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This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers

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New short stories from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie • Aimee Bender • Judy Budnitz • Jennifer S. Davis • Jennifer Egan • Carolyn Ferrell • Mary Gordon • Cristina Henríquez • Samantha Hunt •Binnie Kirshenbaum • Dika Lam • Caitlin Macy • Francine Prose • Holiday Reinhorn • Roxana Robinson • Curtis Sittenfeld • Lynne Tillman • Martha Witt Chick lit: A genre of fiction that ofte New short stories from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie • Aimee Bender • Judy Budnitz • Jennifer S. Davis • Jennifer Egan • Carolyn Ferrell • Mary Gordon • Cristina Henríquez • Samantha Hunt •Binnie Kirshenbaum • Dika Lam • Caitlin Macy • Francine Prose • Holiday Reinhorn • Roxana Robinson • Curtis Sittenfeld • Lynne Tillman • Martha Witt Chick lit: A genre of fiction that often recycles the following plot: Girl in big city desperately searches for Mr. Right in between dieting and shopping for shoes. Girl gets dumped (sometimes repeatedly). Girl finds Prince Charming. This Is Not Chick Lit is a celebration of America’s most dynamic literary voices, as well as a much needed reminder that, for every stock protagonist with a designer handbag and three boyfriends, there is a woman writer pushing the envelope of literary fiction with imagination, humor, and depth. The original short stories in this collection touch on some of the same themes as chick lit–the search for love and identity–but they do so with extraordinary power, creativity, and range; they are also political, provocative, and, at turns, utterly surprising. Featuring marquee names as well as burgeoning talents, This Is Not Chick Lit will nourish your heart, and your mind. “This Is Not Chick Lit is important not only for its content, but for its title. I’ll know we’re getting somewhere when equally talented male writers feel they have to separate themselves from the endless stream of fiction glorifying war, hunting and sports by naming an anthology This Is Not a Guy Thing.” –Gloria Steinem “These voices, diverse and almost eerily resonant, offer us a refreshing breath of womanhood-untamed, ungroomed, and unglossed.”–ELLE


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New short stories from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie • Aimee Bender • Judy Budnitz • Jennifer S. Davis • Jennifer Egan • Carolyn Ferrell • Mary Gordon • Cristina Henríquez • Samantha Hunt •Binnie Kirshenbaum • Dika Lam • Caitlin Macy • Francine Prose • Holiday Reinhorn • Roxana Robinson • Curtis Sittenfeld • Lynne Tillman • Martha Witt Chick lit: A genre of fiction that ofte New short stories from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie • Aimee Bender • Judy Budnitz • Jennifer S. Davis • Jennifer Egan • Carolyn Ferrell • Mary Gordon • Cristina Henríquez • Samantha Hunt •Binnie Kirshenbaum • Dika Lam • Caitlin Macy • Francine Prose • Holiday Reinhorn • Roxana Robinson • Curtis Sittenfeld • Lynne Tillman • Martha Witt Chick lit: A genre of fiction that often recycles the following plot: Girl in big city desperately searches for Mr. Right in between dieting and shopping for shoes. Girl gets dumped (sometimes repeatedly). Girl finds Prince Charming. This Is Not Chick Lit is a celebration of America’s most dynamic literary voices, as well as a much needed reminder that, for every stock protagonist with a designer handbag and three boyfriends, there is a woman writer pushing the envelope of literary fiction with imagination, humor, and depth. The original short stories in this collection touch on some of the same themes as chick lit–the search for love and identity–but they do so with extraordinary power, creativity, and range; they are also political, provocative, and, at turns, utterly surprising. Featuring marquee names as well as burgeoning talents, This Is Not Chick Lit will nourish your heart, and your mind. “This Is Not Chick Lit is important not only for its content, but for its title. I’ll know we’re getting somewhere when equally talented male writers feel they have to separate themselves from the endless stream of fiction glorifying war, hunting and sports by naming an anthology This Is Not a Guy Thing.” –Gloria Steinem “These voices, diverse and almost eerily resonant, offer us a refreshing breath of womanhood-untamed, ungroomed, and unglossed.”–ELLE

30 review for This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Constantine

    The short story is such a terribly underrated literary form. I always hear that publishers are reluctant to put out books of short stories, which I just don't understand. If people are truly as plagued with short attention spans as everyone says they are, then short stories would be the perfect way to deliver storytelling to more people. When done skillfully, you get all the benefits of the novel, but in 15- and 30-minute chunks. I very much enjoyed this collection of short stories, even though The short story is such a terribly underrated literary form. I always hear that publishers are reluctant to put out books of short stories, which I just don't understand. If people are truly as plagued with short attention spans as everyone says they are, then short stories would be the perfect way to deliver storytelling to more people. When done skillfully, you get all the benefits of the novel, but in 15- and 30-minute chunks. I very much enjoyed this collection of short stories, even though there were a couple I skipped over because they just weren't doing it for me. There wasn't much in the way of a common theme to the anthology, beyond that all of the authors were women and that they write outside of the hugely-popular realm of "chick lit." (Hence, the title.) The point seemed to be that, hey, women can write serious literature, too! To which my response is, duh! I would think that only a total misogynist would fail to recognize the contributions of women to literary fiction, but then again, if there is one thing that I know I can count on, it is on the seemingly eternal presence of bigotry and prejudice in every aspect of human culture. Anyways, I liked this, and I think anyone who likes short stories and interesting literary fiction and who doesn't really care for chick lit would find it at least worth a read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Summer

