Monday, November 05, 2007

Mir Rant: WIND FOLLOWER Controversy & the Bigotry of (Some) Christian Readers

It continues to amaze me that there are some people who think I shouldn't be married to my husband.

I'm a light brown Latina woman and my hubby is a white/pink fella of German-Hungarian-Irish ancestry. We have a "mixed" marriage" according to some. Our union offends some. And we know that's how it goes. But that it should offend some Christians offends ME. And I have no doubt offends the God who created us.

Christians shouldn't have those bigoted ideas of race. We know one singular truth: God created us. He created us man and woman, and all the humans who exist are the result of God's initial creation into which he breathed eternal souls. Men can marry women. Women, men. We are all the offspring of that first pairing.

Men and women have one root. We really are one, whether we like it or not.

These thoughts are prompted by a discussion in the comments under a post by Carole McDonnell, author of the speculative fiction novel WIND FOLLOWER. Carole is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. And her novel has Christian elements. In the post, you can tell she's very miffed because a Christian reviewer declined reviewing her book because there is sex and violence in it (which she discovered by reading another reviewer's take on the book.) (To Carole's credit, she admits to being touchy on this subject.)

In the comments, she mentions that CBA publishers loved her writing--"best speculative novel I've read, etc"--but wouldn't publish it cause readers would hate it. The sex. The anti-imperialistic stance. The interracial marriage.

The what?!

Okay, I know sex is a bugagoo in the CBA and with its audience. I even understand why, though I don't fully agree with the level of sex censorship that makes marriages seem sterile in so many books that deal with romance and relationships.

But interracial marriage?

Really. These are Carole's own words:

In fact, Wind Follower was rejected by several Christian publishers because of
A) six small-but-important-sex scenes (Honestly, we're not talking characters engaged in sixty-nine or in all-night orgies here, but Christian publishers balk at showing married couple even sitting on the same bed together.)
B) the book's obvious anti-imperialism anti-Manifest Destiny stance and
C) the interracial/intercultural relationship in the story.


WHAT?!

The last one really got my attention. My father's mother was white. His dad was black. My mother's first husband was black. And assorted relatives have what are termed "mixed marriages." (I think that's a stupid term, but I'll use it.)

(I have no desire to discuss imperialism, but there is certainly a lot of bad--and good--that can come from it, and depicting the negative is necessary, even as depicting what may be positive is fair. The sex issue: Kinda sick of arguing that one.)

Yes, people. This last is where publishers are coddling sin. Sorry, but there you have it. If a % of your readership, editors and publishers, thinks that this is no-no, then that portion of the readership needs to be disempowered by decisions. Yeah, that's naive. But that's also, I think, RIGHT. You don't kowtow to people who are wrong, who are in error, who are sinning. Where would the world be if all righteous people refused to take a stand against evil? And that goes for publishers.

I understand publishing considerations. But some parts of what an audience wants IS WRONG. That last category in Carole's rejection list is a bad, bad thing and contrary to the Creation. (There may be an issue worth another rant about the imperialism, Manifest Destiny, although I don't know people who say, "Yeah, we should just take over everything and smash everyone in our way!" I have known people who are fixated on the mixed marriage thing. But one rant per day.)

As I mentioned in the comments, a "mixed marriage" is a woman marrying a kangaroo. Not a woman marrying a man, or a man marrying a woman. Any person (white or black or etc) who thinks these artificial racial classifications created by men long after the Creation fact have condemning power over this area of human interaction, that person is a bigot. That person is a racial snob. That person thinks that the color of skin or the width of nose or the texture of hair has somehow made the "not like me" person a lesser than "other."

Christians should know better: I only know one firm counsel about what persons not to marry in apostolic teaching, and that's to marry within the faith, to not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. And yet, there were Christians married to unbelievers, and Paul didn't say, "Just leave them right now!" I don't hear the apostles warnings like "Don't marry that Ethiopian or that Laplander." In fact, the Holy Spirit took Phillip out of his way, supernaturally, to specifically witness NOT only to an Ethiopian, but an Ethiopian EUNUCH. A dark-skinned dude without balls. Eunuchs were not allowed within the temple according the The Law. How clear a message, I think, from God. How valuable this "minority" was, that an apostle was whisked to offer him the gospel. That the Eunuch's profession was accepted, and his baptism put him smack in the body of Christ.

Similar ideas are reinforced in the book of ACTS, such as Peter's vision of the animals. What had been separated by OT dietary laws was now brought together. What had been separated by tribe or culture, was now included via grace. Color was never an issue in the O.T. Religion and diet and language (at Babel) and other things caused separation, but not color. Not width, heigth, curl, slant of eye, set of bones.

