Homeward Bound

Why women are embracing the new domesticity

Is "Farm Lit" the New Chick Lit?

Is moving to a farm the new female fantasy?

Remember chick lit? The hot pink covers featuring martini glasses or stiletto heels (one heel lying jauntily on its side, as if it had been kicked off in haste, bed-side). The plucky young heroines striving to get the man – and that job promotion – in glittery metropolises filled with wisecracking gay men and hilariously self-deprecating best friends.

Well it’s over. Dead. Kersplat. Because, really, who’s wearing stilettos in these recessionary days? Sex and the City-esque fantasies seem about as dated as “the Rachel.”

Today’s hottest genre aimed at women is what I like to call “career girl gone Green Acres.” Think memoirs of ambitious, urban women who have followed their dreams to rural farms, where they’ve found all sorts of zany adventures and misadventures. To wit:

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (AKA The Pioneer Woman) – A young career woman quits her “spoiled city girl” life in Los Angeles to marry an Oklahoma rancher and become a “domestic country wife.”

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Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love by Jessie Knadler (of the blog Rurally Screwed) – A young Type-A New York magazine editor meets a Montana cowboy and moves to rural Virginia to farm chickens and raise a baby.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball – A young, female Manhattan journalist ditches the city to start a farm in upstate New York.

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich(of the blog Cold Antler Farm) – A young web designer quits city life to raise sheep on a farm in rural Vermont.

These books are so popular, I think, because they tap into our collective fantasies of simpler, more authentic lives. The out-and-out careerism and partying of the 1990s boomtime seems like a less appealing narrative these days; the idea of a slower, hands-on life (and maybe a cute farmer) is much more in line with the times.

Close cousins of the Career Girl Gone Green Acres genre include Better Living Through Baking (tired/depressed/divorcing woman finds solace in the kitchen – A Homemade Life, My Life From Scratch, and Saved by Cake are all good examples) and the Home & Garden Pastoral (a laid-off/unhappy/overworked women finds joy in home renovation/gardening – check out Slow Love for a prime example).

Do these books speak to you? Or do you miss the Manolos?

Emily Matchar is the author of Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity.

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