Open Discussion: Getting More Diverse Books in Your Local Libraries (and other ideas)

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Happy Saturday, folks!

In past posts, we’ve been talking about the importance of introducing more diverse fiction into Christian fiction, why we love reading diverse fiction, why it’s important, what some of the roadblocks have been, and sharing some of our own stories.

Today I’d like to focus on some things we can do to bring more diverse fiction to our own neighborhoods. Because there are many ways to give at Christmas time and sometimes that can be a few extra minutes of our time! So, here are some of the ways I thought of:

  1. Go to your local library once per month and request a new diverse book they don’t have yet.
  2. Go to your local (non-chain) bookstore and request a diverse book that you’ve read and loved but don’t see on their shelves.
  3. Have a church group or a book club? Invite your favorite author of diverse books to speak. You never know, they might say yes! It means more sales for them and more exposure, plus added knowledge for our churches and book clubs!
  4. Have connections at your local schools or universities? See about getting more diverse fiction on their shelves or about inviting your favorite author of diverse fiction for a speaking engagement.
  5. When you read diverse books, make sure to write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. This helps with sales and spreading the love!
  6. Consider writing diverse fiction, if you don’t already. Writing is sometimes as fun as reading (though it’s a bit more work). 🙂

What other ideas do you have about spreading the love of diverse fiction in your neck of the woods?

Comment below!

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Author Interview: Lee Tobin McClain

Hello, reader friends! From Rescue River and Sacred Bond to her new Arcadia Valley Romance series, today’s featured author often highlights diversity through her contemporary romance. 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

 

Interview

Beth: Writing is generally a solitary endeavor. Tell us a little bit about writing within the Arcadia Valley Romance universe. 

Lee: Writing in Arcadia Valley feels communal in two ways. First, it’s fun being part of a community of writers who are creating Arcadia Valley together. We’ve become good friends and are in touch all the time with questions, ideas, and support for each other.

And second, Arcadia Valley has become a community that feels very alive, with families and shops and greenhouses and farms and churches. We have pictures of the town (it’s modeled on a real town in Idaho) and of the surrounding terrain. When I write about Arcadia Valley, I feel like I’m actually there!

Wise at Heart takes place primarily at the hero’s home—a big converted barn surrounded by open land. That’s because Daniel, the hero, is a bit introverted, and he feels alienated from his family and community. Throughout the book, that changes, and he becomes more strongly connected to his siblings and to Arcadia Valley.

 

About the Book

Wise at Heart by Lee Tobin McClainWhen Daniel Quintana needs a summer nanny for his twins, it only makes sense to hire Tabitha Moore. Just back from an extended mission trip, she needs the job. The fact that she was his wife’s best friend shouldn’t matter, and neither should the fact that he finds her attractive. Daniel’s not in the market for relationships because he’s just so bad at them.

Tabitha Moore doesn’t want to work for Daniel because she knows a terrible secret about his daughters. But when staying with her sister is no longer an option, she feels like she has no choice. After all, it’s just for the summer…

With the help of Daniel’s five-year-old twins, Daniel and Tabitha start to become more than friends. Growing vegetables, rescuing a mama cat and her kittens, eating delicious Mexican food at El Corazon… all of it makes these two lonely souls crave to create a family long term… unless Tabitha’s secret rips apart everything they’re starting to build.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

 

Beth: I’m certainly looking forward to reading Wise at Heart! What do you want readers to gain from this story?

Lee: First, of course, I want readers to escape from their problems and immerse themselves in a happily-ever-after story. Because Wise at Heart has a secret at the center, I want readers to stay up late, turning the pages, to discover how everything plays out.

And I also hope that readers will enjoy seeing how God’s hand hovers over everything, gently nudging us in the directions we need to go in order to become the people He means for us to be.

 

Beth: What inspires you to create diverse minority characters like the Quintana family?

Mexican food

Lee: When I got involved in the Arcadia Valley project, I was immersed in studying Spanish, so that was a factor.

