Today, I have the Claudia Mair Burney, the last of CBA author comments for this series on race in CBA publishing. She's the author of The Amanda Bell Brown Mysteries, Howard/Simon & Schuster. Murder, Mayhem, and Fine Man coming again in February 2008. Death, Deceit, and Some Smooth Jazz coming in April of 2008. And from David C. Cook: Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White coming in March of 2008. Claudia can be found regularly over at ragamuffin diva.
Here are her comments:
"I think it's sad--downright TRAGIC that we, largely, still have a Jim Crow mentality when it comes to Christian fiction. The African-American writers are at the Colored drinking fountain, and the Whites are at the White's only drinking fountain, but the same water of Life quenches all our thirst.
I am a minority in CBA, but I also write Christian fiction for ABA, as most African American Christian writers do. I know the difficulties that come with writing for CBA--I learned them the hard way. And it was some education. Decisions must be made for people of color--no, let me clarify, for *African-Americans* in the CBA market that white people do not have to deal with: whether or not to put black people on the covers, whether or not the books should be placed with African-American books
or Christian fiction, whether or not "African-American" is a niche market and if White readers will buy the books.
I had a book review (a good one!), but the author constantly referred to my being black as if the idea of an African American CBA book was ASTOUNDING. I almost felt like her review served as an advisory to White people saying, "Hey, this is a "black" book with "black" characters! Just wanted you to be clear on that. Buyer beware." It took me weeks to get over the sting.
It's rough out here. And I speak from my experience.
Very recently some White authors I know have been *surprised* that CBA publishers have shown an interest in African-American writers and our fiction. One publisher told me he got manuscripts from African-Americans, but they "just weren't good." In 2004 as I wrote my first novel I read an article about African-American fiction in the CBA in which a senior editor of a major CBA house was quoted as saying something to the effect of, "It won't work if it doesn't have a strong, multicultural cast," (read that as lots of White people in it).
I got so discouraged at one point I decided to go to the Colored drinking fountain where I belong! Only God insisted that I drink at the *other* fountain, and shut those doors for me. So I wrote where God called me. I think it was to show me we really haven't come as far as we should have. Lord, have mercy. I also think I was there to let some people still in the fifties (or even further back) in their minds that YES, WE ARE HERE! WE *CAN* READ AND WE LIKE TO! WE CAN WRITE COMPELLING STORIES!!! That anybody will want to read.
I have been blessed to have *more* readers, including many, many, White readers, who have been blessed by my novel Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man. They entered the story world in the same way I do when I read a well written novel featuring White characters.
A good story is universal. It taps into our shared humanity. I would be ashamed to say I had no interest in "White" novels or "Asian" novels or "Latino" because the people are not like me. Reading about other people opened the world to me. Made me a better citizen of the incredibly diverse Kingdom of God, even the books that weren't well written.
May God grant us peace, forgive us our trespasses--we have NO excuse, and give us unity in our wondrous diversity."
Thanks, Claudia for taking part in the survey. God's best to you and your writing in 2008.