    Admittedly, I picked this up because of my hatred for the titular subgenre - a horrible plot structure wherin skinny, whiny WASPs spend more on shoes than the GDP of several developing countries (what the hell is a strappy Manolo?). And it's especially disheartening to see huge, pink displays of the stuff in bookstores, especially when women authors are turning out the same volume of work as male authors, but getting overwhelmingly overlooked in criticism and awards (See Ursula K. LeGuin's excel Admittedly, I picked this up because of my hatred for the titular subgenre - a horrible plot structure wherin skinny, whiny WASPs spend more on shoes than the GDP of several developing countries (what the hell is a strappy Manolo?). And it's especially disheartening to see huge, pink displays of the stuff in bookstores, especially when women authors are turning out the same volume of work as male authors, but getting overwhelmingly overlooked in criticism and awards (See Ursula K. LeGuin's excellent essay on the subject in The Wave in the Mind ). This is not to say that I hate any genre fiction - I do love good SF, and while I'm not a crime novel buff, I understand why they're a fun escape - but that I'm a little wary of associating Women Authors with such a bland, awful type of book. Anyway, this is a collection of short stories by contemporary women authors, only two of which I'd heard of, and it's fantastic. Independent of Not Being Chick Lit, it's actually a very good anthology.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    I was expecting to be blown away by these stories, but found most of them confusing or lacking. Maybe I wasn't reading them critically enough? There were a few stories I really enjoyed, but most of them not so much. I know they were suppose to comment on diversity in society, but they all felt negative or the message seemed weakly presented. I was expecting to be blown away by these stories, but found most of them confusing or lacking. Maybe I wasn't reading them critically enough? There were a few stories I really enjoyed, but most of them not so much. I know they were suppose to comment on diversity in society, but they all felt negative or the message seemed weakly presented.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This book was for book group. Prior to reading its introduction I wasn't aware that the genre of "chick lit" even existed. Just totally off my radar, really. Anyhow, so the woman who collected these short stories wanted to spotlight talented female writers who aren't getting a lot of attention because 'chick lit' is drowning them out. She wanted to show the world there are American women writing poignant, meaningful literature, not just beach reads or trashy, formulaic stories. Well, nice idea e This book was for book group. Prior to reading its introduction I wasn't aware that the genre of "chick lit" even existed. Just totally off my radar, really. Anyhow, so the woman who collected these short stories wanted to spotlight talented female writers who aren't getting a lot of attention because 'chick lit' is drowning them out. She wanted to show the world there are American women writing poignant, meaningful literature, not just beach reads or trashy, formulaic stories. Well, nice idea except I didn't feel like this collection of short stories accomplished its goal. Instead of getting excited about these new women writers, I came away utterly unimpressed. Many of the women in the stories are full of cowardice and self-loathing and lack integrity and aspiration. Now, clearly most women in real life have times when these characteristics are part of themselves, part of their experiences. But overwhelming, I don't think this is representative of life or women. Instead of reveling in the talent of the writers like the editor wants us too I was depressed at the lack of quality, the lack of depth and breadth, in short, not hopeful at all about current female American writers.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anissa

    Good collection of short stories that I read a while ago. Donating now as clearing bookshelves for move.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Souther

    “America’s Best Women Writers” is a BOLD description for what I just read (Chimimanda is, obviously, excluded from that critique)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is a quirky little collection that is sometimes hit or miss for me. I definitely like the idea of highlighting female authors who write about more than women who shop and man-hunt in "the big city." I should also give props for the unique ways of storytelling, though sometimes the exposition lost me. We have stories that are written in bits and pieces of (fictional) historical records, stories written in second person, stories that re-tell Joan of Arc as if a modern day documentary crew was This is a quirky little collection that is sometimes hit or miss for me. I definitely like the idea of highlighting female authors who write about more than women who shop and man-hunt in "the big city." I should also give props for the unique ways of storytelling, though sometimes the exposition lost me. We have stories that are written in bits and pieces of (fictional) historical records, stories written in second person, stories that re-tell Joan of Arc as if a modern day documentary crew was attempting to film her story. I'm partial to ones such as "Selling the General," where a disgraced socialite turns into a publicist for an exiled genocidal dictator in order to make ends meet, "The Seventy-Two Ounce Steal Challenge," where one sister tries to save another but is in need of saving herself, and "Ava Bean," about a young ex-con whose daughter was taken away from her, trying to make a fresh start by becoming the personal assistant of an aging, crotchety socialite. My softest spot might be for "Volunteers are Shining Stars," where a young volunteer at a DC halfway house feels threatened by a new volunteer. I like how the point of view is with the young one, but you can tell as the story goes on that she's the one who's a little off her nut. I'll end with a quotefrom Gloria Steinem on the back- "I know we're getting somewhere when equally talented male writers feel they have to seperate themselves from the endless stream of fiction glorifying war, hunting and sports by naming an anthology 'This Is Not a Guy Thing.'"

  8. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I read this off an on, picking it up and going through a story or two when I had a few spare moments. While I understand that these are some of the most celebrated contemporary female authors, not all the stories were as impressive or thought-provoking as others. Those that stood out as above average were The Thing Around Your Neck, The Seventy-two-Ounce Steak Challenge, The Matthew Effect and Meaning of Ends. The others seemed a bit more obvious to me, and these I found a bit more stimulating a I read this off an on, picking it up and going through a story or two when I had a few spare moments. While I understand that these are some of the most celebrated contemporary female authors, not all the stories were as impressive or thought-provoking as others. Those that stood out as above average were The Thing Around Your Neck, The Seventy-two-Ounce Steak Challenge, The Matthew Effect and Meaning of Ends. The others seemed a bit more obvious to me, and these I found a bit more stimulating and complex. Overall, though, a worthwhile read, even if just to stretch one's boundaries and explore different writers.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nic

