By Maureen O. Campbell:
"Mit vierzehn Jahr und sieben Wochen
ist der Backfisch ausgekrochen."
At the age of fourteen years and seven weeks, a German girl was said to become a Backfisch. The term comes from the fishing industry, referring to fish too large to be returned to the water but so small as to be suitable only for baking (backen, in German), and in reference to women is more or less synonymous with 'teenager.'
During this period of her life, a young bourgeois woman navigated the difficult transition to adulthood, shedding childish behaviors such as selfishness and stubbornness in favor of the sense of duty, domesticity, and orderliness necessary to be a successful wife and mother.
In the late nineteenth century, German Backfisch had their own literature to narrate the transformation of a young tomboy into a responsible, marriageable young woman....
Jennifer Redman classes these novels as a type of 'extended Bildungsroman,' which 'offers readers, struggling through the awkward years between the ages of twelve and sixteen, a model for the successful transition to maturity.'
Though derided by critics then and now for their kitschiness and sentimentality, Backfisch books were a highly successful and influential form of genre fiction that shaped the reading habits of generations of German girls.
-- page 207, chapter 9, from Detectives, Dystopias, and Pop-lit: Studies in Modern German Genre Fiction, edited by Bruce B. Campbell, Alison Guenther-Pal, and Vibeke Rützou Petersen, Rochester, New York: Camden House, an imprint of Boydell & Brewer, Inc., 2014.