Spotlight on African-American Christian fiction

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In an article [“Let the Readers Say ‘Amen’”] for Publishers Weekly, a marketing professional explains, “Christian retailers have guidelines for what’s in the books: no bad language, nothing that might offend anybody. Recently, one of the publishers said it was okay [for a character] to drink a glass of wine, which had been unheard of before! Yet, there are a lot of people out there who want wholesome values but are not core CBA buyers. Plus, there are authors who want o break beyond the ‘Christian bubble,’ and secular retailers who see a demand for wholesome books. Christian retailers are missing out on those good books.”

Carol Johnson, VP of editorial at Bethany says “CBA guidelines are maybe a bit of a myth. Some intuitive things we know won’t fly for a CBA store. It’s kind of like movie ratings: above PG-13 won’t go. No profanity, taking God’s name in vain, undue violence or complete description of sexual situations. There are nuances, of course. It’s not even written down, but it is up to the editorial sensibility.”

And Joan Marlow Golan, executive editor at Steeple Hill, cites a moment on the panel at last year’s ACRW conference when an author “brought the house down” by asking, “Don’t they have any hormones?” “There are writers who are taking on the CBA. Some find it too constricting, and others are not aware of the constrictions. But why cut yourself off from a large number of readers for something so small? After all, you can’t have redemption without sin.”

Carol Mackey, acquisitions editor for Bookspan’s Black Expressions Book Club, alludes to the fact that many acquisitions editors for Christian publishers are already working from an assumption that people want edgier Christian fiction, stories that take place “before conversion to Christ, or about issues that affect Christians—issues that sometimes make it hard to stay on the ‘straight and narrow.’” The article says, “these include stories of believers whose lives were ‘sinful’ and then were changed by God, or new Christians who are facing some kind of temptation, such as premarital or extramarital sex, drugs, etc.”

And James Guitard, author and senior VP of ops at Literally Speaking, says teaching through story is the hallmark of what AA Christian fiction is supposed to do. “What African-American Christian fiction offers is Bible-based solutions to worldly problems. The stories obviously have to have Jesus Christ in them, but they should not necessarily preach, but teach. So you will have the dramas that are in regular life. You should have worldly circumstances, but faith-based solutions.”

Something to think about…

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6 thoughts on “Spotlight on African-American Christian fiction”

  1. It’s interesting to me that the rack at WalMart devoted exclusively to African-American fiction is a mix of CBA and ABA stories. I just so happened to edit two novels by first-time authors which appear in that rack! As far as I’ve been able to determine, “mine” are the only CBA novels there. I’m imagining a lot of readers pick them up unaware of the Christian content, but that’s OK. They’re both pretty compelling stories…and I had a blast working on them!

  2. Mick,
    I read this too. Thought it was a very interesting article, especially as a writer in this genre. The big names in the genre (100K and above sales) are pretty much all outside CBA.
    My Wal-Mart has the books mixed up as well. And they do move. I’d love to know which books you edited.

  3. Spotlight on AA fiction

    Mick Silva, whose blog focuses on the recent shifts in Christian fiction, looks at some of the comments in a recent PW article about African American fiction.

  4. As a christian journalist and book reviewer, I am concerned with the CBA restrictions, but I am more concerned about the books that pass themselves off as Christian fiction just because they set a few scenes in a church.

  5. Please provide some black Christian authors that write ‘complete’ Christian books-more than just “a scene or two in the church.”
    There was one woman whom I read about 5 years ago but I can’t remember her name. I really enjoyed the book but I must have passed the book on as I can no loger find it in my collection.
    The book was about a couple- he was a doctor. He cheated on his wife with his wifes best friend. Her best friend was going through a divorce and pushed herself on her friends husband.
    I would like to read other topics within her work but I can’t remember her name.
    Does this information ring a bell? If so please provide this authors name.