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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

entry arrow12:53 AM | Filipinas and Asian Chick Lit

I miss Summit Books. Those pastel-colored, brilliantly written escapist fare otherwise known as Chick Lit, which were authored by some of our best young women writers which included Tweet Sering, Abi Aquino, Claire Betita, Mabi David, and Melissa Salva. I miss the old books anyway. It was never the same when Tara FT Sering, who used to be the series editor, left Summit Publishing to pursue other publishing interests. (She's now the managing editor of Contemporary Arts Philippines Magazine.) But now, three of the Summit writers have come back to bookstore shelves, this time through a Singapore-based publisher, and they are slowly changing the way we look at this genre of pop literature.

Newsweek recently did a piece on so-called Asian chick lit -- mostly books by the publisher Marshall Cavendish which is based in Singapore -- and the article focuses on several authors, three of whom happen to be Filipinos: the always unbelievable Tara, Maya O. Calica, and Noelle Chua.

From the article by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop:

We've always seen a demand for quality fictional writing with a local slant in the region," says Chris Newson, general manager of Marshall Cavendish. "Chick lit has been one of the most successful global publishing genres over the last 15 years, and it's been very successful commercially in the region, so why not produce a local variety?"

The trick is to make even local varieties hew closely to the standard formula. "You have a heroine who is cosmopolitan and independent-—someone who other women want to be," says Noelle Chua, author of Mrs. MisMarriage, whose heroine's glamorous life loses its luster as soon as her new boyfriend proposes. "But she's not perfect, like the heroines of old Barbara Cartland romance novels. From the beginning, like in Bridget Jones, you see her flaws, and the heroine can laugh at herself."

While love's travails and professional success are universal chick-lit themes, Asian chick lit also reflects some cultural differences. "In Western chick lit, the heroine's support system consists almost entirely of friends, but in Asian societies, family is also very much involved," says Lum Kit Wye, the winner of the Marshall Cavendish writing competition. Her novel, In Ten Easy Steps, about a homebody legal secretary who relies on her family to help her change her life after her boyfriend dumps her, will be published in Singapore this fall. Sex, fairly pervasive though never very graphic in most Anglo-Saxon chick lit, is more understated in Asian chick-lit novels. "The heroines are urbane, modern Asians, but they're probably less forward than their Western counterparts, especially in terms of their relationships with men," says Chua. "I think Asian women by and large are still less aggressive and outspoken than Western ones."

Read the rest here.

[In the same issue, Jessica Zafra writes about Brillante Mendoza's Cannes-winning film Kinatay, and dares us to look away.]

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