In defense of fantasy
I have a BA and an MA in English Lit, so I spent the years between 2009 and 2014 doing nothing but reading "good" literature. Shakespeare, Brontë, Chaucer, Shaw, Twain...I loved them for the most part, but after I finished grad school I needed a break. There's only so much Middle English a woman can read before she needs something lighter.
I always joke that I read two types of books: the classics and anything with magic in it. After having the canon pounded into my head for years, though, I started to see my beloved fantasy books as infantile, unsophisticated and something to be almost ashamed of. And those were the classic, masculine or at least gender-neutral titles. You know, books with dark covers and serious fonts. I wouldn't dare pick up any "feminine" fantasy.
Then I was recommended A Court of Thorns and Roses by a friend who insisted I read it after we saw the laughably bad 50 Shades Darker. She promised that it would be my new fantasy obsession. "Plus," she said, "the sex scenes are way better than in 50 Shades."
So, I got the first one out of the library. And then the second. And then the third came out and I abandoned the library, opting to just buy all three, foreseeing multiple repeat-reads. And yet, as much as I loved these books, I found myself reluctant to read them in public, especially on the subway. What if someone saw their covers, each prominently featuring an illustration of the main heroine bedecked in faerie gowns, and think I wasn't a serious reader? What if they judged me for reading chick-fantasy and assumed I've never picked up "real" literature?
This line of thinking was ridiculous for a number of reasons. First and foremost: I'm reading on the El, and there is literally no one there I want to impress. But equally important was discounting my own internal prejudice about what constitutes a "good" book. I had been conditioned to believe that anything less than the classics or literary fiction like Infinite Jest (gag me) was worthy of scorn. Or, at the very least, tarnished my degrees.
But that isn't true! It's okay to have read most of Shakespeare's plays AND be really into novels about faeries. So what if my book cover screams, "THIS IS A FANTASY NOVEL WRITTEN BY A WOMAN FOR A FEMININE AUDIENCE?" Just because a novel may be primarily aimed at a feminine audience doesn't make it less worthy of reading, which I'm embarrassed to have had to tell myself. Who cares if some rando across the aisle from me judges me for reading a fantasy novel? I don't have time for anyone who doesn't appreciate books about magical creatures anyway.
Oh, and my friend was right, by the way. The sex scenes were WAY better than 50 Shades.
Also check out: What I'm Reading - Summer 2017