Yesterday, I introduced you to some Christian publishers, in the hope of helping you identify Christian fiction for your own purposes. I got some interesting comments, so I thought I'd address them here.
Perhaps a stupid question, but what makes a book Christian lit? Or maybe conversely, what won't you find in a Christian lit book?
Not a stupid question at all!!! While I think each house has their own guidelines, I have been able to find the submission guidelines for Steeple Hill which should give you an idea of what is generally accepted in bookstores that are a part of the CBA. (Christian booksellers association)
From the eharlequin.com website:
Because Steeple Hill sells to both CBA and ABA bookstores, we must adhere to CBA conventions. The stories may not include alcohol consumption by Christian characters, card playing, gambling or games of chance (including raffles), explicit scatological terms, hero and heroine remaining overnight together alone, Halloween celebrations or magic, or the mention of intimate body parts. Lying is also problematical in the CBA market and characters who are Christian should not lie or deceive others. Possibly there could be exceptional circumstances (matters of life and death), but this has to be okayed by an editor.
Those guidelines seem to include a lot of ideas about Christianity that come from Western Christianity.
I should mention that there are definitely Christian fiction books where social drinking is becoming more acceptable. I think there are always exceptions as long as there is story support for it. I've also read books published by the Christian publishing houses where Jesus isn't even mentioned. The main thing, I think, is that the book is written from a Christian worldview.
a quick comment about people feeling tricked into reading Christian fiction. i can understand if it is a preachy novel that literally has tons of sermons in the book. but what i don't get is when someone finishes a book, has enjoyed it and THEN afterwards finds out it's a Christian fiction novel and they stop liking it. what does it matter?? if you liked the book, you like it, it shouldn't matter if it was Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, romance, mystery, historical, erotica, etc.
it just feels like Christian fiction is the only genre that has to have this "so called disclaimer" so as not to offend people. i don't see other genres having this. it just seems like it's like a "Beware" tag to stay away or "read with caution" more than a "heads up" to me.
I totally agree that if you like a book, you like it. But I do think that there's something about faith and religion that people are especially sensitive to. I really love Christian fiction. Enough to get annoyed with it sometimes, because I think it can be better. And the last thing I want is for someone who doesn't want to read a book with overt faith themes feel like they were deceived into reading a book I love. I hope that people will give Christian fiction a chance, but I think it's only fair for them to know that a book contains issues of faith in a more direct way than maybe some other books do. And I would definitely want to know if a book was of another religion. I wish sometimes I could get a heads up about a heavy handed political book. And I do think within the romance genre, there are different lines where you can sometimes tell how much explicit content there will be. Which leads into Becky's comment...
I choose to look at this post--or the premise behind this post--positively. There are plenty of readers out there who want to read Christian books and/or clean (no smut) fiction...and they may be at the bookstore OR at the library and wanting an easy way to spot books to read.
While it is true that you could look at it negatively--a way for some out there to say, ways to avoid Christian fiction so I'm not accidentally tainted by reading it. Theoretically I'm not sure how I feel about labels at all. You're right, Deborah, other types of books aren't labeled 'in case of offending' others. I can see the convenience of it, but I can also see why there could be some problems with it. In some ways, a book is a book is a book. Labeling books can be tricky in and of itself because it naturally works to limit the audience even if that is not the intention.
Well, I did provide the list for both. As I said before, I see a lot of bloggers feel like they have been deceived into reading Christian fiction and I realized they might not know it's as simple as knowing the publishers. What good is it for someone to read Christian fiction if they feel like they were tricked into it and feel more annoyed by the genre than ever? I sincerely hope that some people will give Christian fiction a chance. But I want them to give it a chance knowing that's what they're getting into. It is a tricky business to label books...and it does limit the audience, I suppose. But I think there are a lot of open-minded readers out there who just want an idea of what they are getting into. And that's kind of what imprints and knowing publishers in general can do for us.
And finally in response to Rita who said,
I love Christian fiction and don't see why this is a problem. If someone is thinking of reviewing a book and they're concerned that it might conflict with their beliefs, it is their responsibility to do a simple check with the publisher to find out if this would be the case.
I think part of the issue was that people were unaware that there are Christian publishers...so they didn't even know to do a check. I also love Christian fiction, but I'm a Christian! I was simply trying to provide a resource.
When I review books, I keep in mind that I have both Christian readers and readers with other worldviews. So I do point out whether or not books are Christian fiction and also point out things in general market books that might be problematic for my Christian readers.