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Chick lit tries weight issues on for size

Author Jen Lancaster reads from her novel 'Here I Go Again' Anderson's Bookshop Naperville 7 p.m Thursday.

Author Jen Lancaster reads from her novel "Here I Go Again" at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville at 7 p.m Thursday.

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Jen lancaster

† 7 p.m. Thursday

† Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson, Naperville

† (630) 355-2665;

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Updated: February 7, 2013 5:27PM

It is a truth universally acknowledged that chick lit protagonists are always women, and are just as likely to be concerned about their weight.

“Bridget Jones’s Diary” was heavy on Jones’s thoughts on her size. Jennifer Weiner’s Rose Feller was “In Her Shoes” because they fit better than her plus-sized clothes. In “The Devil Wears Prada,” characters working in the fashion industry find their job prospects heighten as their weight lessens.

As a Virginia Tech graduate student, Melissa Kaminski, 24, studied chick lit and body image after realizing there were ample studies looking at the correlations between movies and music videos on women and weight but no studies on the impact of the written word.

In her recently published master’s thesis “Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?” she suggests a female reader’s body image is influenced by descriptions of a character’s appearance and self-esteem.

Rewriting passages from Emily Giffin’s “Something Borrowed” and Laura Jensen Walker’s “Dreaming in Black and White,” Kaminski found that characters described as underweight caused readers to report feeling significantly less sexually attractive. Readers’ concerns about their own weight increased when reading about characters’ low body esteem.

Weight issues are a natural fit for the chick lit genre, she said.

“The genre is supposed to be real problems women face, and a lot of women do face problems with fluctuating weight, dieting and exercise,” she said. “It’s more real life than traditional romance novels, where women are perfect and never have any problems.”

She hopes people read the books with a heightened awareness that the content might be impacting them in this way.

“I would not suggest [people] don’t read chick lit — I still read it,” Kaminski said.

Jen Lancaster, a bestselling local chick lit author whose memoirs include “Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist’s Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big; Or, Why Pie Is Not the Answer,” described the study as a heavy load of horsepucky.

Lancaster, who lives in Lake Forest and will be signing books Thursday at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, believes the power of suggestion weighed in to the group of college women participating in the research.

“As soon as these guys read these passages they got these ideas about themselves,” Lancaster said. “As soon as I read Harry Potter I thought I could be a wizard.”

Lancaster ( said her stories about her weight have struck a positive chord with readers.

“I’m happy with myself to the point of almost being delighted,” she said. “People who read my stuff end up feeling better about themselves and think it’s okay to like yourself.”

Lancaster, who recently finished up a book chronicling her year of living according to the edicts of uber-homemaker Martha Stewart, said women read chick lit because they find something relatable in the characters.

“The chick lit books make women feel like they’re not alone, they’re not the only ones to experience whatever,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t read all sorts of literature. Sometimes, it’s just fun.”

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