“Trash”

Just a few weekends ago, I traveled to attend a staged play reading written by my father in law.  He lives in a small community about two and a half hours north of Los Angeles.  Nico and I travel up there on a semi-regular basis to visit his dad, and also to see some of the plays he’s been writing.  In the nearby town, there is an awesome independent bookstore that stocks my romances, and, a few years ago, graciously hosted me for a signing and reading of my non-romance literary fiction novel.

Thanks to the efforts of my FIL asking his friends to attend, the reading I’d held was extremely successful.  I met a lot of great people that day.  Recently, Amazon Encore picked up my novel as one of their October Kindle selections, so it’s only $2.99 for the month. Again, my FIL was very kind and let all his local friends know that the book was available for a discounted price.

So, flash forward a little bit, and here I am, walking into the auditorium where the staged reading is going to be held.  An older lady and her friend approach me to congratulate me about the novel being available on Amazon.  Then she confides, “All the friends I have who make money through digital books publish trash.  You know, like chick lit.”

Or romance, I mentally filled in.

My smile was strained as I replied that writing genre fiction is a very viable way to make a living, and, in fact, I write it, myself. Romance, specifically. She mumbled something, backpeddling, and then hastily retreated with her friend in tow.

Trash.

These comments are so ubiquitous, it’s almost impossible to be angry whenever they pop up.  But it always shocks me when women are so quick to denigrate or dismiss fiction written by and for other women.  And I have to wonder if the people who are so judgmental about romance have ever actually read any, or do they base their assumptions on out-of-date cliches or what the dominant paradigm tells them is valuable.

How can anyone judge another on the basis of what they write, or what they read?  Unless what is being written or read is actively harmful, why would you consign someone’s work or pleasure to the “trash” bin?  Is it better to write fiction with unhappy endings?  Should we prefer tales of stolid morality to genres that provide escapism and happiness?  That argument played out in the 18th and 19th century.

This is the 21st century.  It’s time to move on.

 

Comments

“Trash” — 13 Comments

  1. Agreed. I still have arguments with my family (parents, grandmother, etc), who see my hobby of reading romance as a waste of time and money. It’s asinine in this day and age.

    • Fortunately, no one in my family tells me that what I read and write is a waste. At least, they don’t say it to my face…

  2. I totally agree with you, Zoe! It’s just this kind of attitude that got me blogging about romance, romance novels and their authors in the first place. If you haven’t read it, don’t knock it. I’ve been reading romance all my life as well as many other genre fiction including extremes in sci-fi and fantasy. I look at every book as unique and worth consideration as a work of art. I have on occasion read works from all kinds of genre that I either couldn’t finish once I started it or worse, I threw in the trash after I did read it – not really, I pass it to someone else who might think it’s wonderful. We all have different tastes – thank goodness.
    Great rant – thank you! : )

  3. Preach it. I find this particularly annoying when expressed by people who read or even write SF/F–because it ain’t like us SF/F types haven’t endured our own long history of having our genre of choice snarked on! We should know better than to snark on other people’s reading choices!

    • Right? But I often find that people who have been subject to discrimination can be the most judgmental people of all.

  4. Word.

    If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard romance and other genre fiction dismissed as trash, I’d be rolling in my dough like Scrooge McDuck. I think what frustrates me just as much as the judgment of the work is the associated judgment of those who read it. As though you’re not as smart or as “pure” (whatever THAT means) as someone who reads only literature. And visions of swimming in piles of money aside, you couldn’t pay me to read most of what judgmental snobs feel is acceptable and worth their time…

    • I’ll join you in that swimming pool. I think that with romance, there’s an even greater tendency to conflate the reader with their choice of reading material, as though women can be essentialized through their books. No one makes that judgment about men!

  5. I have said to people before, “I don’t read literary fiction [add sneer when appropriate]; I only read GENRE fiction.” If I want to improve my mind, I’d read non-fiction (which I do, read non-fic I mean). I am unabashedly a genre fiction snob. To people who question my view, I present: “Madame Bovary”, “Vanity Fair” (the novel by Thackeray, not the magazine), “Anna Karenina” (or any Russian novel for that matter), and the worst of the lot, though a play, “Waiting for Godot”. Having been made to read all that nonsense in school, why would this voracious reader want *anything* to do with literary fiction after graduation? *shudders*

    • I think there’s room for all varieties of fiction, but dismissing one or lionizing another benefits no one. Let’s all read what we want, without judgment!

  6. I read something the other day that suggested that literary fiction is really another type of genre fiction, with its own set of genre conventions, and that the sooner we all acknowledged this the sooner we could all get along. Which sounded pretty interesting, actually.