Open Discussion – Is Change Coming?

Happy Saturday, Diverse Reader Friends!

Did you have a blessed week? I hope so! I’m happy because I get to talk diversity. What I want to explore is the question “is change coming?”

As I’ve been interacting around the bookish world in social media, I’ve noticed more and more conversations about diversity. And I promise I’m not always the ones starting these conversations. 😉

So is change coming? Do readers finally want to see diverse characters? Are publishers ready to market diverse Christian fiction?

Share an instant where you’ve noticed change or started change. Together, we can make a global impact!

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Book Review: Hand in His by Cynthia Marcano

TGIF, Diverse Reader Friends!

I pray this week has been a blessing to you. Today I’m sharing a book review of Hand in His. I read this book earlier in the year and was thrilled to see a Latina featured.

Check it out!


About the Book

“The man intended for Nicole De León will come along when she is good and ready and not a minute sooner, no matter how desperately the older women of her church try to find her a match. She simply does not have the time to date with Nursing courses, her best friend’s wedding, work and volunteering at church. If and when she finds the time to find love, it will be with a man in love with Jesus and most certainly not the flirty best man that makes her heart do funny things.

Drew Wells is adamant that falling in love is a waste of time, as is organized religion. As long as he has a say, neither are in his future and the closest he will ever get to either is being the best man at his cousin’s wedding and spending a week with the bible thumping bridal party. The beautiful brunette bridesmaid is fun to flirt with but she will most certainly not make him want to think about settling down or worse, become a holy-roller.

Can either stop their hearts from betraying their minds?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads

Follow Author: Website, Twitter


Review

I was tickled pink to read Nicole’s story. It’s not too often I read a book with a Latina heroine. It was nice to see another culture and another part of the world. I’ve never been to Jersey so I enjoyed the description. The food, family, and secondary characters added to this heartwarming read.

My favorite: the faith element. Nicole had to walk the path of self-examination. Was she too judgmental? Too hard on Drew? It’s a question that a lot of long-standing Christians must ask ourselves. Too often we forget what it was like before we knew Christ. I loved how Ms. Marcano dealt with this subject.

I also enjoyed Drew’s faith journey. It was such a strong plot line that the ethnicities took a background place in my reader’s mind. There’s a moment in here that melted my heart.

This is not the first book in the series, but the book completely stands alone. I say this because I didn’t read the first ones in the series. 🙂


Review by Toni Shiloh

Book Spotlight: Watercolored Pearls by Stacy Hawkins Adams

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re featuring Watercolored Pearls, another book written by the famous journalist-turned-author Stacy Hawkins Adams!

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About the book:

 Three women spend a summer discovering that their less-than-perfect circumstances, their friendships with one another, and their faith are steppingstones to the lives they long to live.

Serena never thought she’d have children; now she has two active toddlers. But instead of being overjoyed, she’s overwhelmed. Did she make the wrong choice in giving up her successful career to be a stay-at-home-mom?

Tawana, an ambitious new lawyer, is trying to pull her life to together, but her past keeps getting in the way. An incredible opportunity at a prestigious law firm forces her to confront her demons. Can her new responsibilities fit with her growing faith?
Erika’s estranged and once-abusive husband wants her back. He says he’s changed, and he’s even going to church. But is he telling the truth? Or is he just smooth-talking her back into a bad situation?

Enjoy this anniversary edition of Stacy Hawkins Adams’ bestselling inspirational women’s fiction novel.

Book purchase links: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ Kobo

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About the Author: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book. She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

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Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

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Author Interview with Dina Sleiman

Hey there, Diverse Reader Friends!

Hope you had an awesome weekend! Today, I’m sharing an interview I did with the awesome, Dina (D. L.) Sleiman. We’re discussing her novel, Dance from Deep Within. I can’t wait to share! Let’s get started.