    My friend Don made me a present of this book a few years ago, but recently picked it up again. The stories are just excellent. Particularly "Selling the General." Very vivid and suspenseful with strong characterization. "Gabe" is one I often use in class that gets a very strong reaction. It has a strong voice, humor, pathos and two unforgettable characters. Like all collections, not every story hits one out of the park, but this group is solid. And I love the cover! My friend Don made me a present of this book a few years ago, but recently picked it up again. The stories are just excellent. Particularly "Selling the General." Very vivid and suspenseful with strong characterization. "Gabe" is one I often use in class that gets a very strong reaction. It has a strong voice, humor, pathos and two unforgettable characters. Like all collections, not every story hits one out of the park, but this group is solid. And I love the cover!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    Honestly, I picked this up for the title, which I love. But I liked it a lot - there's a wide variety of stories, not all of them focusing on female characters, and I liked all of them. My favorite was the story where Joan of Arc is followed around by a documentary crew who want to put her on TV. Honestly, I picked this up for the title, which I love. But I liked it a lot - there's a wide variety of stories, not all of them focusing on female characters, and I liked all of them. My favorite was the story where Joan of Arc is followed around by a documentary crew who want to put her on TV.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    Want to read after: Aimee Bender, Dika Lam, Samantha Hunt The Thing Around Your Neck Page 10- "You told him there was nothing to understand, it was just the way it was." Two Days Page 17- "He had that trustworthy face, a face I didn't trust, simply because I'd trusted it so swiftly." Page 18- "I felt the love, spreading roots in my chest, making it so easy to smile; the way the promise of love loosens and eases the muscles of the face, and how the onset of pain had tightened them before, into tense l Want to read after: Aimee Bender, Dika Lam, Samantha Hunt The Thing Around Your Neck Page 10- "You told him there was nothing to understand, it was just the way it was." Two Days Page 17- "He had that trustworthy face, a face I didn't trust, simply because I'd trusted it so swiftly." Page 18- "I felt the love, spreading roots in my chest, making it so easy to smile; the way the promise of love loosens and eases the muscles of the face, and how the onset of pain had tightened them before, into tense lines and grit. How good it felt, to let go of grit for a second!" Page 19- "...I asked, as I peeled the skin off a grape in slippery little triangles, and I understood then that I would be undressing every item of food I could because my clothes would be staying on." Page 20- "The clouds were thick, and the water took on a metallic gray sheen that settled my mind." An Open Letter to Doctor X Page 22- "...every cell in my body felt soggy, as if my soul had been used as a paper towel to mop everything up." Page 28- "After something like that happens, you see things differently. Or perhaps you realize how little you see." Page 30- "If you aren't holding your breath, you should be. Certainly, in my daily work, I meet a lot of people who were never expecting to have something terrible happen. Who weren't watching out. Who were not waiting, as they say, for the other shoe to drop. Perhaps you too have wondered about that expression, Doctor. Isn't the logic inexorable? The other shoe will drop. How common is it for people to go to bed wearing one shoe?" Volunteers are Shining Stars Page 84- "She was experiencing a moment of profound personal triumph, though nothing was occurring that was remote profound or triumphant." The Seventy-two-Ounce Steak Challenge Page 129- "I was excited to go west because I'd already resigned myself to the likelihood of spending my twenties in a cubicle, with glorious postcards tacked to the walls to remind me of a world u illuminated by fluorescent light." Page 144- "She wouldn't even pretend to be surprised, and her judgement would fall on me like winter." Page 144- "I thought I might tune to a radio station and sing along to other people's misery. I thought I'd wait on the hood like the cool youth I'd never been, long enough for twilight to show its guts, for my sister to tire of the adulation." Page 145- "The pink sky was like the Virginia drift of newly opened ice cream, so gorgeous I had to remind myself that it wasn't the planetarium. The day after tomorrow I would hop on a plane and wing back to my problems, but for now, as I gunned toward the grand peaks of Banff, I lost my interest in ghosts, and in crises that could not be solved in mountain times, because mountains are for people who need to know they're destined for something beautiful." Love Machine Page 150- "The trees' limbs become a darker shade of black, outlines that resemble huge dendrites or nerve endings against the sky." Page 150- "He curls his body and counts the seconds between each pounding, waiting for the following thud to arrive so that the sliver of silenced, the moments between each knock, grow swollen, become rooms where long, long years of thought are