I enjoy targeting the trends for Library Journal's annual Christian fiction preview each fall. Closures of fiction publishers, house mergers, and debut authors are all on my radar.
We've come a long way from the covered wagon driven fiction. Even Amish fiction is beginning to broaden in its scope to include more unusual settings and contemporary issues.
Domestic violence, the vaccine debate, sex trafficking, misconduct in the pastorate. All of these issues have been tackled in Christian fiction in recent years.
And while I think Christian fiction needs to deal with these issues in a different way than the world does, showing a biblical lens, I'm excited to see each of these dealt with in literature.
Though Christian fiction has grown in many ways, as I began to look at minorities and their representation in the market I see that there is much growth still to come.
I live in a very diverse city where our church pastorate is a mixed ethnic population. Authors such as Jennifer Erin Valent have written books about segregation and there are a few well-known African American authors. Lori Benton and Laura Frantz include memorable Native American heroes.
Yet as I was asked to explore this issue my eyes were opened to the lack being larger than I perceived.
I love reading books about different regions of the world, such as South America or Eastern Asia. Because it is not a part of my worldview I am even more excited to know more about what they are like. I would love to read a book set in 1980s China or 1950s Communist Russia for instance, but I can't seem to find these books.
Mike Duran has an interesting post from a few years ago about this very lack of diversity in CF (among other things) entitled What the Christian Fiction Industry Can Learn from the 2012 Election.
To be honest I live in the American South, but my church is very ethnically mixed and solidly biblical. Why does Christian fiction not reflect this?
I'm not talking about some magical formula where so much percent of the market needs to be saturated with forced books about minority groups. But I do think we need to broaden our horizon and worldview.
Kaye Dacus' blog contains an interesting article by Patricia Woodside about writing the multi-ethnic romance.
There is such rich depth for historical novels that is not being tapped into. As Christians we are called to go out into all the world, and I think our fiction doesn't reflect this. It would be great to see more fiction with vocational missionaries as main characters, or some of our heroic medical teams traveling into places with HIV and Ebola running rampant.
To see these stories we must write them.
Further, we must believe they are important.
We must stop worrying so much about how our book fits into the market in some cases and write a book that will transcend barriers.
When we do write about other cultures, we need to write true. Not stereotyped portraits. It might call us to move out of our safe Christian circles.
We are called to go out into all the world and preach the gospel. To all peoples, in all nations.
Our fiction could be a powerful way to do this, if we can harness it and be willing to diversify our writing.