hedrick emphasizes, its focus on Latina characters necessarily inflects this celebratory mode: the elusiveness of meaning in its use of the very term "Latina" empties out the differences among and between Latina/o and Chicano/a groups in the United States. Of necessity, chica lit also struggles with questions about the actual social and economic "place" of Latinas and Chicanas in this same neoliberal landscape; these questions unsettle its reliance on the tried-and-true formulas of chick lit and romance writing. Looking at chica lit's market-driven representations of difference, poverty, and Americanization, Hedrick shows how this writing functions within the larger arena of struggles over popular representation of Latinas and Chicanas.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8099-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Preface: What’s a Girl to Do When . . . ?
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  2. Introduction: A Regular American Life
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book is an examination of a niche market in contemporary US women’s popular fiction called “chica lit.” It is a growing niche—since the publication ofDirty Girls, publisher’s imprints such as St. Martin’s Griffin, HarperCollins’s series Avon Trade, Penguin’s Berkley Books, Grand Central Station, and others have put out an increasing number of chica lit fictions. As writing about Latina characters by Latina authors, it would seem that chica lit should be included within the parameters of US Latina/o literature. However, chica lit deliberately follows a good many of the “beach read” conventions of the hugely successful, commercially...

  3. Chapter 1 Genre and the Romance Industry
    (pp. 27-58)

    As I have noted, the formulae of women’s genre fiction—that is, the accepted and, most importantly, familiar plot patterns and conventions—particularly of the romance novel and contemporary chick lit, act as processes or “doings,” as Frederick Aldama and Ramón Saldívar note, for constructing as well as working through answers to questions about women’s cultural and economic options.¹ Yet the delineations of specific genres are always blurred, as scholars of popular genre such as Catherine Gledhill attest: they are “not discrete systems, consisting of a fixed number of listable items” (64). As we will see, the formulaic boundaries of...

  4. Chapter 2 Class and Taste: Is It the Poverty?
    (pp. 59-86)

    The plots of chica lit fiction often assume, as both background and foil to its chica heroines’ material and romantic successes, that among poor and even working-class Latinos/as or Mexican Americans there exists a “culture of poverty.” This notion was made famous by the anthropologist Oscar Lewis, first in a sociological study of Mexicans in 1961 calledFive Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Povertyand continued in other works, including his best-known study,La Vida: A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of PovertySan Juan and New York, of 1966. Lewis was in fact on the...

  5. Chapter 3 Latinization and Authenticity
    (pp. 87-105)

    In the United States, the notion that ethnicity is not natural goes against what many people imagine as almost genetically inherent “ethnic” markers, such as certain behaviors, the love for certain foods, and even the expression of values. In this sense, Valdes offers an unbeatable answer to her critics: her characters are not stereotypes because they are descriptions of actual, ethnic people who, presumably, act in actual ethnic ways. Because the popularity of chica lit titles is heavily author-dependent—that is, readers become extremely loyal to specific authors—it is important to take into consideration authors’ own beliefs about the...

  6. Conclusion: Not Even the Mexicans
    (pp. 106-118)

    As we have begun to see, several scholars, in their readings of Valdes’sDirty Girlsnovels, have made clear the ways in which this chica lit series has posited Chicana, or, even worse, “Mexican” as an abject subjectivity related, as Usnavys puts it above, to the unutterably wretched third-world environs of Mexico itself. As Amanda Maria Morrison puts it, “Keying in on both race and social class and the ways in which the two are inextricably linked, Valdes-Rodriguez attempts in her first two novels to render Latinas and Latinidad palatable to mainstream consumers, who she claims ‘tend to be young,...