stored, hallways filled with stalled breaths." Page 151- "Such a road is necessary to feel the way he does, that society, if it has to exist, is best kept far, far away, remaining to him like some sort of rare granite outcropping or species of palm tree, hermit crab, or saltwater estuary - something that is, but just isn't here, not in the Montana woods." Page 155- "...surprised and a bit winded by really how few details it can take to make a life..." Page 160- "But there's no beauty in machines, and anyway all those people whose lives have been simplified by machines, they don't spend their days concentrating on beauty. They watch TV." Ava Bean Page 180- "What do you think is worse- forgetting or knowing?" Page 181- "Until Lucy, Charlotte didn't understand anything about how the world works, about how one person can shape the course of another's life as much by absence as anything else, how a stranger's faith might be the closest thing to salvation you're ever offered." Page 181- "For one forgiving moment, the weight is not unbearable." Embrace Page 183- "But no: it's the silence, the immobility of the room that's the problem, the implacably fixed furniture, the hushing carpet, the heavy curtains, the whole place awaiting human animation." Page 194- "She feels less responsible now for the care of the world. If she vanishes, the world will rumble along without her." Page 200- "Everything is over, everything falls away, now, all the intentions and crises of life, the small things...all of these don't matter, and the large things - what were the large things? None of them matter, now. It's all moving faster and faster, and here they are, all of them, trapped together, their doomed faces staring ahead, stunned, caught in this thundering, rumbling, accelerating plane, and he thinks, his mind slow and calm, that this is, really, what they all faced every day, hurtling through space together on the spinning planet, rushing, unaware, toward their final moments. And the spinning planet has been spinning like this, as it is now, for all time, sweeping though the endless black of space on its log elegant loop. It will go on, though for him, for them, it's all over, whatever happens." Joan, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orléans Page 214- "She walks a particular way. Head in the clouds." Page 215- "You can hear many things if you open your years; you can feel many things if you open your skin; if you lie very still among the grasses of the field and wait, you may feel the earth twitch like the hide of a sleeping animal; if you watch the clouds long enough, you can feel the pressure of things unseen..." Page 216- "Sometimes the truth needs a little touching up. You can always make the truth a little truer." Gabriella, My Heart Page 250- "I hardly remember now what we talked about for so many afternoons..." Page 259- "I was light with the feeling of having found someone. And, I guess, of having found myself." Page 261- "But I felt different now, like I knew who I was, and because of knowing I could handle her, could control her effect on me." Page 265-"My heart would reassemble itself with a part for Gabriella that I would keep but that would stay closed, and a part for Rey that would burn and stay strong." The Matthew Effect Page 291- "Bee wafted through the party as if she were a faint and distant sound, not a seductive sound like a train whistle in the night or a foghorn, but rather, like the sound an old house makes when it settles, a sound not worth investigating." Page 296- "'What's going on?' Bee asked, and he told her 'Nothing.' Then he walked off as if Bee were nothing too, and in that moment, something ruptured. Not her heart -she did not love him- but perhaps her pride, which might be located next to loathing..." Page 297- "...where she sat and wept from the shame of longing for this boy. The same of the truth as she believed it to be, but -get real- we all, with unrelenting frequency and vehemence, lie to ourselves like braided rugs. Mostly about big ticket items: love, happiness, desire unfulfilled." The Recipe Page 298- "Sadness, that's normal, it goes with the territory, but becoming bitter, bitterness is to be avoided, he said." Page 303- "...while he grew older in the same place, without stopping time, though he found his illusions encouraged and indemnified by traces of the past..." Page 304- "...he also felt that the bakers dwelled, as he did, in fantasy, that it envelopes them daily, and that what they did might be something else for them, too." Page 306- "Now, scratches on a mahogany table that once nestled close to his father's side of the bed and his mother's yellowing music books, her seeing cushion with its needles tidily stuck where she'd pushed them last, marked matter-of-fact episodes and incidents in their lives, when accidents occurred or things happened haphazardly, causing nicks and dents, before death recast them as shrines." Meaning of Ends Page 310- "Since she arrived, the nights have been good. Good summer nights, dark and bold as a shape." Page 312- "She understands now. Now she sees. A complicated see. Not with the eyes." Page 313- "Let us point out that he sees and she sees that the meaning of the different ends is the same. She does not love him, and he does not love her."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Keeley