That person who sees race as making a particular human an outsider, an unmarriageable "other", is in sin, and may not know it. Or they're just plain stupid. Think: I guess Jesus couldn't have married a white woman, not being Euro-white with his Semitic, Middle-Eastern self.

Can we really believe that any man is superior to The Christ because of coloring and physical make-up? Please.

Okay, getting a headache.

As I defended in the comments, the reviewer who rejected WIND FOLLOWER, if they have a personal objection to reading sex and violence in novels, has the right to refuse to review any book they feel violates their principles. It's not bigotry. It's just their conviction. And that's okay. We can't all handle everything in fiction. Everyone has weak spots. Everyone has hedges of some sort.

Well, maybe not everyone, but certainly most folks who feel strongly about a matter, philosophical or political or personal. Some won't read books with child abuse. Some avoid stories where pets are killed (yes, this is a fact). Some refuse to read horror, because it turns their stomachs. Some refuse to read sex because their besetting sins relate to lust of the flesh. Some refuse to read sex because they think that's wrong.

But no Christian publisher should reject a story in order to coddle the sins and ignorance and deformed pride of their readership. Sorry. Racist readers shouldn't get to affect guidelines for acquisition.

That's sick.
~~
EDITED TO ADD:
In the comments section, Nikki Arana left a comment about her books with intercultural relationship. (Hi, Nikki!) And Sharon Lavy asked where to get WIND FOLLOWER. Here are links to WF and two of Nikki's well-received, award-winning books:

25 comments:

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I think these issues should be brought to light. Thank you, Mir, for posting this.

It is sick when the gatekeepers put on their hypocrite masks to decide racism is okay. It has never been okay and it needs to be dealt with.

Suzan Robertson said...

Mir,

Now you know why I left CBA. Sometimes I think they need to take the "C" out of CBA because it's not the Christ I follow. There is a difference between the "visible" church and the remnant. I am sick of the "visible" church speaking for me or my fellow true believers. I'd rather tough it out on ABA.

Sharon Lavy said...

So I assume this book Wind Follower was published by the secular market? Where do I buy it?

Peg Brantley said...

Mir, your courage and conviction are amazing--and a breath of fresh air.

I invite you to take look at my itty-bitty new blog--in particular the picture of my husband and myself last Christmas. He mildly joked that that would be my demise.

I, on the other hand, think it gives me a leg up. Dunno why. Maybe just because we love each other--and that is priceless.

Strength,
Peg.

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

In our large, growing church, one of the youth pastors is a black man married to a white woman. When he was interviewed, someone asked if that was the example we wanted to place in front of the youth.

Our pastor said, "Yes, we have a couple who are strong Christians. When they were dating, they had the support of both sets of parents. They followed the biblical example. He asked her father for her hand before he proposed to her. That's what we need--godly people, who follow biblical teaching."

No one has questioned the decision, and our youth program is growing at a phenomenal rate through the leadership of this man and the others on the team.

God created color in all the world. We revel in the beauty of nature. We should also revel in the beauty of the colors he created in people.

Anonymous said...

Not all CBA publishing houses frown on interracial/intercultural relationships. My book, The Winds of Sonoma, a romance, was sold to Baker Books/Revell in 2003 and was published in Oct. 2005. The hero was an illiterate, illegal Mexican and he marries a white, educated, and well positioned attorney. The cultural differences are the heart of the book and readers find that his Mexican culture and simple faith in God teach the heroine life lessons that truly change her. We weren’t sure how the book would be received in the Christian community. We were thrilled when it went on the win the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year – Women’s Fiction for 2006. There are now ongoing negotiations to sell the film rights. I think you will find if readers buy books like Winds, publishers will print more of them.

Nikki Arana

Deb said...

Well said, Mir. I eagerly await your rant about the sterile view of marriage in CBA fiction.

I'd love to see more books available for sale, that perhaps some of my more conservative sisters will not buy. Why can't we have a continuum of Christian fiction across these issues? Or can't we handle fair comment and open discussion?

As far as the race thing, IMO Morgan Freeman said it best in that lame-o Robin Hood movie: "God loves magnificent variety." Only good part of the flick, to my way of thinking. But he made the point.

Tina Helmuth said...

Great post. I have no further thoughts to add, just wanted to applaud you for speaking up.

Mirtika said...

Thanks, ladies, for the responses.

Nikki, I added links to your "Sonoma" and "Fragance" novels to the post. And one for Wind Follower for Sharon. :)

Deb, Morgan Freeman is in my top five of American male actors. He is an asset to any movie, and he was the saving grace of ROBIN HOOD. His demeanor, his acting chops, and his sense of humor shine through. He totally eclipsed the other members of the cast in terms of dignity. And only Mastroianno and Rickman managed to be anywhere near as intersting. :)

Plus, I've loved him since I was a kid watching ELECTRIC COMPANY in NY. Easy Reader...that voice.

