Earlier I wrote about Marry Your Baby Daddy Day, a contest in which a group of couples who had a child together and the intention to marry someday were given an an-expenses-paid wedding, arranged by novelist Maryann Reid and Rev. Herbert Daughtry. Rev. Daughtry supplied the church and conducted the services. Ms. Reid wrote the novel, Marry Your Baby Daddy, which inspired the contest. Having been intrigued by the concept, I thought it only fair to read the novel, too.
The premise of the novel is that the loving grandmother of the three Anderson sisters has died. Each Anderson woman has a child with a man she sort-of wants to marry. To their surprise, grandma died with money – three million dollars worth. It will all come to them – if they each marry their “baby daddy” within six months. Romantic complications ensue.
Let me say at the outset that “chick lit” is not my genre, and black chick lit is terra incognita. I am not the target demographic. This is fine – in this great country of ours, there is room for every kind of reader and every genre of writing. Someday I will blog about my favorite genre, fast-paced church history. (I’m sure you can’t wait).
The women range in age from late-twenties to mid-thirties, and in class from the corporate lawyer big sister to the successful hairdresser middle child to the file clerk little one. The men include the sweet one who wants to marry, the decent one who doesn’t want the bother, and the handsome tomcat who is by turns sweet and brutal. Oh, and there is a handsome lawyer handling the estate. I am guessing that experienced readers of the genre could fill in the rest. But novelty is not the point of popular genres. My wife reads mysteries every night, not for the puzzle so much as to be drawn into the setting and the nuance of familiar kinds of characters. The evocation of the particularities of New York black culture, especially in the Brooklyn settings, is engaging. The communication among the sisters, who have only one another to rely on, is believable and really the emotional core of the story.
I was struck by a few features, though, that I couldn’t simply attribute to the genre. For one thing, nearly every chapter contains a detailed sex description. In the “Sex and the City” literary world (as opposed, of course, to real life), is this customary? Moreover, there was not a single married father in the story. We infer that grandma has been married to produce her granddaughter’s mother, but he is so long gone his departure is not even described. The sisters’ mother killed herself when the girls were young. There is no mention at all of their father or fathers, nor a suggestion that her mother ever married. I won’t be spoiling the ending to say that some of the baby daddies become married fathers by the end, but only in that order, and only under extraordinary conditions.
The poor teen moms in Promises I Can Keep, which I wrote about earlier, grow up in a world without married fathers. These women, black, white, and Hispanic, are shaped by their poverty as much as their ethnic culture. The fictional women of Marry Your Baby Daddy, on the other hand, are above poverty. Marriage is not an economic decision for them, but an emotional one. Their questions are, am I ready to settle down, and do I want to settle down with this man? Even in the end, one of the new wives does not want to commit on whether her marriage is permanent.
Jane Austen wrote the great classic chick lit about, and for, women seeking to be wives and (then) mothers. (And wonderful moral tales they are, too, which I admire hugely, lest anyone thing I am disrespectful of the great Jane). Bridget Jones, for all her near-parody of Jane Austen, still seeks the same thing. Marry Your Baby Daddy rests on a different premise, or at least a wildly different order of operations. Is this typical? I would welcome your comments.