    Short stories often depend on a gut-wrenching twist or an expose' of the darkness of the human soul to give themselves the artistic heft that comes more easily to a novel or a poem. In this collection, however, the stories were characterized more by an acuity of observation of the human condition than by that grueling turn of the screw. Some of the stories engaged with topics that were more timely a dozen years ago when they were written, and some of the characters were more compelling than othe Short stories often depend on a gut-wrenching twist or an expose' of the darkness of the human soul to give themselves the artistic heft that comes more easily to a novel or a poem. In this collection, however, the stories were characterized more by an acuity of observation of the human condition than by that grueling turn of the screw. Some of the stories engaged with topics that were more timely a dozen years ago when they were written, and some of the characters were more compelling than others, but on the whole it was a good collection. Individual mentions are merited as follows: "Documents of Passion Love" was memorable, but its form (excerpts from an imaginary longer work) hints at the fact that it would probably be better as a novel in the mode of Toni Morrison. I disliked the protagonist of "Selling the General" but it was probably the most engaging of the stories. "Love Machine" was an interesting speculative-fiction take on events from the news. "Embrace" moved me to tears even if it didn't deserve to. "Joan, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orleans" variously felt interesting or like someone took the meta elements of Monty Python and the Holy Grail way too seriously. "The Recipe" read like a long poem that, having been rejected, had been reformatted with commas in place of line breaks, rendering it approximately as annoying as Donleavy's Ginger Man. Martha Witt's "Meaning of Ends" was interesting to me as a student of languages, but pointed up the fact that "alphabetical by author" may be a less effective way of organizing a collection than something thematic.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Arizpe

    Picked this up at the secondhand bookstore by my house and it took me a while to get through but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a collection of short stories from an ensemble of heavily influential women authors aiming to upheave the status quo of ‘chick lit’ clichés, rejecting narratives of Mr. Right and nights out in high heels. Instead, the stories shift their focus to intimate matters such as strained familial relationships, impostor syndrome, and addressing sexuality, and so many of the s Picked this up at the secondhand bookstore by my house and it took me a while to get through but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a collection of short stories from an ensemble of heavily influential women authors aiming to upheave the status quo of ‘chick lit’ clichés, rejecting narratives of Mr. Right and nights out in high heels. Instead, the stories shift their focus to intimate matters such as strained familial relationships, impostor syndrome, and addressing sexuality, and so many of the stories abandon that customary Happy Ending that chick lit can be notorious for. The collection starts off with ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I give a solid 9/10 to. Other favorites include ‘Volunteers are Shining Stars’ by Curtis Sittenfeld and ‘Gabriela, My Heart’ by Cristina Henriquez. I prefer short story collections because my attention span tolerates them best and if I don’t like something (which happened sort of often with this one) I can just skip to the next one and peek into a different author’s world. Overall pretty great, though; happy I read it 🙂

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sophia M

    THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT offers this succinct description of the genre of ‘chick lit’ in its introduction: “Chick lit is a genre, like the thriller, the sci-fi novel, or the fantasy epic. Its form and content are, more or less, formulaic: white girl in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss, and enjoying the occasional teary-eyed lunch with her token Sassy Gay Friend. Chick lit is the daughter of the roman THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT offers this succinct description of the genre of ‘chick lit’ in its introduction: “Chick lit is a genre, like the thriller, the sci-fi novel, or the fantasy epic. Its form and content are, more or less, formulaic: white girl in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss, and enjoying the occasional teary-eyed lunch with her token Sassy Gay Friend. Chick lit is the daughter of the romance novel and the stepsister to the fashion magazine.” From that point on, this collection works to present stories written by women that work outside of this framework. While I have many, many thoughts on this framing of the history of chick lit and the history if women writers in general, I can’t argue that this is not an incredible body of work. Each story within this book is unique and fascinating, tiny worlds each their own. If you’re interested in reading stories written by a varied and diverse group of female-identifying authors, this is definitely for you.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abbey

