Teacups: The Next Cupcake in Chick-Lit Cover Design

What Women Really Think
Nov. 29 2011 1:14 PM

Are Teacups the Next Chick-Lit Cover Cliché?

teacups_on_post_recession_chick_lit_covers_the_next_martini_glas1322585802853
The cover of Nancy Jensen'sThe Sisters(St. Martin's Press).


Nancy Jensen’s novel The Sisters, which came out earlier this month, is a family saga set in Kentucky that’s already drawn comparisons to The Help. It’s also one of several recent books geared toward women that prominently feature teacups on their covers—in this case, two broken flower-painted china cups, no doubt overflowing with symbolism.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

 

Advertisement

The Sisters cover comes on the heels of that of last winter’s young-adult thriller Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves (which highlights three pastel teacups dripping blood) and augurs that of the upcoming sentimental novel One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner (which shows a stack of teacups being splashed with water). That’s not even to mention two Australian chick-lit releases from last year with teacup-centered jackets (Melanie La’Brooy’s Bittersweet and Christine Darcas’ Spinning Out). Or a handful of recent additions to the canon illustrated by coffee mugs or ambiguous hot-beverage receptacles (Teresa Medeiros’s Goodnight Tweetheart, Marilyn Brant’s Friday Mornings at Nine, and Sue Margolis’s Perfect Blend).

What accounts for the sudden influx of teacup-themed chick-lit covers? Could the teacup soon overtake the cupcake and the high-heeled shoe as the reigning chick-lit cover cliché?

Not including a couple of books from the mid-aughts whose titles actually contained the word “tea,” the teacup cover-design trend doesn’t appear to have caught on until last year—and that timing is telling. In today’s economy, the urban affluence suggested by the martini glass and the Jimmy Choo feels distasteful and out of touch. Similarly, the cupcake (a ludicrously infantilizing trend that is finally, blessedly on its way out) evokes a Sex and the City-era frivolity that much of today’s chick-lit readership simply can’t be bothered to indulge in anymore.

Tea, on the other hand, is a pleasure for the 99 percent: practical, demure, and classic. You don’t need money, connections, or a big-city lifestyle to indulge in tea; you just need a teabag, hot water, and a cup to drink it out of. And teacups, conveniently, with their gentle curves and delicate color schemes, are just girly enough to make it absolutely clear which half of the gender spectrum this recent crop of books is intended for.

There’s no telling how long the teacup trend will last. Maybe the recession will end soon enough to send chick-lit heroines tottering back to their designer dresses and fancy cocktails. Maybe publishers will stop defining readers by their gender and genders by their superficial characteristics. (Don’t hold your breath.) Until then, the teacup is it: femininity distilled for the post-Great Recession era.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?