NY Times Calls Obama Book 'Chick' Lit
Critics see label as slight to serious book, author
By Mary Papenfuss, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2012 2:03 AM CST
Updated Feb 20, 2012 3:00 AM CST
New York Times Washington correspondent Jodi Kantor talks about her book "The Obamas" on "Face the Nation" earlier this year.   (AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher)

(Newser) – A generally gushing review in the New York Times of a book by its own Washington correspondent hit an Internet landmine when it referred to the book as "chick nonfiction," observes New York Magazine. The reconfiguration of the term "chick lit" was no doubt meant to be witty when Douglas Brinkley discussed Jodi Kantor's bestseller The Obamas, which follows the first couple's relationship in the White House. But bloggers and tweeters are stunned. The label seen as a sexist slight by many comes in the wake of years of criticism of the Times for predominantly reviewing books penned by male authors. "That alleged lack of respect—and to call a book 'chick nonfiction' is to call it unserious—extends not only to the woman who is the author, but also to the woman who is the subject," notes The Scroll, referring to Michelle Obama.

When a woman writes even a serious book in Times-land, argues novelist Jennifer Weiner, "it can only be gossip, and the writer, however skilled a reporter, is still merely a chick." A Washington Post blogger took the opportunity to zing the Times. The Obamas is "among the very best books on this White House," notes Ezra Klein. "It’s a serious, thoughtful book on the modern presidency in general. So no, I’m not going to call it ‘chick nonfiction.’” So far no response to request for comment from the Times, notes The Scroll.

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Showing 3 of 16 comments
Gonzo_Wilhelm
Feb 21, 2012 4:53 PM CST
When Americans can stop being so damned thin skinned about things progress can surly begin. The term Chick lit is not sexist. Not all women (a vast majority) who write novels are writers of chick-lit Lets face it, Chick-lit is a genre littered with crappy novels which in turn become crappy romantic comedies on the big screen.... pure drivel. Sounds like this new book on the Obamas is geared toward a particular market. That is not to say women in general, but to a particular sort of woman who had she lived fifty years ago would have watched the Jackie Kennedy tour of the White House on television. There are equally horrid & flat bits of literature & pop-historical books marketed towards men... so why all the hub-bub about a particular nick-name for a genre of badly written books that float up just above the level of a Harlequin romance novel.
pranaphish
Feb 20, 2012 3:28 PM CST
I am just offended as a female that the term 'chick lit' is coined as an insult to women. I am not concerned about the quality of this particular book, but the fact that there is a genre chick lit seems to demeans the intelligence and asserts inferiority of women. Not that I read novellas as such but I would assume that reading a Danielle Steele (stereotyped female) novel requires the same intellectual ability as a Clive Cussler (stereotyped male). Biographical novels tend to be lighter reading, who cares, at least people are still reading. Honestly, I haven't read this book, just found the terms 'chick lit' to be an unnecessary jab at women.
Tis_I
Feb 20, 2012 11:36 AM CST
Can't imagine what else to call it since Kantor never interviewed the Obama's before she wrote the book. http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/158477/new-york-times-reporter-doesnt-mind-that-she-didnt-interview-obamas-for-her-book/ But not to worry - Kantor will still make a boatload of money from it.