Suz, I haven't given up on the CBA. I see changes from 10, 15 years ago, and I expect to see more.

Lena, the content of character, baby. That's it. A godly couple is always an asset to any community, church, group, country, etc.

Mir

Heather said...

I like it when Mir gets down with her ranting self.
to be honest, i didn't know interracial marriage was still an issue in the church in the States. thank you for bringing this to my attention. the fact that it's an issue is disgusting.

Michelle said...

Michelle Pendergrass mentioned this blog rant so I thought I'd check it out. As far as sterile marriages goes, um I hate that. I've read several books lately that are CBA and are more open about some of that stuff, but not as much as they should when it's an important part of the story. And when it comes to mixed anything I think, "Huh?" I can't stand the term racial because it sounds like we're from different species. Ick. Not so. Different ethnicities, yes, but not races. Anyway, I know so many people who have married someone from a different culture or ethnicity I couldn't even add them all up. Including my own nuclear family and beyond, like cousins, etc. Our youth pastor is of Mexican heritage and dressed like Pancho Villa for Halloween (he was quite dashing, too) and the funny thing is that as authentic Mexican as he looks, he doesn't speak a lick of Spanish, which is amazing since he grew up in California. His wife is not Mexican American. In fact, there are quite a few members in our church who are married to people who speak other languages or have darker skin tones. But that's Arizona. I think sometimes the region of the country you're from makes a difference in how you are perceived "stereotypically." Anyway, thanks for the post. It's good to make people think about their own ignorance. :)

SolShine7 said...

Thanks Mir. It's good to see a Christian blogger like yourself acknowledging "the elephant in the room". Interracial relationships still raise eyebrows in the church. It's a shame.

Multi-ethnic love is a beautiful thing!

Scifiwritir said...

Hi Mir:

I'll just say that a couple of my friends have written Christian books with BLACK/WHITE interracial romances. How they did it, however, was to A) not clearly show the race of the protags, B) not show the race of the protags at all C) not show the race of the protags until midway in the book or D) make the BLACK/WHITE interracial romance a minor relationship in the book. Two examples are Marilynn Griffiths and Donna Congers.

I had a minister's wife (white) get really annoyed because I wrote a YA interracial story. A local minister -- originally from Florida-- was known for his Biblical racism. The guy actually gave sermons about why marriages between blacks and other races was a sin. With folks involved in interracial relationships sitting in his pew!

I think the CBA itself probably isn't prejudice. They are just aware that many of their readers might be. And mammon is pretty powerful. In addition, they probably don't mind romances involving latin americans because of the lightness of skin, the possibility of venturing into the latino market, and the romanticization of latin americans that is also another kind of stereotyping. One of the Mexican girls from my Ecuadorean church says if she sees one more movie with a downtrodden noble mexican she's going to scream. I totally understood her. I myself get nervous when white publishers start putting any kind of minority into a noble-sufferer mode. And I've seen way too many noble "magical negroes" done by folks who don't realize that they were merely being prejudiced in the other direction. Honestly, i suspect we'll be getting a lot more noble suffering hispanics for a while. Not until they humanize minorities and allow us out of social situations will the CBA get my respect.

-Carole

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Know what, Mir?

Interestingly one of the two times in the Bible the son of God got seriously angry with racism was 1) When Miriam was so racist about Moses falling in love with Zipporah/the Ethiopian woman that he symbolically spat in her face by giving her leoprosy. and 2) when Jesus saw how the moneychangers in the temple were cheating the foreigners who came to the temple and he shouted out, "my temple is a place of prayer for ALL people." God has a special dislike for racist people. -C

Mirtika said...

I give a lot of leeway about how people depict minority characters, because the first step is HAVING THEM THERE, and I know that a couple writers have said to me they are afraid to HAVE minority characters for fear of stepping on a "stereotype" landmine.

I'd rather have a suffering noble who is a person of an infrequently represented group, than have no minority presence at all. :) I cut slack, even for myself. I can fall into stereotype pitfalls, I'm sure, without knowing. It wouldn't be from malice.

Plus, we have to try not to see malice or even racism where it might not be. I know some have said, "Well, is it Latina, Hispanic, etc" I don't care. Use Latina. Use Hispanic. I use them interchangeably. BUT..some folks are mighty sensitive about which.

I went to very integrated schools all through my education, from predominantly Latino in grade school, to predominantly African-American in high school. My college years brought me near many foreign students. And I do notice that we're afraid we'll use the wrong word. Some will ask, is it African American or black. Is it Native American or Indian.

It makes the communciation THAT much more confusing if we become overly sensitive to terms and descriptors. So, I don't wanna do that. Too much PC hurts, doesn't help. Grace helps. :D

And a rant now and then might help, too.

MIr

Scifiwritir said...

