December 29, 2007

Survey Comments: Author Claudia Mair Burney

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.


Hi, I'm Dee said...


Kim said...

What an insightful post! You guys are giving me a very eye-opening education! I was directed to this blog through Marilynn Griffin's site, and I was totally ignorant about the disparity of color in publishing. This astounds me. If you can write, you can write. If you can't, you can't.

Sounds like we need a whole lot of prayer aimed this direction! Consider it done. Praying in Alabama.