Diversity and Christian Publishing

Diversity and Christian Publishing

So! I was in a discussion at what has become one of my favorite blogs, Diversity Between the Pages. The latest chat posed a question, asking why ethnically diverse Christian Fiction is so important. I’ve blogged about this topic before, and I wanted to post my answer from last Saturday’s discussion here, slightly edited to make more sense as a standalone post. 🙂

Among other good reasons for publishing more diverse books, I don’t think Christian publishing would want to fall on the wrong side of history.

By that, I mean like Crusaders who murdered people in the name of Christ in medieval times. Or unscrupulous Church leaders who contributed to the need for the Protestant Reformation. Or preachers in the U.S. who condoned and pushed for American slavery over the pulpit. I know those examples may sound like extreme comparisons to fiction publishing, but I believe the principle is comparable. In super-simplified and understated terms, when we don’t value humanity as we should, the legacy we leave isn’t too pretty.

The Bible speaks of those from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” who were redeemed by Christ (Revelation 5:9, NASB). I think it’s important for Christian Fiction to reflect that kind of diversity—especially now, at a critical time when there’s a struggle and a fight going on for the rights, the dignity, and the very lives of people of color. We wouldn’t want Christian publishing’s legacy to be, “At that critical time, we still shied away from publishing diverse books because it didn’t make sense to us, money wise,” or “We didn’t think it was essential,” or “We discussed it but couldn’t get our ducks in a row to make it happen.”

Now, I’m not saying that Christian publishing is deliberately devaluing humanity. Or that no one in Christian publishing sees the seriousness of the time we’re living in. But I do think it’s important to consider the picture we’re painting that people will look at, years down the road. Will the books we’ve published indeed reflect that we value all humanity? What will the lens of history reveal about what we’ve produced—and what we haven’t?

Even as I’m mentioning “the wrong side of history,” I don’t think Christian publishing has to come at this from a negative angle, producing from a place of what we don’t want to be, or just trying not to paint a bad picture. But literature is a huge part of any crucial point or movement in history. How positive and powerful a message it would send should Christian Fiction become more dynamically diverse now!

And when I talk about Christian publishing, yeah, I’m including myself. There’s so much more writing and publishing I need to do.

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Not Rated. (Contains some mildly colorful language, some discussion of sex.) Drama, Comedy, Black Actors/Issues, Romance
2 Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn)

Description (from the film case): Crusading newspaper publisher Matt Drayton’s (Spencer Tracy) liberal principles are put to the test when his daughter, Joey (Katharine Houghton), announces her engagement to John Prentice (Sidney Poitier), an internationally renowned African-American physician. While Matt’s wife Christina (Katharine Hepburn) readily accepts Joey’s decision, Matt intends to withhold his consent…

My thoughts:  “We told her it was wrong to believe that the white people were somehow essentially superior to the black people… That’s what we said. And when we said it, we did not add, ‘But don’t ever fall in love with a colored man.'”

Oh, I’ve seen Katharine Hepburn in fine form before, but never like this. And Spencer Tracy is just excellent here. The fact that he and everyone else involved in the film knew that he was dying, and what that must have cost them, makes his performance even more excellent, from its humor to its poignancy. I can’t help but to think Matt’s final words about/to Christina are as much a message from Spencer to Katharine as anything.

Sidney Poitier does just enough to make you feel as uncomfortable as John feels, and whether or not you fully agree with John Wade Prentice, he commands respect. What courage it must have taken to make such a controversial film at this period in American history, the year before Dr. King’s assassination, and around the time when marriage between whites and non-whites was still illegal in several U.S. states. It’s an exploration of what you’ll do when you come face to face with your principles and theories, what you’ll do about what you said. Although most of the “arguments are so obvious that nobody has to make them,” the actors still make this relevant story resonate.

And the film is so positively ’60s! The music, the clothing, the hairdos, the funny-looking sets, the dancing! I wasn’t expecting either my laughter or my tears, but this film got some of both out of me.

Must watch it again.

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The Tears of Olive Trees by AbdulKarim Al Makadma

memoir-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Online Book Club provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

The Tears of Olive Trees

The Tears of Olive Trees: An Autobiographic Story Featuring Poems From Mahmoud Darwish by AbdulKarim Al Makadma

Autobiography/Memoir

Even with its grievous subject matter, this autobiographical and multigenerational account of a Palestinian family’s exile in Gaza is inspirational. I’d recommend it to anyone concerned with justice, compassion, and peace for humanity.

Officially reviewed at OnlineBookClub.org with 4 out of 4 stars. Do take a look.

 

To Capture Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

historical-books

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

To Capture Her HeartTo Capture Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Like its preceding novel, A Place in His Heart, To Capture Her Heart conveys a strong sense of the period in early America as English settlers, with Native Americans and the Dutch nearby, are looking to carve out a new life of religious freedom. Most interesting to me is a question that arises concerning tolerance, whether settlers who fled religious persecution in England are becoming persecutors themselves in their treatment of the Quakers.

The novel is chock-full of historical detail, particularly in the characters’ day-to-day lives, which lends a lot of time for readers to “sit down” with the people from Book One of this series. However, I didn’t find those parts of the story to have the most engaging sense of plot, and even though I read the first book, there wasn’t much that stood out about most of the minor characters to help me keep all of them straight.

Also, the dual romances weren’t too convincing to me. The love triangle isn’t completely predictable, which I liked, but I didn’t sense much depth, tension, or passion on either side of it. (Can’t fault the way the cover beautifully indicates passion and tension, though. Just look at the faces of those two!)

Overall, I think historical fiction fans who appreciate the first novel in The Southold Chronicles can enjoy the second.

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The first book in The Southold Chronicles, A Place in His Heart.

A Place in His Heart