literaryWhat IS Literary Fiction?

What makes a book ‘Literary Fiction?’ The fiction category has two limbs-each of which serves a different purpose. Genre fiction, according to Steven Petite, provides a path of entertainment and escapism. I confess that I usually read genre fiction (historical inspirational, especially). I prefer reading books to watching television shows or movies. Mysteries, thrillers, suspense, Westerns, romance, science-fiction, and horror (I probably missed a few) make up the genre fiction limb.

Petite claims that the purpose of the other limb (literary fiction) differs greatly from genre fiction. Instead of providing an escape from life, literary fiction helps us dig deeper into reality and understand life. I would argue that the very best genre fiction helps us understand life, too. But for the purposes of explaining literary fiction, we’ll go with his definition.

Although I read mostly genre fiction, I do have a few favorites in the literary fiction category. My favorite work of literary fiction of all times? To Kill a Mockingbird. I confess that I’ve read it at least 15 times–mostly out loud to my students. (Speaking of which, anyone interested in an online book club reading of To Kill a Mockingbird?) Harper Lee’s gentle words and understated wit help me understand a time period and place in our history that baffle me.

I must admit that many books that receive the coveted ‘literary fiction’ tag just make me mad. They don’t turn out the way I think they should. I already know that life seldom turns out the way we expect it to–I don’t need to read a 500-page novel to understand that. Occasionally, a literary fiction work will snag my interest AND keep it.

How would YOU define literary fiction? What makes it different from general fiction? #amreading #literaryfiction #generalfiction Click To Tweet

My Name is Venus Black

When I first downloaded this book from NetGalley, I thought it was a YA (Young Adult) novel. I wondered how in the world it got a YA classification–the main character shares a birth year with me, and I went over the hill a few years ago.

After reading the book, I went back and checked. The publishers labeled it as ‘General/Literary Fiction’–the perfect designation. It’s not a pretentious, 500-page long, man’s view of the life. Instead, the multiple points of view in the narration help us climb inside the minds of a rich cast of characters. Some male, some female, some old, some young, some handicapped, and some strung out on drugs.

In the prologue, the protagonist states up front that she doesn’t believe in God. We next see her, 13 years old and scared, in an interrogation room. She realizes that she wet her pants. She also realizes that she’s done something so heinous that she can’t look at her action or she feels as if her life will go careening out of orbit.

The reader immediately wants to solve the mystery and get inside the mind of Venus Black–good girl, straight-A student, and murderer. A rich cast of characters, from Venus to her mom Inez, and half-brother Leo to a tattoo artist in Oakland and his daughter each reveal a tiny portion of the fragmented puzzle of what happened that fateful February night.

In the end, the story transcends the crime. It pulls us into the lives of a disparate group of people and helps us walk in their shoes. And as we walk, we understand that life seldom has clear black and white choices for us. So, although the thread of crime runs throughout the book, the threads of love and grace sparkle and glow.

Every parent, teacher, police officer, social worker, counselor, psychologist, pastor, youth worker, and older teen should read this book. Caveat, the language gets a little salty, but it’s not gratuitous. If you know a kid or have a kid, or work with kids, you need to read this book.

What’s On Your List?

Do you enjoy literary fiction? What’s your favorite book of all time in this category?

Don't miss this great new release from #HeatherLloyd. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll get angry and you'll want the book to never end. #amreading Click To Tweet

Note: Clicking on the picture of the book will take you to Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. Net Galley sends me advanced digital copies of these books in exchange for my honest opinion on their website. I only feature books that I really love on my blog.


  1. Wow! This book sounds amazing. I’m going to put it on hold. I’m currently reading (and already hooked by) Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, which I also found on your blog. Keep spreading book love!

  2. This was very interesting. I think most of the fiction I read falls into that category, so it’s hard to pick a favorite.
    My youngest son and I are just finishing up To Kill a Mockingbird as an audiobook. I’d forgotten how much of the book happens both before and after the trial, but it’s been a great experience to hear it along with my son. Chilling period of history of re-live.
    Michele Morin recently posted…Correcting the Soundtrack in Your HeadMy Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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