Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Prejudice and Reading

I generally consider myself a pretty open-minded person. I like to think of myself as tolerant and accepting. I hate it when I realize that I’m not as tolerant or as accepting as I wish I was.

I recently downloaded an audio book from the library (I totally love doing this, by the way, it so so cool that I can hit a couple of buttons and have an entire book loaded onto my iPod without ever leaving my house although I really worry about copyright infringement and pirating, but that’s a blog of a whole ‘nother color). I hadn’t heard of the author, but the premise of the book sounded interesting and since it was from the library, it was pretty much a no risk proposition.

I started listening to the book and it was terrific. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s darn good. I started wondering if this was the author’s first book since she was so terrific and I hadn’t heard of her. I went online. Nope. She had dozens of books. I did a little more investigating. She’s published by Zondervan, an Evangelical publisher of Christian books.

This kind of froze me in my tracks. I realized that if I’d known that this was an Inspirational novel (I believe that’s the classification that RWA would use), I wouldn’t have picked it up. I’m not Christian. I assumed that the issues being dealt with in an Inspirational novel, or at least the ways in which those issues would be dealt, wouldn’t speak to me.

Boy, was I wrong and, boy, do I feel like a great big bigot. But can I just say, “Yay, reading!” Because as embarrassed as I am about being a bigot, I’m super excited about the idea that reading can break down those kinds of prejudices just by telling a great story that opens someone’s eyes.

What about you? Have you stumbled across any prejudices that you didn’t know you had? Has reading opened your eyes to someone else’s world?


Stephanie Doyle said...

Interesting Eileen. I am a Christian (Catholic) and I still stay far far away from the inspirational books.

I have it in my head that they'll be preachy and all the conflict and problems will be resolved through prayer.

I'm probably dead wrong but it's definitely a reading prejudice I have.

Eileen said...

Me, too! There's a scene in this one where after the heroine complains about something, her son says, "Maybe this is God's way of keeping you humble. At least that's what you told me when I didn't make the baseball team."

The heroine than says, "Did I ever say something that stupid?"

Made me laugh out loud.

Maureen McGowan said...

I haven't read a lot in that sub-genre either. But I lovely women I knew well online (Flo Moyer) who sadly died in 2010. :( Wrote for one of the Steeple Hill lines and from what she told me, the CBA rules are more about what can't be in the books than what has to be in them, if that makes any sense... Characters don't need to be super-religious or solve everything through prayer, but can't be swearing or out of marriage sex (or vampires) and some other things that would mean that the CBA booksellers wouldn't shelve it. Not that I really know about this. So no one quote me on it.

But your post made me think about how important the marketing/genre/cover decisions the publisher makes are.

Really, the entire romance genre suffers from this. The same covers that "brand" romance and make romance readers pick up books (because the cover promises an emotional read and a HEA) make many other potential readers act as if the covers are acid. "I don't read THOSE kind of books." or "Those books are all badly written formulaic trash."

I admit that just over 10 years ago, I was one of those people. Consider me converted.

Sharon said...

I've not read any Christian romance either, although I am Christian. You make a good point, Eileen. I've judged without really knowing the genre. And I hate when people do that!
I agree, Maureen. It seems like every romance cover is the same. I wonder how that will change in next few years with self-publishing becoming more viable.

Molly O'Keefe said...

This is a good one, while I love reading non-fiction about faith - Anne Lamott slays me, have you read her stuff, Eileen? I love her nonfiction only slightly more than her fiction - but I think she has a voice that would appeal to you. Anyway - she writes about faith in a way I love.

But what I want in a romance doesn't seem to comfortably coincide with books about faith - which isn't to say that I only read romance for sex, but I like my romance un whitewashed, and the CBA rules seem to whitewash everything.

I also really really don't like love triangles and usually avoid them at all costs. That said, I just picked up Kleypas' Sugar Daddy, which is a love triangle. Teach me not to read the blurb, but maybe she'll change my mind.

Eileen said...

I do enjoy Anne Lamott, Molly. I'm a bigger fan of her non-fiction than her fiction, though.

Sharon, that's it exactly. I made all kinds of assumptions about what these books would be like and was really wrong. I'm never as open-minded as I wish I was.

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