Also, the fictional town of Arcadia Valley is set in a part of Idaho where about 1/3 of the population self-describes as Latino or Hispanic, but when I joined the group, we didn’t yet have any major Latino characters.

Since the series is food-oriented—and since I love Mexican food—it made sense to create the restaurant, El Corazon, run by a family of Mexican descent.

 

Beth: I appreciate your dedication to crafting authentic settings, characters, and stories for your readers. In what ways do the second (and third) generation of the Quintana family honor their Mexican heritage?

Lee: One big way is through food! The Quintana siblings update their family restaurant throughout the series, moving toward healthier, more contemporary fare, but they keep many of their mothers’ traditional recipes untouched.

star-shaped piñata

They also maintain some Mexican holiday customs. For example, in Wise at Heart, the story ends with a traditional posada celebration that marks the beginning of the Christmas season—and leads into the hero and heroine’s happy ending.

On a deeper level, in traditional Latino families, the oldest male is considered as the head of the family. That would be Javier Quintana, the hero of Secrets of the Heart (review), and he feels every bit of that responsibility. His siblings alternately rely on, and get exasperated with, him and his tendency toward bossiness and control.

Honoring your heritage isn’t a simple matter, especially when you’re living in a different country and are surrounded by competing cultural traditions and ideals.

 

Beth: Since food plays such a major role in Arcadia Valley Romance, what is your favorite authentic Mexican dish?

Lee: My favorite authentic Mexican dish is tacos! Not the crunchy Americanized ones, or that abomination my daughter adores, the Walking Taco of concession-stand fame. But rather, small soft tacos made with homemade corn tortillas and various fillings. Buying a tortilla press and learning to use it rocked my culinary world! I’m mostly vegan, so my taco fillings tend to be vegetable based.

 

Coming soon from Lee Tobin McClain…

Available in stores mid-February


preorder now

Romance from the Heart: an Arcadia Valley Romance series

  
Look for Book 3
Joy of My Heart
April 2018

 

Lee, thank you so much for joining us!
Are y’all familiar with Mexican posada celebrations? I learned something new today!

 

interview by Beth Erin

Open Discussion: Vanilla Questions

Hello, reader friends! It’s me again, timidly edging out of my comfort zone to ask an (innocent and hopefully not offensive) question to spark open and honest discussion.

As mentioned in the previous Vanilla Confessions, my home county is not blessed with diversity (96.6% “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino” according to Census.gov).

The only descriptions needed on a regular basis around these parts, besides hair and eye colors, are various degrees of “white” and “farmer’s tan.”

Share which comparisons or adjectives you find appealing,
which ones make you cringe, and why.

What kinds of descriptors are preferable in diverse fiction?
Is it taboo to use food to describe skin color?
Are there alternative ways to identify ethnicity without physical descriptions?

Post by Beth Erin

Diverse Holiday Books (and Movies!)

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Happy Sunday, folks!

Thanksgiving and Christmas is upon us, and for me, I love, love, love watching holiday movies, whether it’s about Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, or a combo of the two. I know we usually focus on books, but movies are like books come to life (if they’re done well!).

As I was planning this blog in my mind, I was trying to think about what my favorite holiday movie and book that features diverse principal characters. And nothing came in my mind, except for the movie, “The Holiday” with Queen Latifah. So either I have a sheltered shelf of books and DVDs, or we need more diverse holiday books and movies out there in the world (or perhaps a bit of both).

My son does have a Spanish language book about too many tamales (¡QuĂ© MontĂłn de Tamales!), which talks about Christmas with a Mexican family and working together to make tamales. The premise is that a little girl helps her aunt make tamales but later realizes she has lost her mother’s ring inside the giant mountain of tamales, and she and her cousins have to eat them to find the ring. Pretty cute!

But, seriously, as I think about all the holiday books and movies I love: “A Christmas Carol,” “Home Alone,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Elf,” etc. there are almost zero people of color in those movies. I am literally realizing this as I am writing this. Wow, that is sad.

Please tell me good movies and books with diversity so I can expand my horizons and get in the holiday spirit! Thanks!!!