About the Book

The Blurb: “Despite her conservative Muslim heritage, Layla Al-Rai longs for a chance to earn her degree in engineering and perhaps even…dare she dream…to choose her own husband. But young women from her background rarely enjoy such freedoms. When she finally talks her parents into letting her attend college, she is drawn to fellow twenty-something students, Allie and Rain, over a class project.

Allie, the blonde ballerina, faces her own struggles as she deals with an ex-fiancé and a church she had hoped to leave behind. Rain, the bi-racial hippie chick, longs for something to believe in, but her questioning could cost her the love of her life.

When Layla’s childhood sweetheart reenters her world, it seems her dreams might become real. Until everything falls apart. When she meets truth face to face, will she find the courage to accept it even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about Dance from Deep Within. When I saw your novel in the WhiteFire Publishing Scavenger hunt, I was bouncing in my seat. I LOVE discovering diverse Christian fiction and your book seems to have it in spades. How did you even come up with this story idea?

Dina: My husband is from Lebanon, and I’ve been there several times. I always wanted to tell the story of a Muslim woman. But at the end of the day…like most of my books…the idea just sort of popped into my head, and I had to get it down on paper.

Toni: That is so awesome! As you stated above, Layla Al-Rai is Muslim. Wow, just wow. I can’t decide if I want to ask you about her religion or heritage…hmm, how about both? Is she American by birth or an immigrant? How does her religion factor into the novel?

Dina: Layla was raised in the states in a moderate Muslim family, originally from Lebanon. She’s the type of Muslim girl who wears the headscarf and modest clothing, but still manages to stay in the height of fashion. I modeled her after a stylish young Muslim woman I saw wearing a red mini-dress over a long sleeved black turtle neck and leggings once in Lebanon. Her religion and heritage, and even the difference between the two, play a huge part in her story. There are aspects of it she loves, and aspects of it that really bother her. I talked to a lot of former Muslims and even had one critique the book to make sure I got Layla right.

Toni: Yay! So happy you could talk to former Muslims. I’m sure it helped add authenticity. So Rain is biracial! Eek! Seriously, you gave us a melting pot in one novel! Was it difficult to write Rain’s background? Did it feel too far removed from your own? (Why can’t I stick to just one question, lol?)

Dina: I know, this book covers a lot! I modeled Rain after a few zany characters I loved from television: Freddie Brooks from the old A Different World series, and Dharma from Dharma and Greg, even though Dharma was white. Rain is the typical flower child of aging hippies, and that’s what stands out most about her. I think her bi-racial heritage really captures the post-modern spirit and new age type beliefs I was aiming for. Rain pretty much wrote herself, and she’s hysterical. I felt like since she had both black and white in her background, I had more flexibility in how she might think and feel. And African-American readers have really enjoyed her.

Toni: I loved Freddie in A Different World! Rain sounds like an amazing character. But she’s not the last one. The last young lady featured in your novel is Allie, a ballerina. I see church is her struggle. How did you create her character?

Dina: Allie is a lot like me, so she was fairly easy to write in some ways, but I also had to be careful how I presented her for a Christian audience. She loves God, but has a lot of hurts and hang ups due to her uber-conservative religious upbringing. She’s a ballerina by training, but she actually prefers contemporary dance and heavy metal music. She’s a free spirit at heart. Not a great fit for her traditional family and church. I needed to portray her woundedness in a sympathetic manner that wouldn’t alienate the reader. It took some work to hit just the right note.

Toni: *Sigh* Wounded people tug at my heart strings. *Adding to library hold list* Was there a particular theme you were shooting for, or did it all just fall into place?

Dina: I started the writing process with the main characters and their early conversations. I focused on what would happen when these three diverse cultures collided. As I like to say, “A Muslim, a hippie, and a Christian walk into a coffee shop…” But the theme of discovering who you really are and what you really believe and living from deep within emerged early in the process.

Toni: Love the line! How do you think our cultural perceptions are skewed? Do you find most people hang on to stereotypes or are willing to meet a person on their own merits?