I give a lot of leeway, actually, especially when I think that some folks might have invented the magical negro as a way of balancing the negative stereotypes out there.

And I've noticed that oftentimes white writers have a good intention in which they want to put a minority character in a novel as a best friend of the main character but because of literary and plot requirements (best friend has to be a kind of foil for main character) the minority character often ends up with some very odd traits. The best friend (who happens to be black) sleeps around a lot, or is cowardly, or succumbs to greed or whatever. So a part of me says, "For the same of the story, I'll let it go." Even though, the upshot of this kind of thing is that one ends up with a lot of movies and books where the white main character has stupid, or slutty, or cowardly black best friends.

I'm rounding 50 and I critique too many stories by people so my patience with how these well-intentioned literary choices affect readers is running out. Racially, I do give a lot of leeway to people. Which includes defending Dog the bounty hunter on several sites but I do end up rolling my eyes a lot. And I, for one, if I can stop another writer from slipping in yet another Bagger Vance or Black guy from Green Mile or noble magical negro into a story, I'm going to do it. Because honestly, the MAGICAL NEGRO has been in the American literary and film mindsets for over 80 years by now. And after a while one realizes some things just aren't going to change.

And if I see one more suffering noble latina or hispanic immigrant woman in a story, I'm going to groan. (I'll groan, but I'll accept it.) Because it just seems that some people can't imagine larger venues -- larger realities-- for minorities of people of color. I think of the Asian group that protested when The Last Samurai was being filmed and the film's producers asked for "exotic-looking asian girls."

There is just so many exotic asian girls, spit-fire latinas or suffering black mothers one can take. And I wasn't put on this earth to allow people to get away unchallenged. If this thing continues for the next fifty years though, I'll be the first person fighting against it. -Carole

Becky said...

Publishers also coddle health-and-wealth-ers, Mir. It's what they perceive their audience to be and to want in their books.

And I suspect this is not ALL CBA houses. I know a number of editors who would not hold to this kind of stipulation.

It is such a silly argument, much like the one we encounter with speculative fiction. They say "mixed marriage" books don't sell, which is why the don't have any. We counter with, No one buys them because You don't have any!

There's a disconnect! Whatever publisher this was--seems they didn't look at the marketing possibilities. Like not looking at the possibility of selling men's books and children's books to the moms they say come to their stores.

Why not think bigger? Our world is bigger. Just this past weekend, I was searching the dial of my radio for a particular station and landed on 12 or 14 straight non-English stations.

What an opportunity publishers have to reach beyond their normal, narrow target audience.

Becky

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mir for posting my links. Nikki

Vasthi said...

Mir-
You and I have had some similar discussions on this topic over at Dave Long's forum some time ago. So I applaud you again for taking a stand.
But as an author whose passion is to write stories of hope with Latino characters, it is discouraging when an agent tells you and I quote, "THEY don't buy books." Who is they? Latinos. Go figure. I guess not one Latino bought a book by Sandra Cisneros, Esmeralda Santiago, Junot Diaz, Julia Alvarez, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez,-- should I go on?

Ignorance is ignorance. Racism is racism. No matter how you color it.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

so true, Becky about publishers not recognizing an audience. Some businesses recognize the need but so many don't. I actually emailed XM radio to tell them they really needed to add an evangelical hispanic station to their list because i love songs by Danilo Montero, Marco Barrientos, et al. I told them since they had so many christian stations, why not add a hispanic christian music station. Did I hear from them? Nope.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

So many publishers don't seem to realize that there are white folks out there who also buy books by minority writers. It's as if they think white people only read minority writers for some intellectual reasons or for a college class or if the writer is an intellectual. -C

Meg said...

Amen, Mir. Preach it!

I think there have been some changes in CBA, but there are still some unfortunate attitudes in readers and writers. It wasn't too long ago that a judge in a contest run by a Christian writers' group told me that it wasn't realistic that one of my characters was a Protestant. He was Latino, therefore (she said) I should have written him as a Catholic. (You know the story I mean, Mir.) Ah, the joys of stereotyping!

Ridiculous.

Mirtika said...

Yeah, Meg. I snarfed at that cause *I* am Latina and *I* am Protestant, and so were the pastors, missionaries, and members of the church where I got saved at 15. Lots of Protestant Latinos. :)

Mir

CaroleMcDonnell said...

You guys just made me laugh. I like laughing. Don't those guys know about the evangelical movement in South America?

To add to your list of humorous stories: I once was told by a publisher (not Christian) that I should hang around black folks more in order to truthfully depict "real" black people. Because the black folks in my story just didn't behave the way black people did. -C

Mirtika said...

Because, naturally, all X people and all Y people talk and dress and act exactly the same. :)

Excuse me, I have to go learn to lambada or something.

MIr