Abraham's Well, a novel by Sharon Ewell Foster, is a 'is the rare historical novel that both entertains and educates.' [Publisher's Weekly]
Today we have the second and last part of Ms. Foster's interview. Here's the first part.
LLH: I've been told that AA (African American) Christian fiction is 'so different.' Someone even told me that since I'm black I could 'get away' with so much more. What are your thoughts on that?
SEF: Sigh. Sigh. Sigh. You know, I guess I don't get it. What's the payoff for keeping this kind of false separation in place? I don't get it. It's so unnatural.
One church. One faith. One baptism. We all read God's word and we are able to relate to it, across all kinds of barriers. Jesus prayed that we would be one. I don't get it.
Certainly, there might be some cultural differences, but at the heart of it, we all struggle with the same things, don't we? We want to be loved and respected. We all suffer, we all get disappointed. We all know what heartbreak feels like. We all know betrayal; it has no color. We all fluctuate between hope and despair. We've all experienced some kind of rejection or oppression. We may have different forms of worship, but we worship the same King.
Hopefully, all of us are writing in ways that honor God. Hopefully, all of us are writing the best we can and stretching ourselves. If someone, despite color, feels caged in by man's rules, then he or she needs to stretch. If someone, despite color, is writing under God's name, but is producing material that dishonors God, then I would hope he or she would do a heart check. I don't think it has anything to do with race. There are lots of writers pushing boundaries.
Actually, I enjoy reading all kinds of writers. I think it's a benefit. It's a blessing. It's God's intentional blessing. He didn't make us different by mistake; it is part of His divine plan, and we miss blessings He has for us if we are too foolish to move beyond color. Again, we don't just grow pink flowers and we don't just eat oranges. I'm not about to miss out on some wonderful literature, or a word that can bless my life, because the author is white or brown or yellow or red! My goodness, I would never want to miss To Kill a Mockingbird, or the Old Man and the Sea, or Of Mice and Men! I'm like the Canaanite woman, I want my blessing! (Matthew 15:21-28) I'm not about to give up a blessing--not a good book, or a flower, or a piece of fruit, or a word that might make my day brighter--because I'm offended by someone's color! I hope my readers, whatever their color, are proudly flashing my book covers whatever their color! We are too mature in Christ's love to let color stop us!
LLH: What do you feel Christian African American audiences want to read or don't want to read?
SEF: People, no matter their color, want great, exciting stories that are well-written. They want stories that make them think, that are relevant, and that are passionate. They want stories that deal with universal themes. They want unique stories that are honest. It has nothing to do with color.
LLH: In your opinion, does labeling and shelving practices in bookstores and catalogs listings limit books written by AA authors?
SEF: You know what? I don't understand the practice. It seems archaic to me. No one's ever explained it to me in a way that makes sense. It seems like a vestige of a bygone era, but we still have many of old things in place.
LLH: I've only been around CBA fiction a short while but it seems there's a bit of a divide between what's considered mainline CBA and AA CBA fiction. Should the divide exist? If not, where should we go from here to address the separation?
SEF: I don't know, Linda. Perhaps, it's time for us to begin to make it uncomfortable for these divides to continue. We've sat in separate churches for so long, and it seems to be the same in publishing. We seem to be so far behind the secular publishers. I think it requires that we get out of our comfort zones. We have to remember that Christ didn't call us to be comfortable. Most of what the Lord preached makes us uncomfortable when we initially put it into practice, it's the same with breaking down racial barriers.
For example, there are often CBA author panels at booksellers conventions. I don't remember seeing an African American authors on any panel. It may just be that people haven't thought about it. It may be time time to bring it to someone's attention. We are called to love one another, to be one, not to live in separate houses; I would like to believe that we will respond, if the truth is spoken with love, and remove some of these barriers.
Thanks once again, to Sharon for answering my questions. Visit Sharon online at http://www.sharonewellfoster.com/