In 6th grade I traded in middle-grade fiction for the likes of Jane Austen and Shakespeare. I even lugged a Complete Works of William Shakespeare with me on a family trip to Florida the following year. It weighed almost as much as I did, and it was abridged! Classics and "literary fiction" has always been my jam. I liked to tell myself that classics were classics for a reason and that any genre fiction was beneath me.
I avoided Harry Potter because it was "children's literature," The Hunger Games because it featured a teenage love triangle. I have openly laughed at people reading Nicholas Sparks novels. I thought that these books, and many, many more, weren't worth a second look. Or perhaps I was just so worried people wouldn't think I was smart that I needed to slog my way through Anna Karenina to prove it.
And I was totally wrong. At a friend's insistence, I started reading The Hunger Games and I couldn't put it down. I devoured the Outlander series (all eleventy billion pages of it), and worst of all, this summer I started reading romance. And I liked it!
Romance and women's fiction are typically looked down on by Serious Literary Types. Even Iowa Writer's Workshop authors like Curtis Sittenfeld are critiqued ruthlessly for concerning themselves with romantic relationships in their work. If you aren't convinced that the Literary Canon is sexist, think of how many classics actually deal with the experience of motherhood. This incredibly common human experience is so rarely depicted on the page that every time I find a decent book about motherhood I add it to my list (Afterbirth, The Ten Year Nap, The Sunshine When She's Gone, anything by Maria Semple)
Some classics are great. A lot of literary fiction is interesting. Some classics are boring AF. Some literary fiction makes me want to claw my eyes out. There is value any genre. The only limitation we should place on our reading list is what brings us pleasure and what helps us grow.
Here's what I've read so far this summer:
-Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
-The Female Persuasion
-The Kiss Quotient
Plus some great yet-to-be-published books from my critique partners, which were both romance!
What's your summer reading list? Do you have any genres you refuse to read?