f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Other 1400-Lb Elephant in the Room

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The Other 1400-Lb Elephant in the Room

Besides gender, there’s one more “issue” that’s out there when you look at the CBA bookshelves and it’s one I feel completely unqualified to write about because I understand the dynamics behind it a lot less. That issue is our society’s ever-present stumbling block of race.

CBA fiction bookshelves are, for the most part, Caucasian. I know of one Christian publisher who specializes in books (and Christian fiction) for African American women: Walk Worthy Press. They are currently engaged in a joint publishing venture with Warner Books but as of now I’m unaware of how the partnership is working out for either parties. (I’d love to find out though. It’s an intriguing idea.)

The question then becomes the same as we’ve asked over the last few days. What’s the difference between publishing fiction for white women, fiction for white men, fiction for African American women, or fiction for Nepalese eunuchs? In the end, outside of understanding your audience and finding books that meet their needs, there really is none. It’s a niche; it’s a genre. What’s more concerning is that we think just because a book has a young black woman as a protagonist that the book will only reach other young black women. Far from it. One of the most interesting books I’ve read recently was The Intuitionist written by Colson Whitehead. If you’d sold that book to its target audience you’d have had five readers: single, middle-aged black female elevator inspectors.

If there’s one area that seems ripe for dramatization it’s the notion of race within the Christian community. If there’s no man or woman, no Jew or Greek, no slave or master within Jesus as Paul says, how come our churches often don’t reveal that to the outer world? And we’re not just talking about black and white skin in this discussion. Set a recent Swedish immigrant on the prairie and that’s as much ethnicity as you often see in Christian fiction. Somebody out there with their eyes open and their fingers ready to type needs to bring vital life to their community, their “tribe” in the post modern sense, their heritage. Our God is not just the God of middle American white people like me. (No matter how often I act like it.)