Book Spotlight: The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon

Hello, fiction fans! Today’s featured book simply knocked my socks off! I did NOT see this one coming, the blurb didn’t much appeal to me but I took it for a spin since I enjoy the author’s work… Great romance, intense culture clash, and deep faith elements are all wrapped up in this engaging and entertaining story. Definitely a #mustread!

About the Book

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah MonzonHannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan she grew up with as a missionary kid, and finally her hopes are coming true. But shortly after she returns to the desert from her college years in the U.S., she discovers her parents have received threats from their Muslim neighbors. As the danger escalates, Hannah finds she’s in the middle of a battle no one seems to understand. She must decide to what lengths she’ll go to stay faithful to the mission to which God has called her. Even if it costs her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravishes the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, locals believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, Hannah, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep them safe—even if the only solution can be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, Christianity is outlawed, and foreigners are mistrusted, will their union heal wounds or inflict the final fatal blow?

goodreads | amazon

 

RT Book Reviews The Esther Paradigm review quote

 

About the Author

Sarah MonzonSarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters.

When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in a small desert town in central Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

website | facebook | twitter | pinterest

 

What are your first impressions, reader friends? 

Karim Al-Amir character spotlight on Faithfully Bookish

spotlight by Beth Erin

Open Discussion: Vanilla Confessions

Hi, y’all! I am an avid reader and actively seek out diverse fiction yet I am seriously lacking in the life experience department. Growing up in our small rural farming community has a lot of benefits but exposure to cultural diversity is not one of them.

HandsI was taught that we are all the same, regardless of skin color, which is true at the very core of who we are, members of the human race, children of God, residents of the third rock from the sun, yet we are also shaped by our experiences. Although I am still not completely sure why… colorblind doesn’t make it all better.

Fellow Christian fiction enthusiasts, share your thoughts and help a vanilla sister out!

What do you as members of a multicultural community want us backcountry white folks (with little to no exposure to diversity apart from the media) to know?

Book Review: The Samurai’s Heart by Walt Mussell

About the Book

Japan, 1587. Sen must find a husband to marry into her family’s swordsmith business. She seeks a Christian husband, though Christianity is banned.

Enter Nobuhiro. Third son of a high-level samurai, Nobuhiro fled his harsh father and apprenticed himself to a swordsmith. He yearns to prove his worth.

They seem an ideal match. But for Sen, the choice is faith or family. For Nobuhiro, choosing a Christian ends any reconciliation with his family. Can love be forged from the impossible?

goodreads | amazon

 

My Thoughts

This book’s rare setting alone is enough to tempt a horde of historical fiction fans. The story is saturated with the everyday culture and historical climate of late-sixteenth century Japan as well as a healthy dose of suspense and a dash of romance. After months of eager anticipation, I’m so pleased to share my experience of this intriguing literary journey.

Sen is an innocent young woman who is devoted to her faith and her family. As the only living child of her parents, Sen’s duty is to marry and ensure the family business and family name lives on. Simple, right?! Wrong! The ban on Christianity complicates her search for a good husband and endangers her life.

Nobuhiro is completely dedicated to his work and to the master swordsmith he is apprenticing under. While he has tight bonds with his brothers, Nobuhiro is estranged from his father yet still desperate to make him proud. Nobuhiro sets the bar high for himself and bends over backwards to care for his master’s family.

Take your time to savor the little things in this story and a slower pace will help keep those long unfamiliar names from becoming a stumbling block. This book is first in a three part series and while Sen and Naobuhiro’s story came to a satisfying conclusion, there seems to be a suspense thread that will continue throughout the series. Now onto the next order of business, eagerly anticipating the release of book 2!

I received the opportunity to read this book through the Kindle Scout program. The opinions expressed are my own.
This Review was originally posted on Faithfully Bookish.

 

About the Author

Walt MussellWalt Mussell lives in an Atlanta-area suburb with his wife and their two boys. He works for a well-known corporation and writes in his spare time.

Walt primarily writes historicals, with a particular focus on Japan, an interest he gained during the four years he lived there. He refers to his work as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.”

