- Chica Lit: Popular Latina Fiction and Americanization in the Twenty-First Century by Tace Hedrick
In Chica Lit: Popular Latina Fiction and Americanization in the Twenty-First Century, Tace Hedrick examines authors and texts from the genre of "chica lit." Chica lit is a subgenre of women's (romance) literature and can also be defined as a Sex in the City–like genre with a Latina twist. Hedrick begins her analysis with the well-known Alicia Vales and the Dirty Girls Social Club (2003) series, moving to the lesser-known vampire genre in Marta Acosta's Happy Hour at Casa Dracula (2008) and to more traditional chica lit beach reads such as Lara Rios's Becoming Latina in Ten Easy Steps (2006). Hedrick assesses these texts and genres as interwoven with culture and representations of Latinas, an important undertaking, particularly because Latinx identity is under attack.
Chica Lit has three main chapters; the first two discuss chica lit and its fulfillment of certain generic constraints. In the first chapter Hedrick discusses the formula writers and publishers use in the romance industry: formulaic equation + publication = profit. Like its parent genre chick lit, chica lit has specific variables to ensure that the genre is profitable and palatable enough for the buyer to consume (more of) these images of Latinas. Some of the factors in the equation include heteronormativity, essential femininity, middle class, and contained ethnicity (not too ethnic or too resistant to society). Chapter 2 further examines the genre's intricacies of Latina identity and how they factor (or not) into the genre's narrative and formula(e): [End Page 180] contained ethnicity, class and its conflict with cultural capital, and taste and style (versus kitsch).
Chapter 3 departs from the generic expectations of the subgenre and moves into a more complex analysis of Latinization and who has the authority to say what constitutes being Latina/o. One way in which the genre's characters qualify as being Latina is on the basis of their rejection of preconceived notions of what it means to be Latina/o. These preconceptions include elements that can "mark" one as Latina/o: chola, communication or communing with spirits, poverty, and fluency in English or Spanish language. The book concludes by reiterating how chica lit, similar to other romance literature, follows a cyclical formula to generate profit: a heterosexual chica with a professional career who encounters and overcomes obstacles, meets a man, gets the man (in spite of obstacles), marries the man, and lives heteronormatively happily ever after. Done. Next book.
But wait, where's the Latina/o element that makes these characters Latina/o? Recall that the genre is considered (pejoratively) a beach read, which means happy, easy, and carefree reading, nothing too complicated. Mexico, for instance, in the chica lit genre is imagined as a place of escape, a place with street vendors and bright colors. It is an imagined ideal where the protagonist who is brown or has a last name like López can become one with her culture and return to her roots simply by climbing the Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico City but not thinking about the forty-three students who have disappeared from Ayotzinapa or the deeply unpopular Mexican president. Race and ethnicity in chica lit is reduced to a palatable package to be sold and thus part of what keeps consumers coming back for more (purchases). Readers are aware of the formula and know what will happen in the narrative: career girl who's Latina meets boy and lives happily ever after.
While most traditional academics will not consider chica lit as "good literature," Hedrick argues that because these texts are so popular, they are worth examining, to see how Latina identity is constructed and how Latinas are represented in the texts. When it comes to chica lit, most readers and critics think of Valdes's seminal work with Dirty Girls. Hedrick's Chica Lit, however, provides a comprehensive literature review beyond Valdes...