Saturday, October 23, 2010

Urban, Not Necessarily the Opposite of Rural

Poor Mr. Webster, how demoralizing it must be to put out an annual reference that is basically outdated before it’s typeset. Once again, I have to call him on one of his definitions: Urban. Of, or pertaining to a city was one of his listings. Is that the kind of Christian Fiction that I write? New genres are created everyday. Citified Christian Fiction, although I like the premise and overall ring of the title; it is not necessarily what I write.
What are categories anyway, but catch-alls, and that’s the catch 22. I write Urban Christian Fiction. I write for Urban Christian (literally, that is the name of the publishing company I write for). Urban, loosely, subjectively and connotatively means of or pertaining to African Americans. It’s that simple or complicated. Like I said before, it’s a catch all category.
Believing that African Americans even in a niche market like Christian Fiction write all the same is like believing all African Americans are citified. WHat about the Southern Belles and gents. I just came back from The Faith and Fiction retreat ( in Atlanta created by fellow Christian Fiction author, Tiffani L. Warren (What a Sista Should Do, Father than I Meant to go, Longer than I Meant to Stay and In the Midst of it All) where I learned that our audience as well as why we write is as varied as our skin tones. Some write primarily to edify the body of Christ, and others dubbed as pioneers of contemporary Christian Fiction like author, Victoria Christopher Murray ( Joy, Temptation, Sins of the Mother) feel compelled to write for those who may never grace a church pew.
Me? I feel a certain weight to write to try to demystify the black church. I am a certified church girl that was tired of movie portrayals of church with their attempts to paint a caricature or rely on stereotypes of “church folk” who liken sitting in Sunday service to serving fifteen years to life in a maximum security prison. I really hated those classic redemption scenes where the prodigal son or daughter literally crashes a Sunday service, joining in with the choir and dramatically giving their heart to the Lord. Sorry Steven Spilberg and his adaptation of Color Purple, but Alice Walker ‘s book shows what happens with Shug Avery between the time she’s singing Sista in the juke joint and when she comes down the aisle singing, Speak Lord in her daddy’s church. I try to illustrate Christians exercising their faith. I love to write about burgeoning love and a burgeoning relationship in Christ. Either may or may not take place in a church.
African American Christian writers are bound only by their conscious and publisher’s guidelines. We are CPA, self and mainstream published. We write multi layered novels, often tackling taboo topics with the overall theme of God’s love, forgiveness and redemptive power. Our diversity gives us our edginess.
Here’s the catch 22. (I’ll ask you to hold my base steady while I ascend my soapbox.)You will not see Urban Christian Fiction authors in the Christian Fiction section of the local bookstores. I dare you to look for me or any of my titles. Lord forbid if we are placed in two sections. Where are we then? As if we are children of a lesser God, we are clumped into the two to four shelves set aside for African-American interest. We are in with Urban romance, Urban classics, Urban contemporary, Urban Erotica and Urban Urban or what is known as Urban Street Lit genre.
Don’t get me wrong, I know my audience is primarily ‘urban,’. I know some authors prefer to be the only race categorized by ethnicity. I am sure there are Caucasian Christian authors who would prefer to be shelved in fiction instead of Christian. Like a true evangelist, I wonder who might be missing my message because they failed to realize or fail to wonder into African American interest section because they are not African American.
If you fall into the later category may I suggest some authors for you. Kendra Norman Bellamy, Norma Jarrett, Rhonda Mc Knight, Sharon Oliver, Sheila Lipsey, Reshonda Tate Billingsley, Dwan Abrams, Michelle Larks, E.N. Joy, Michelle Andrea Bowen, Cecelia Dowdy, Angela Benson, Shana Burton, Tia McCollors, Nicole Rouse, Kimberly Cash Tate, TN Williams, Stacy Hawkins Adams, Victoria Christopher Murray, Nikita Lynette Nichols, Vanessa Miller, Sherri Lewis,Ashea Goldson, Leslie Sherrod, Patricia Haley. This by no means is a comprehensive listing. There are a few men to mention as well, Victor McGlothin , James Jimason and James Guitard.
Just like rural doesn’t mean Caucasian, Urban does not literally mean African American. According to connotation , Urban is not necessarily the opposite of rural. You’ll find Christian fiction is more alike in its root message than different no matter what section you find it in or what race the author hapens to be.

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