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Chick Lit Stripped Bare

November 22, 2010

An interesting interview with New Zealand’s own Michelle Holman.

Michelle Holman’s chick lit stripped bare Megan Nicol Reed – Sunday Star Times

Chick lit is meant to leave you happy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t weave in serious issues, Michelle Holman says.

It’s got one of those dinky little drawings on the cover so beloved of the chick lit genre: an elongated girl, a pair of discarded high heels, some twirly pattern. It promises “sizzling sex”, “the best one-liners”, “believable escapism”. The back cover hints at a love clash. He’s an “arrogant American former-NBA star”. She’s an “aloof `don’t mess with me’ policewoman”. Sherry and Glen can’t stand each other but “they fancy each other something rotten”.

It would be so easy to be scathing. Too easy. But local writer Michelle Holman’s new novel, Barefoot, has a few surprises. Sure there’s plenty of sentences like this one: “Her breasts glided over his naked chest as she whispered against his lips, ‘Savour this instead’.” But there’s also a whole bunch of stuff about domestic violence. In her job as a policewoman, Sherry (she of the gliding breasts) works for a family violence unit and two of her cases feature prominently in the book’s plotline.

As a former nurse at North Shore Hospital’s emergency department, Holman did a workshop on domestic violence and was profoundly affected by what she learnt.

“I never saw my dad hit my mother. My husband’s father never hit his mother. I’ve never been hit. I take it for granted. If I was hit I’d be so shocked, I’d be devastated, but these women, they drag themselves out of bed in the morning, they’ve got post-concussion syndrome quite often, and they just are dragging themselves around, trying to put food on the table, trying to keep it together.

“I can remember one of my very last duties that I did, I dealt with a young woman who’d obviously been abused… and it’s the way it’s hidden. They feel so much that they have done something wrong. They’re indoctrinated into that thought pattern and they’re ashamed too. They only turn up at the hospital if things are really bad because they just get on with their lives and the kids are in on it too. It’s this huge secret.”

Finish reading here.

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