Dina: Wow, that’s a loaded question. I mean, everyone enters a new situation with their own baggage and history. Our past experiences are a natural part of how we understand the world and make meaning out of it. I think a lot of people have a hard time seeing past their preconceptions, but all three of these girls were pretty special in that area. It did take them a while to adjust to one another and to learn to understand one another, but they were all open and curious and willing to learn. By the end, they became more than friends; they were sisters.

Toni: Hope you didn’t feel put on the spot. Love your answer! It’s always important to be “willing to learn.” How about some easier questions? Chocolate or candy?

Dina: Ha! I like fruity candy better most days.

Toni: They do have their place. 🙂 Favorite season?

Dina: Summer. I love summertime activities like the beach and swimming, and I like the laid back, lazy feel of summer.

Toni: Yes! Take me to a beach. Favorite soda?

Dina: Fresca, actually. Is that weird?

Toni: Lol, no. It’s actually good. I can’t remember the last time i had one or saw them. Is it a regional thing? I don’t think Virginia has them. Anyway, I digress. 🙂 Last but not least, what message do you want readers to receive after reading Dance from Deep Within?

Dina: This book is really a journey of discovery that you take along with the characters. Amidst the drama, romance, and humor, I hope that readers are challenged to develop a deeper level of intimacy with Christ and that they will desire to live from deep within like Layla, Rain, and Allie.

I’d like to also mention that this is the first book in the series, and book 2 will be releasing in November. It will add to the already diverse cast Fatima, who comes from a radical Saudi Arabian Muslim family, and integrate more African-American characters as well.

Toni: Hooray for more books! Hopefully, you’ll come back and visit with us. 🙂


About the Author

Award-winning author, Dina Sleiman, writes stories of passion and grace. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Selah Awards, and her cross-over YA novel, Dauntless, won the 2016 Carol Award in its genre from the American Christian Fiction Writers. Also look for her books, Love in Three-Quarter Time, Dance from Deep Within, and the rest of her Valiant Hearts series with Bethany House Publishers including Chivalrous and Courageous. Dina serves on the editorial board for WhiteFire as well, and during the day she utilizes her writing talent with the humanitarian organization Operation Blessing International. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh

 

Open Discussion – Diverse Setting

Happy Saturday, Diverse Reader Friends!

I hope you had an awesome week. I’ve been mulling over potential topics all week and finally, I settled on one.

Y’all, this one is something that falls into stereotypes, yet has truth with it. And isn’t that the problem with stereotypes? Which leads me to the question: what is the appropriate setting for people of color characters?

I think some people believe ethnically diverse characters can only appear in books where the setting itself is diverse. You know places like, Chicago, D.C., New York, etc. But in some genres small-town places are the ticket, and you don’t always imagine people of color in them.

Does that mean you can’t place them there? Let’s face it, there are small towns in the US devoid of diversity. It’s not a stereotype, it’s a fact and if a reader can’t imagine people of color in those locations, it’s not a big surprise.

Still, sometimes the problem is with the reader. My first book, A Life to Live, was set in Nottingham, England. I actually had a person of color complain in their review that Black people weren’t in England.

But isn’t that what diversity is about? Showing the world what’s real? Widening ones’ knowledge of places?

Nevertheless, I questioned my choice, even though I’ve been to England. Met my husband in England and saw other people of color there. After a brief time, I decided to choose more obscure places. Could you imagine a book where people of color were in Montana? Because the assumption is there are no people of color there, right? Well in my novellete in A Spring of Weddings collection, that’s exactly what I did.

The great thing about books is they widen our perspective. Loose the scales over our eyes. Setting is just as important in the diversity discussion as the people we’re portraying.

Let’s open the discussion. Authors: what is the unusual setting you’ve placed people of color in? Did you fear reader backlash?

Readers: What’s the most interesting setting you’ve read that featured people of color? Was it unbelievable or did it give you a deeper perspective?


Discussion written by Toni Shiloh