    This collection was ok, probably more like 2.5 stars. I'm not a huge short story fan, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, and this didn't really do it for me. The introduction shows it was written at a different time in feminism, when femininity wasn't feminist and "chick lit" was looked down upon by feminists. I definitely don't think that all female characters have to be likable, but most of these stories' characters were annoying, mean, and hard to connect with. The two stories that I en This collection was ok, probably more like 2.5 stars. I'm not a huge short story fan, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, and this didn't really do it for me. The introduction shows it was written at a different time in feminism, when femininity wasn't feminist and "chick lit" was looked down upon by feminists. I definitely don't think that all female characters have to be likable, but most of these stories' characters were annoying, mean, and hard to connect with. The two stories that I enjoyed the most were Cristina Henriquez's and Dika Lam's, so I look forward to checking out more of their fiction.

  16. 4 out of 5

    clara

    soooo completely honestly I got this book because I thought it Would be chick lit. the title is literally “this is not chick lit,” so idk what I was thinking... but anyways. I was pleasantly surprised by a collection of short stories that are definitely not dumb-blonde-meets-“real”-world-and-finds-love. A couple of the stories were genuinely life-changing, but most were average at best. It felt like an eclectic collection of stories that varied too widely in theme and depth, so I’m only giving t soooo completely honestly I got this book because I thought it Would be chick lit. the title is literally “this is not chick lit,” so idk what I was thinking... but anyways. I was pleasantly surprised by a collection of short stories that are definitely not dumb-blonde-meets-“real”-world-and-finds-love. A couple of the stories were genuinely life-changing, but most were average at best. It felt like an eclectic collection of stories that varied too widely in theme and depth, so I’m only giving the collection three stars, but I’m still extremely glad to have read it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    Subtitle: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers This is a collection of short stories and I do love short stories, so picking it up was a no-brainer. It was enjoyable, several of the stories were great, one or two of them were dreadful. One of them I've read before but I can't for the life of me figure out where and the "previously published" listing doesn't help at all. Anyway, I appreciate the existence of a collection of short stories by women writers that aren't all variants of Sex i Subtitle: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers This is a collection of short stories and I do love short stories, so picking it up was a no-brainer. It was enjoyable, several of the stories were great, one or two of them were dreadful. One of them I've read before but I can't for the life of me figure out where and the "previously published" listing doesn't help at all. Anyway, I appreciate the existence of a collection of short stories by women writers that aren't all variants of Sex in the City. They're just decent stories that also happen to be written by women. Groovy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeanie Robinson

    Maybe I expected more? Or maybe I thought what I would be reading would make sense? But sadly it didn’t. Some stories fell flat, a lot were very confusing, and some felt like they were trying to write a novel into a short story jumping past important scenes to be fully understood. I was not impressed. Or maybe I didn’t read into the stories as i should’ve.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenna Anderson

    This anthology was equal parts mesmerizing and frustrating, but I think I would still recommend it to people. Even the stories that weren't personally my cup of tea still ended up being (mostly) compelling reads. This anthology was equal parts mesmerizing and frustrating, but I think I would still recommend it to people. Even the stories that weren't personally my cup of tea still ended up being (mostly) compelling reads.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Editor Elizabeth Merrick defines chick lit as follows: Chick lit is a genre, like the thriller, or the sci-fi novel, or the fantasy epic. Its form and content are, more or less, formulaic: white girl in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss, and enjoying the occasional teary-eyed lunch with her token Sassy Gay Friend. Chick lit is the daughter of the romance novel and the step-sister to the fashion maga Editor Elizabeth Merrick defines chick lit as follows: Chick lit is a genre, like the thriller, or the sci-fi novel, or the fantasy epic. Its form and content are, more or less, formulaic: white girl in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss, and enjoying the occasional teary-eyed lunch with her token Sassy Gay Friend. Chick lit is the daughter of the romance novel and the step-sister to the fashion magazine. The collection starts out strong and powerful, with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s story “The Thing Around Your Neck”, which relates the experiences of a young Nigerian immigrant coming to America. It’s the perfect way to begin the book, I think; it does hold onto the typical setting of chick lit, and presents us with a heroine of the right age searching for the right things and running across the right things. Diets and materialism and a love affair, it’s all there. It takes all the things that even I have heard about chick lit and turns them on their heads. And yet it’s definitely not “chick lit”. This is not a Harlequin; this is not Vogue. This is real, and earthy, and touching and affecting but not at all sentimental. The Joan of Arc story that caught my attention in the first place (by Judy Budnitz), too, is... quite different. I had heard it described as a reality TV look at Joan of Arc, but it's not; it’s a documentary crew, with one determined producer and three makeshift crew members (the intern, who becomes obsessed with Joan and is never named; Bert from Craft Services, pressed into service as a cameraman; and Karleen from makeup who winds up having to do all the styling–in fifteeth-century France). At first I was a little disappointed, because I was really looking forward to the reality-TV angle, but as I read I decided that this worked better anyway. The whole piece became, as you might expect, commentary on our society and its need to know everything and its morbid curiosity about things it doesn’t understand half of anyhow and doesn’t really want to. A reality-TV angle would’ve dated it, made it a thing of the ’00’s. A documentary? Not so much. And it was a beautiful story — horrible in all the right ways, never overplaying the contrast between Joan’s world and ours and yet never letting the separation slip except where it appears explicitly intended to. I wish I could be as complimentary about the rest of the stories. It’s not that they’re bad, exactly — and some are quite good, such as Jennifer Egan’s “Selling the General” and Samantha Hunt’s “Love Machine”. I suspect I would like Roxana Robinson’s “Embrace” much better if I weren’t biased against the subject matter to begin with. (If I tell you, I’ll spoil the whole effect, though.) There were many stories, though, that I just didn’t feel I was quite grasping. I suspect I might not be the intended audience for this anthology. My experience with chick lit more or less begins and ends with Bridget Jones (which, according to Merrick, more or less started the genre). I know enough of the stereotype to appreciate something pretty direct like “The Thing Around Your Neck”. I’m not familiar enough with it to pick up on more subtle uses of the tropes and conventions a more avid chick lit reader might see in these pages. Maybe that’s my problem. I also, though, started at some point feeling like some of these stories were getting a little pretentious. Some of them use fairly nonstandard writing styles, and while that can be done effectively, it kind of drives me nuts most of the time. I didn’t understand. Why break up the narration like that? Why the broken thoughts making up a good quarter of the story, and the blank-verse poetry making up another quarter? If you’re breaking the standard, it’s surely for a reason, to make some sort of point, but I can’t see what it is here. I also, with some stories, felt as though the story didn’t go anywhere, like I was just introduced to these characters and… then it was over. Mostly this led me to suspect that a there was a point and I just wasn’t picking up on it. Which makes me feel stupid, and it seems like a bad idea to make your reader feel stupid. I’m firmly of the mind that when a story is written to make a point like that, it ought to contain enough plot to sustain a reader who misses the point even if the plot is not itself the point. This is a story, not a character sketch or an essay; treat it like a story, please. Or market it as something else. Overall, though, I’m glad I read it. There were some gems in there, definitely, even if some of it is obviously passing me by.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Venla

    Simply amazing. No words left after reading this book, it was so amazing! The stories were moving and also making me smile. Truly stories from the America's best women writers. Everyone should read this book. Simply amazing. No words left after reading this book, it was so amazing! The stories were moving and also making me smile. Truly stories from the America's best women writers. Everyone should read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I had to return it to the library without reading every single story, but I think I'll check it out again and finish them soon. My favorite was "Volunteers Are Our Shining Stars" by Curtis Sittenfeld, about a woman who lives in DC and volunteers at a homeless shelter. Usually, I get pissed off by DC writers because they all seem to have a privileged, blind-to-the-world viewpoint... or maybe I'm just saying that because I'm thinking of Laura Zigman again. Anyway, the main character in Sittenfeld's I had to return it to the library without reading every single story, but I think I'll check it out again and finish them soon. My favorite was "Volunteers Are Our Shining Stars" by Curtis Sittenfeld, about a woman who lives in DC and volunteers at a homeless shelter. Usually, I get pissed off by DC writers because they all seem to have a privileged, blind-to-the-world viewpoint... or maybe I'm just saying that because I'm thinking of Laura Zigman again. Anyway, the main character in Sittenfeld's story volunteers at a place that must be the N Street Village shelter, which I have visited, and although she lives in a nice part of town, she doesn't condescend to the homeless or bend over backwards to hold them up as pillars of goodness, either. Instead, she speaks plainly about how the kids are cute, but will turn on you or get bored easily. The mothers inspire equal parts fear and admiration in her. After all, they somehow manage to have sex appeal even if they are dirt poor and have kids in tow. The story isn't so much about the main character's relationship with the shelter residents, though. When a new volunteer arrives, she rubs the narrator the wrong way with her over-the-top perkiness and less-than-fresh-looking skin and tendency to touch people. But when the narrator overreacts and assaults her, she becomes the one who makes everyone else uneasy. I loved this story because it was such a realistic look at one woman's assessments of the people around her; how little unoffensive things can really turn you off someone. I think I would also dislike that new volunteer and want to choke her. Another story I really enjoyed was the "72 Ounce Steak Challenge" by Dika Lam, in which two Chinese-Canadian sisters go on a trip together and one's pain is amplified by the joy of the other. On the surface, the older sister is the successful one--She's married to a rich man and has a blossoming career of her own. Her younger sister is still finding herself and has just dropped out of medical school because she just doesn't want to do it anymore. What the older sister hasn't told the rest of the family yet is that she's about to get a divorce. It doesn't help that her younger sister, instead of needing any guidance, takes on a steak-eating challenge during the trip and launches her own stardom as a professional eater. The older sister has to sit there and wait as her sister finishes the ginormous meal and wait some more for her to soak up the attention of all the impressed onlookers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    "Chick lit's formula numbs our senses. Literature, by contrast, grants us access to countless cultures, places, and inner lives...Chick lit shuts down our consciousness. Literature expands our imaginations." (Taken from the Intro) By the same token, the editor of this book also states, "We all need occasional cotton-candy entertainment to transport us from our increasingly overworked and overstimulated lives...The problem is, rather, that the chick lit deluge has helped to obscure the literary fi "Chick lit's formula numbs our senses. Literature, by contrast, grants us access to countless cultures, places, and inner lives...Chick lit shuts down our consciousness. Literature expands our imaginations." (Taken from the Intro) By the same token, the editor of this book also states, "We all need occasional cotton-candy entertainment to transport us from our increasingly overworked and overstimulated lives...The problem is, rather, that the chick lit deluge has helped to obscure the literary fiction being written by some of our country's most gifted women..." Mid-90s, I'll admit: I read chick lit. In late elem/middle school, I discovered the wonders of the likes of the bodice rippers of Danielle Steel & Victoria Holt/Phillipa Carr/Jean Plaidy (take your pick, 'tis the same person by the name of Eleanor AB Hibbert!) -- though I never got into the Harlequins -- and following that, with the explosion of Ms Bridget, I got into chick lit...and after a few formulaic reads (although, I'll confess: Marian Keyes would have to be one of my favorites, if I read more of it...), I got very bored of the genre. Very. And I realized exactly what the editor stated: I was losing out on so many excellent authors out there who were writing actual literature that made me *think* that I very easily gave up on chick lit...sure, I still love me some tmz.com & my TVyNovelas, but I haven't bought a chick lit book since & I don't miss it. I don't want anyone who loves chick lit to feel like I'm bashing her, either: go forth & enjoy...at least you're actually reading!!! (I have a real loathing for adults who don't take the time to read anything at all...!) So when I saw this book in Tahr-zhay, I simply had to buy it (the cover is fantastic!)...and to say the least, I haven't even read it yet...I'm looking forward to it, though, because I do recognize two authors in it: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (who wrote The Purple Hibiscus & she shares my birthday though one year younger!) & Cristina Henríquez (Come Together, Fall Apart...I read a lot of Hispanic lit...). Enjoy! :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    The premise of this book - that chick lit is inferior and limiting and needs to be rebelled against - ticked me off so much that I had a hard time getting over the title and actually reading the stories. Genre fiction can be fun, reading is good, literary snobbishness annoys me. When I finally got over my aversion to the cover, however, I found a strong collection of short stories inside. Most of the literary short stories I come across these days are boring tales of middle-aged people with anhed The premise of this book - that chick lit is inferior and limiting and needs to be rebelled against - ticked me off so much that I had a hard time getting over the title and actually reading the stories. Genre fiction can be fun, reading is good, literary snobbishness annoys me. When I finally got over my aversion to the cover, however, I found a strong collection of short stories inside. Most of the literary short stories I come across these days are boring tales of middle-aged people with anhedonic sex lives. The New Yorker seems to specialize in the genre, and the Francine Prose collection I picked up earlier this year offered more of the same. Prose has a piece in this collection, and it's creative and interesting and defies anhedonia and isn't just about neurotic people and their sexual defeat. Lots of women writers, it turns out, have interesting things to say and clever ways to say them. Life is more than lust, love, emotional abandon, regret. The writers in "This Is Not Chuck Lit" aren't afraid to take risks. They back into their stories, or write dry sentences that surprise you with their cumulative impact, or take goofy premises and craft them into believability. This book contains the best artistic response I've seen so far to Sept. 11, 2001, and I didn't even know that's what I was reading until I came upon the story's final pages. Sure, a couple of writers stretch too far and wind up with dull stories or pieces that don't quite come together. Their failures are small, and the successes in this book are large. I especially enjoyed "The Thing Around Your Neck," by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; "Selling the General," by Jennifer Egan; "The Seventy-two-Ounce Challenge" by Dika Lam; "Embrace," by Roxana Robinson; "Joan, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orleans," by Judy Budnitz; "Gabriella, My Heart," by Cristinia Henriquez. I'll be watching for these women's names next time I head to the book store in search of a new friend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    This is probably one of those few titles where someone on the train doesn't have to ask me what the book is not about. Although I did get the few "so, what is it?" Elizabeth Merrick has compiled a fantastic collection of short stories by contemporary women writers. There was only one that I skipped over, one that was boring, and I was dissapointed by Mary Gordon's "The Epiphany Branch," which is indeed about NYPL's Epiphany Branch. It just started to sound like Mary Gordon was complaining about This is probably one of those few titles where someone on the train doesn't have to ask me what the book is not about. Although I did get the few "so, what is it?" Elizabeth Merrick has compiled a fantastic collection of short stories by contemporary women writers. There was only one that I skipped over, one that was boring, and I was dissapointed by Mary Gordon's "The Epiphany Branch," which is indeed about NYPL's Epiphany Branch. It just started to sound like Mary Gordon was complaining about the library and put it into the words of her character. The stories were great and included some of my favorite authors like Jennifer Egan, Mary Gordon (even though...), Aimee Bender, and others. The other thing that also brought my rating down was the premise of the collection. Elizabeth Merrick put this collection of short stories together to bring attention to other female writers that weren't writing "chick lit." She even mentions The Diary of Bridge Jones which seems to have spearheaded this movement. So essentially she is saying "chick lit sucks read this because I think its more intellectual." And what I have to say is, (and here comes my woman's studies minor), so what. Shouldn't we honor all types of women writers? So Danielle Steele and Jane Green write what some people would consider trash, but to others they are providing a source of entertainment. And if you ever read The Diary of Bridget Jones there's actually a lot of feminist opinion in the novel, but all in good fun. Its not trashy at all. Its just the fact that when it was turned into a movie, they never included those pieces of the book. Anyways yea.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danica

