Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thoughts on GENRE and why I'm doing away with Women's Fiction

And, now, here is a post about what is going on through my mind today....

As I said in my Tuesday post, I'll be doing Bloggiesta next week and one of my goals is to do a review index by genre.  That sounded fairly easy when I thought it up and committed to doing it, but--as is the usual course of things--it became a little muddled.

My problem is around fiction genres.  Some books clearly fall into a genre, such as science fiction and mystery and historical fiction.  Others are a little more, well, gray.  There is "literary fiction," but what is that?  My personal definition is a little embarrassing--if it would make good book club fodder, it is probably "literary fiction."  "Romance" has been giving me trouble--on both of my challenges this year, I need to read a romance novel and my definition of the genre is pretty limited: something in mass market paperback that has a plot that is strictly a love story.  But, I'm currently reading The Rosie Project, which many people describe as a romance, yet it does not meet my definition of the genre, so I'm not sure.

Genre is just such a tricky thing.  On the one hand, I wish there were guidelines saying what each genre is and is not.  Yet, my favorite books are the ones that fall into two or more genres or the ones that turn a genre on its ear.  As a reader, I could do away with genres.  As a book blogger, I couldn't live without them.

The genre which is giving me the most trouble is that of Women's Fiction.  When I assign a genre to a book, it is based on whatever the publishers have put out.  Still, I cringe every single time I assign the Women's Fiction.  As reader Catherine commented (and I have to paraphrase here because I recently installed Disqus, which erased ALL of my comments), "It's not like there is 'Men's Fiction.'"
Of course not, that would be sexist.

I asked twitter about it and Liz gave me one of the better definitions I have seen:

The sad thing is, many of the titles I've tagged as Women's Fiction--thanks to the publisher--are incredible books and ones I would recommend to anyone, not just women.

Because of all these thoughts I'm having--and the fact that I'm going through ALL of my reviews anyway--I figured this was a good time to take another look at genre and how I use it in this blog.  And, the first thing I'm going to do is get rid of Women's Fiction.  Looking back at the Women's Fiction titles I've reviews, the majority, if not all, could fall under the umbrella of Contemporary Fiction, another vague, but less contentiously titled, genre.

You may ask why I don't get rid of genres altogether.  Believe me, I'm tempted.  As I said, I frequently find genre more of a hindrance than anything.  However, as a blog reader, I would find it very frustrating to stumble upon a review without some kind reference of what type of book it was.  When I write reviews, I try to avoid spoilers and, because of that, the genre of the book may not be clear from the text of my post.  Also, if someone goes looking for something to read, the first thing they are thinking of might be the genre.

This is not limited to just women's fiction.  Just yesterday I published a review of Julie Cantrell's When Mountains Move and spent a good portion of the post explaining that this should not be considered a "Christian Fiction" work, even though it was put out by Christian publisher and categorized by them as Christian Fiction.  I'm not far into it yet, but I doubt that The Rosie Project will be a romance in my mind (but I could be wrong on that) and instead I'll list as something I find more appropriate.

Genres are, at least to me, a necessary evil.  However, I think it is time for me to take the reins on some of that evil.  I'm no longer going to just put the publisher's genre of a book out there.  I will decide on what genre I will consider a book to be.   They will be my suggestions for a reader, not a decree of what a book may or may not be.

I'm sure there will be people who don't agree with a genre I put to the book and that will be okay.  I don't pretend to be the all-knowing book blogger.  This is just my little corner of the internet where I talk about my experience with books, and that experience no longer includes labeling books as "women's fiction."

Now, could someone give me a good definition of the Romance genre?

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