Outside of writing, his favorite activity is trying to keep up with his kids. As they are both teenagers, this is proving more difficult each day.

website | facebook | twitter

 

I highly recommend this one, reader friends!
Enter to win The Samurai’s Heart here and here!
What are your thoughts?

 

Reviewed by Beth Erin

Open Discussion: What Diverse Books Have You Read Lately?

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Hello, fellow diverse book readers! Happy Saturday! Summer is officially over and fall has begun. The perfect time to curl up with a diverse read and drink a mug of hot chocolate or spiced cider or pumpkin spice coffee. 🙂

The question of the day is: what have you read lately in diverse fiction? And/or what’s on your reading list? We want to grow our list of diverse fiction and the only way that works is hearing from others about what they have read or have heard is awesome!

Comment below with your recent diverse reads.

Open Discussion – Christian Diverse Fiction Touching on Contemporary Issues

DBTP - letstalk

Happy Saturday, everyone! Lately with all the chatter about race and diversity in the news, it reminds me of the continued importance of not only having diverse characters in Christian fiction but also in responding to racism and other contemporary issues through a Christian lens.

Our question for today is: What are the pros and cons of touching on contemporary issues through diverse Christian fiction? Where have you seen it done well (please name books/authors)? What contemporary issues would you like to see covered in Christian fiction?

We very much appreciate hearing from you! Please comment below!

Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring Watercolored Pearls

Let’s welcome Stacy Hawkins Adams!

You should know her by now because she’s been a regular guest on our blog. 🙂 In case you don’t know Stacy yet, here’s the scoop: She’s a journalist and author with a passion for creating stories that are real and sincere. She likes to write about African-American characters and tell their story.

Stacy stopped by the blog today in order to talk about her original novel, Watercolored Pearls. Enjoy your time with Stacy via this author interview!

~*~

About the book:

Three women spend a summer discovering that their less-than-perfect circumstances, their friendships with one another, and their faith are stepping stones 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.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ B&N

Author Bio: 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.

~*~

The Interview:

Alexis: What or who inspired you to write this book?

Stacy: Watercolored Pearls was inspired by my desire to help readers realize (through my characters) that wherever they are in life is a particular moment in time to appreciate and to learn specific lessons, rather than rushing through, worrying or feeling less than good enough.

This novel was first published in 2006 and was so popular among my books that I released an anniversary edition, with a new cover, in 2015. It is still receiving positive reviews from readers, all these years later. I’m grateful!

Alexis: Why did you call this book “Watercolored Pearls”?

Stacy: In this novel, the three main characters are at very different places in life and feel like they should be making better, wiser choices. An older woman mentors them and explains that they are “pearls in progress.” The way a pearl is shaped in an oyster is a process of hardship and endurance – just like life. This mentor tells these three women friends that they are watercolored pearls because their issues and journeys are unique and varied, but still worthwhile all the same.

Alexis: What can you tell us about the main characters of this story and their “less-than-perfect circumstances”?

Stacy: Serena is a stay-at-home mom of toddler twin boys and feels like she needs parenting lessons; plus, she’s a bit insecure in her marriage because she feels competition from another woman who flirts with her husband.

Erika has found the strength to leave an abusive marriage, but worries that God wants her to stay married and forgive her estranged husband rather than move on to a healthier, saner life.

Tawana is thriving as a law school student at one of the premier universities in the nation, yet she struggles with shame over having been a teen mother and other issues stemming from her disadvantaged upbringing.

The glue that holds these characters together is their unconditional love for each other and their willingness to eventually let their faith, and their women mentors, guide them to a more confident space.

Alexis: How long have the heroines of this story been friends? Briefly, describe their bond.

Stacy: These women characters have been friends for more than a decade, and while Watercolored Pearls is a standalone book, they were first introduced to readers in my first and second novels, Speak To My Heart and Nothing But the Right Thing. Those two books are currently out of print but should be available before year’s end, in reprint format.

Alexis: What role does the faith of your characters play in this story?