    Note to self: if you're feeling disillusioned by modern fiction, don't, for the love of god, go flouncing on down to the library to check out even more modern fiction to read. This book makes me despair: this is the best that the ladywriters of America have to offer? It's sad, but these stories feel and read lifelessly -- as if animated by a special kind of vegetable consciousness. To judge by the proferred stories, there is not a budding Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Dorothy Parker, or Joy Note to self: if you're feeling disillusioned by modern fiction, don't, for the love of god, go flouncing on down to the library to check out even more modern fiction to read. This book makes me despair: this is the best that the ladywriters of America have to offer? It's sad, but these stories feel and read lifelessly -- as if animated by a special kind of vegetable consciousness. To judge by the proferred stories, there is not a budding Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Dorothy Parker, or Joyce Carol Oates among the listed author(esses). I had higher hopes for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but maybe this isn't the medium that best showcases her writing chops. The Jennifer Egan piece was one of the weakest, most outlandish ones from Goon Squad. Even the story about coming out gay in Panama and the story by the token Chinese-American author (always two categories near and dear to my heart) fell flat; each attempting revelation, soaring epiphany, life-changing acceptance of the flawed human self, but mostly just sputtering and nudging along the ground, exhausted. Kind of like Buzz and Woody on their rocket ship/skateboard at the end of Toy Story 1. "Failure to launch..." Also, why does everyone in here write the same way? What I'd give for a line of Morrison's or Robinson's that reads like it'd wandered in accidentally from a poetry conference. (At least I found Ava Bean and Embrace quite moving.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Picked this one up at the library's used book sale and flew through it. I found the title somewhat misleading, as the collection of short stories touts itself as not being anything like what is considered "chick lit," yet most of the stories dealt with love and relationships. Still, these stories wove a tapestry of fascinating female characters - perplexing, complicated, and not one that could be mistaken as "America's Sweetheart." The story Two Days by Aimee Bender was short but the dialogue wa Picked this one up at the library's used book sale and flew through it. I found the title somewhat misleading, as the collection of short stories touts itself as not being anything like what is considered "chick lit," yet most of the stories dealt with love and relationships. Still, these stories wove a tapestry of fascinating female characters - perplexing, complicated, and not one that could be mistaken as "America's Sweetheart." The story Two Days by Aimee Bender was short but the dialogue was pretty awesome, with lines like "reading the names of foods listed in black plastic stick-on letters: chili dog. Onion rings. Popsicle. Words I love to see in black plastic stick-on, words that conveyed summer to me, on this cloudly November afternoon." Documents of Passion Love was a difficult read, as it is written with brief descriptions meant to be posted underneath archival photos, from different perspectives and times. Yet it is worth a second read to piece the mystery of the story together. Volunteers are Shining Stars tells the tale of a volunteer at a shelter who is unnerved by the introduction of a bubbly new co-worker. Very reminiscent of James Thurber. Readers will enjoy a departure from the usual Manhattanite looking for sample sales, love and the hottest night spot for women - and men in some cases - of character and color.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    Maybe I've just been out of college too long for this kind of book. I'm not into chick lit, particularly; and I'm a pretty staunch feminist, but this collection of short stories seemed to me to be a little heavy-handed in the "I'm a woman so my life is miserable" department. It's as if the editor picked stories to complete some kind of checklist: "Immigrant from third world is taken advantage of, check. Limited educational opportunity, check. Young woman sexualized by the media, check. Nasty div Maybe I've just been out of college too long for this kind of book. I'm not into chick lit, particularly; and I'm a pretty staunch feminist, but this collection of short stories seemed to me to be a little heavy-handed in the "I'm a woman so my life is miserable" department. It's as if the editor picked stories to complete some kind of checklist: "Immigrant from third world is taken advantage of, check. Limited educational opportunity, check. Young woman sexualized by the media, check. Nasty divorce, check. Unhappy marriage, double check. Trading financial security for freedom, check." This is not to say the book isn't well written. It is. I liked several of the stories very much. Jennifer Egan's "Selling the General" is hilarious. I also really liked "An Open Letter to Dr. X" by Francine Prose. Even the ones I didn't like so much ("The Epiphany Branch" by Mary Gordon channeled "Miss Brill," my least favorite short story on the planet far too much) were good quality. But I doubt I'll ever be interested in reading it again, which may be more of a genre thing for me. The only book of short stories that I reread periodically is my battered copy of (nerd alert!)Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow edited by Ray Bradbury. I kind of feel like a traitor to the women in literature cause for giving this two stars. But I really didn't like it. Alas.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    A diverse collection from some incredibly strong writers. Yes, they all happen to be women, and I understand that that's the point of this collection, but I don't care about their genders as much as I care about the sheer talent contained in this book. This is one of the best collections I’ve read recently, right up there with The Best American Short Stories 2012 and Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. “Selling the General” was a re-read for me; I first encounter A diverse collection from some incredibly strong writers. Yes, they all happen to be women, and I understand that that's the point of this collection, but I don't care about their genders as much as I care about the sheer talent contained in this book. This is one of the best collections I’ve read recently, right up there with The Best American Short Stories 2012 and Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. “Selling the General” was a re-read for me; I first encountered it in A Visit From the Goon Squad. I forget how good Jennifer Egan is until I read her again; she surprises me anew every time. “Love Machine” was fantastically twisted; “Embrace” was heart-stopping; and “The Epiphany Branch” was funny, politically incorrect, and touching. I loved the anachronistic “Joan, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orléans” and couldn’t get enough of “Gabriella, My Heart” — it was like a novel crammed into twenty pages, in the best possible way. The only disappointment was that the last two stories were possibly the weakest, so the collection didn’t end on a high note for me. That’s not to say that the two final stories were bad, because they weren’t; they just weren’t as mind-blowing as the others. All in all: worth reading, worth owning, and opened my eyes to a bevy of amazing, read-more-by-her authors.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I chose This Is Not Chick Lit for book club because we don't usually pick anthologies, and I wanted us to read some contemporary women authors. I was also curious to see if the whole "chick lit" thing would provoke discussion. Indeed, a lively discussion was had. Most of us felt that although chick lit may not be high literature, it has its place and shouldn't be relegated to the Harlequin romance section, and that chick lit, as a genre, offers more than its stereotype. We also discussed the ant I chose This Is Not Chick Lit for book club because we don't usually pick anthologies, and I wanted us to read some contemporary women authors. I was also curious to see if the whole "chick lit" thing would provoke discussion. Indeed, a lively discussion was had. Most of us felt that although chick lit may not be high literature, it has its place and shouldn't be relegated to the Harlequin romance section, and that chick lit, as a genre, offers more than its stereotype. We also discussed the anti-chick-lit chick-lit cover. High points in the anthology: "Volunteers are Shining Stars," Curtis Sittenfeld's exploration of the fine line between crazy and not crazy; Jennifer Egan's "Selling the General," in which a Central American dictator gets a PR makeover; Judy Budnitz's "Jean, Jeanne, La Pucelle, Maid of Orleans," wherein Joan of Arc's crusade is captured by a reality television crew; and Roxana Robinson's "Embrace," the tale of an evolving marriage forced to endure tragedy. Overall, I give high marks to This Is Not Chick Lit. As with any anthology it contains some stinkers, but there are also some thought-provoking stories.

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