Saturday, December 06, 2008

Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays Belonging Edition

I love Amy's question this week. (And that isn't a veiled insult by the way. I've enjoyed participating in each question!)

Today's question is inspired by a conversation Lilly started over at Book Blogs. What do you think about labeling books as Christian fiction? As you know, the range of spiritual content in Christian books varies tremendously. Some books barely even mention God while others use a lot of Scripture. Do you think Christian fiction books should be in a separate section of the bookstore or library? Do you think this limits who might read these books? Do you have any idea of how they could be arranged differently? And a little off topic but do you have a preference about whether or not books have a lot of spiritual content or only a little?

My answer:

When it comes down to it...books are books...and labels can be a good thing and a bad thing. There are pros and cons to books wearing labels. On the one hand, it makes them identifiable. When a book is labeled this or that, then those specifically looking for this can easily find it. On the other hand, it can be limiting. A person may be reluctant to read books of a certain label or category. I'm sure there are good Christian books out there that could be easily read and enjoyed by others...but in all likelihood won't be....simply because they're wearing the label "Christian." (Same can be true of YA books. There are adults who feel so opposed to "children's" or "YA" books that no matter how wonderful, how awesome, how great they are...won't be read by adults who are too snobbish to know what is good for them.) Labels in some ways equal expectations or stereotypes. Labels of genre for example. Labels for audience. Whatever. If a person gets a notion that all Christian books are dinky OR that all YA books are shallow and feature boy-crazy heroines...then it can be hard to convince them otherwise. It is always easier to generalize and assume than to do your research and get experience. Funny how judgmental people are usually the ones that have barely even sampled what they're criticizing.

Should they be shelved separately? Yes and no. In the library, I think they should not be shelved separately. I don't know why I make that distinction. Maybe it's because I'm hoping that people will be browsing the shelves at the library and more likely to be open minded. Rarely do I ever stop to check a publisher to see if it's "Christian" before putting it in my bag. Though I can see how it might be more convenient if they were shelved all together. (I can also imagine how confusing it might be to keep them separate when it came to filing books back.) My mom tries to read only Christian books. But she's a big browser too. So separating shelving might be convenient for her. Probably would make her life easier. And some libraries--many libraries--do have separate sections for paperback genre categories--mysteries, horror, sci/fi and fantasy, romance. So in a way it wouldn't be that much of a stretch. But if they were shelved separately, it would limit the audience in a way. Some might be hesitant to seek it out extra-special or something. I don't know. But in bookstores, I think it makes a little more sense. Because bookstores are more rushed experiences. Because you're looking with the intent to buy. Because you want to know what you're getting before you buy. You don't want to have any accidents or be surprised by what you find between the covers.

I think some books equally belong in both general fiction (and/or women's fiction) while belonging in Christian fiction. Others clearly belong to only Christian fiction--they just don't have broad enough appeal or dynamic enough characters or thrilling enough plots for the masses at large.

As for the last part of the question...I think whatever the content it should feel natural, authentic, genuine. Some books lend themselves to greater amounts of spirituality/sermonizing than others. Sometimes too much can take away from the book.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous,  1:57 PM  

Great Answers Becky. Totally agree with you.

Nise' 3:03 PM  

There are pros and cons for each side. I was one of those "adults who are too snobbish to know what is good for them" re YA books. Am I glad I have seen the light! There are some great books in the YA section!!

Anonymous,  3:03 PM  

I completely agree with you Becky. There are pros and cons for both sides and it's hard to choose which one side is best. Being labeled in a store or library is great because I can find what I'm looking for but not necessarily good for someone who has never or thinks they never will read Christian fiction because of the label. So I can totally see both sides.

Anonymous,  3:16 PM  

I liked what you said Becky. I wish that bookstores would consider placing books in more than one section if they thought they might appeal to more than one audience. I could see many Christian fiction books being in the Christian fiction section and in the general fiction section. I think Christy by Catherine Marshall is the perfect example of a book that would fit in both sections. I also think many young adult books that could placed both in that section and in the adult section.

I am also continuously amazed by the distinction between the children's and young adult sections. Many books could easily belong in both sections but when just one section is chosen, I often don't understand what the reasoning is.

Anonymous,  4:31 PM  

Loved the not black and white shades of gray answer, Becky. True dat!

My answer is up at:

Pam 5:41 PM  

I agree that some books will never be read because by some people because they are in the Christian fiction section. Our library just lumps all fiction books together.

SmilingSally 4:48 AM  

I agree with everything up to "Others clearly belong to only Christian fiction--they just don't have broad enough appeal or dynamic enough characters or thrilling enough plots for the masses at large." That sounds like Christian Fiction = pablum. Ewwww. I'm sure you didn't mean THAT.

Becky 9:10 AM  

No, I didn't mean that exactly. I enjoy some Christian fiction. But there are dinky books that just aren't that enjoyable, aren't that good. And if someone were to define the whole genre by one or two dinky books, well you see what I'm saying...there are books you'd want to hold up as good examples...and then others you really wouldn't recommend.

Sunny 2:26 PM  

I agree that it's hard to label...and where do you stop?

I think it's good to mix them in libraries and if someone gets a Christian fiction book they might be more ok with it since they didnt spend money...and might also find they really liked it.

You're so right that some CF can go GM but some really cant. Great post!

Amy 9:38 PM  

All very well put as usual Becky. You got to the heart of it with the problem of labels. Also well said about YA having the same problem. :)

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
Linked to sign up page

Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Link to sign-up page

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
Linked To Sign Up Page

2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
Link to sign up page

2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
click image to go to sign up post

Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP