In middle school, I loved a good romance. I used to secretly read books like the Sweet Valley High series, and any story that had a love story was appealing to me. Until now, I never told that I read those voraciously.
Then when I got older, I found out it was taboo. “Chick lit.” Any film focusing on the female condition was dismissed as a “chick flick.” Only appealing to women, not the higher society of men.
I say that sarcastically because I am tired of stories being dismissed because they tell a woman’s tale. Today is Jane Austen’s 239th birthday. She is my favorite author of all time, right up there with J.K. Rowling (Shannon Hale is slowly, but quickly, joining these two literary giants in my high estimation). However, tell someone you are a Janeite, especially a man, and then comes the flow of “Oh, that’s chick lit,” “I read her stuff in high school, it was boring.”
Before I entered the world of librarianship, I was very much a literary snob, but I always kept my “guilty pleasures” secret. If I liked a book that wasn’t of high literary caliber to a man, I kept my mouth shut.
Not anymore! I want to read everything I want to read. I want to read the young adult literature that I’ve been putting off because I am afraid of what others will think when they see me reading a book with a teenage girl on the cover. I am throwing away the idea of “boy books” and “girl books.” Instead, I am calling them children’s books, young adult books, or adult books.
And as far as the stories I like, I may be a “natural born cynic” (to quote last year’s Newbery Award winning-book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo), as far as romance is concerned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good story.
You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite films of all time. I also loved Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron is the Jane Austen of films – she portrays real women doing real things. Real women, and men, fall in love. Real women, and men, have emotional needs that must be met or that person feels depressed or incomplete. Why must emotions be exclusively a woman’s territory and why must we as women apologize for wanting to meet those emotional needs? Why should our stories, our successes, our failures, our hopes and dreams be of lower culture than those of our menfolk?
I’ll tell you something – they are not lower culture. WE as women are not lower culture. Whether we are writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, librarians, stay-at-home moms, single with no family, or wives with no children, all of our stories are important. We are all people in the eyes of God. Men, I want to hear your stories. Women, I want to hear yours.