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

(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.

New York Times Washington correspondent Jodi Kantor talks about her book The Obamas on Face the Nation earlier this year.
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)
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