“The Pretty and the Political Didn’t Seem to Blend Well”: Anita Heiss’s Chick Lit and the Destabilisation of a Genre


  • Imogen Louise Mathew Australian National University


Anita Heiss, Chick Lit


In recent decades, chick lit has become a ubiquitous – if not always celebrated – feature of the contemporary literary, social and cultural landscape. In Australia, Anita Heiss is one of the genre’s preeminent practitioners, and the only Aboriginal author writing chick lit for a mainstream, middleclass audience. A close reading of two of her novels (Not Meeting Mr Right and Manhattan Dreaming) reveals a deep political engagement running through her fiction. On the one hand, this political engagement is expressed by Heiss’ commitment to foregrounding the lives and experiences of young, urban, Aboriginal women. On the other hand, the narrative is peppered with references to, and discussion of, urgent political issues: from banning the burqa in France to protesting the Northern Territory intervention in Melbourne. While Heiss’ political engagement is of an unapologetically, left-wing, liberal cast, the analysis undertaken in this article will show that a surprisingly conservative bias forms the subtext to many of the political interventions in Heiss’ fiction. Galvanised by the question of why there should be such competing ideological imperatives at work in her fiction, this article will argue that the demands of an inherently conservative genre restrain and limit the extent to which chick lit can be used to promulgate a socially progressive vision.

Author Biography

Imogen Louise Mathew, Australian National University

Imogen Mathew is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, Canberra.