Stacy: Faith is the foundation of life for these characters, even when they don’t openly talk about it. Serena is a pastor’s wife, so her personal journey of faith routinely intertwines with her duties as a First Lady.

Erika was once an atheist, but now as a new believer, she is excited to follow the biblical mandates to a T, even when they trip her up. She has to learn how to also hear God speaking to her heart in ways specific to her personal needs.

Tawana, the youngest of the bunch, has a fledgling connection to her faith but seeing how her older friends Serena and Erika live out theirs, inspires her to mature in her relationship with God.

Just like real life, the characters are in varying places and spaces in their faith journeys. Sometimes they struggle, sometimes everything falls into place. The key for them is to keep seeking, searching and trusting that God has a good plan for their lives.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Serena (character). Why did she think she’d never have children? Why is she overwhelmed? What was her career before she became a stay-at-home mom?

Stacy: In a prior book (Nothing But the Right Thing), Serena struggled with infertility; so she knows without a doubt that her 2-year-old twin boys are a gift from God. Yet, imagine having to take care of two busy toddlers around the clock! They wear her out, and she begins to feel inadequate. Before she was a stay-at-home mom, she had a fulfilling career in the advertising field and always felt on top of her game. Raising kids is brand new territory for her, and she has to learn how to go with the flow.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Tawana (character). Why is she passionate about the law? What is it from her past that keeps getting in the way as she tries to “pull her life together”? How’s her love life, or is she a workaholic?

Stacy: Tawana grew up in an economically deprived part of her city, in a small apartment with a single mom. As she went off to college and then law school, she saw many of her classmates and neighborhood friends either going to jail or being killed. This has given her a heart for justice and led her to enter the legal field. I don’t want to give away too much by answering your other questions because it might spoil the story for readers. Let’s just say that she lacks confidence and tries to overcompensate in several surprising ways in her personal life.

Alexis: Let’s talk about Erika (character). Describe her conflict with her estranged husband. When did he start being abusive? How long ago did she leave him? Why is she considering taking him back? How does her conflict with her husband affect other areas of her life?

Stacy: Erika’s estranged husband was abusive before she even married him. Eventually she finds the will to leave (in the prior book, Nothing But the Right Thing), and here we are several years later, with her still trying to move on. She doesn’t want to dishonor God by pursuing divorce if God wants her to forgive her husband and take him back. She is struggling to figure out what to do and still be true to her newfound faith. Struggling in this area of her life threatens to cost Erika opportunities to move forward in other positive ways. Just like in real life, our choices in one area always touch other areas of our lives.

Alexis: Watercolored Pearls is your best selling inspirational women’s fiction novel. Did you know it was a winner when you wrote it? Why or why not?

Stacy: This book felt special to me when I wrote it because I could really connect with the characters and how multi-layered they are. This was the first book that caused me to cry while I wrote it; and by it having that affect on me, I hoped it would similarly affect readers – inspiring them to have empathy and patience toward others while granting themselves grace.

Alexis: What race are the women in this story? Do you feel like their experiences are unique to their race? Or are their stories and struggles universal? Explain.

Stacy: These women happen to be African American, but truthfully, their stories could be any woman’s. Women of all backgrounds struggle with infertility, abuse and divorce, single motherhood and trying to start over. This book is packaged through a lens that shows how women of color bonded and managed to survive but the heart of the story is relatable to all kinds of readers.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Watercolored Pearls?

Stacy: I want readers to remember that just as the main characters aren’t perfect and don’t have to be perfect in order to be accepted, neither do they. They are good enough as they are and they are worthy of love, as they are. If they continue to push through challenges and take baby steps forward in life, they too will discover that they are God’s treasured pearls, of great worth.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Stacy! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Stacy: Thank you for featuring me and allowing me to share this special novel with your readers, Alexis! I hope your readers will consider reading Watercolored Pearls with their women friends and then gather to share their insights and aha moments. I also invite them to reach out to me through my website, http://www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, my blog www.LifeUntapped.com or social media: www.Facebook.com/StacyHawkinsAdams and http://www.Twitter.com/SHAdams.

~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor ~