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From Dirty Girls to Enlightened Ladies

Chica lit writer Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez challenges genre expectations with her novel The Three Kings.

En español | Chica lit. Before 2003, the genre — shorthand for women’s fiction featuring middle-class Latinas — didn’t exist. Then came Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez with her bestseller, The Dirty Girls Social Club, and Time magazine dubbed her “godmother of chica lit.” Valdes-Rodriguez was ambivalent about that title then, and now, five years later, as her seventh novel, The Three Kings: A Christmas Dating Story, arrives on holiday shelves, she finds the designation remains limiting. “These are marketing terms,” she says. “I don’t think this label fits exactly the type of writing that I do, and it never really has.”

But the book’s cover and plot meet chica lit’s expectations. Protagonist Christy de la Cruz, an interior decorator in Santa Fe, seems to have it all — until her handsome husband walks out. Cousin Maggie to the rescue: She arranges dates with three men who, like the wise men, come bearing gifts.

Beneath the book’s beribboned cover, however, is a story that often unravels genre expectations when Christy confronts questions of class and racial identity and learns that the meaning of giving extends far beyond the material gifts of the holiday season.
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