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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thoughts on Amish Versus Christian Fiction

Posted by Alana T. and Gwen B.

Gwen B., our Head of Technical Services, has been a big fan and heavy reader of Amish Fiction - until recently.  We sat down a few weeks ago and had a conversation about the genre, how it has changed and what she thinks about it now.  Our first post covered Gwen's thought's on the genre.  In this discussion, we move on to the the differences between Amish and Christian Fiction.

Alana: I recently had a conversation with my mother in law about the library.  She wanted to know what types of things people were reading and I told her about the Amish romance genre.  She could just not wrap her mind around that.  Not that the Amish don’t have love affairs, but the idea that you would have a romance novel in that setting – the two things were the antithesis of each other.

Gwen: And I think it is.  I have to ask, why are we doing this?   It is getting ridiculous.  The Amish have a story all their own.  The newer novels are not really about the community, Amish country is just a lovely place to set a romance.  But people don’t know.  And so when people ask me for a good book or author, I say go back to all the old authors, start at the beginning.  If you’re looking for a romance, or Christian fiction, read some of the new stories.  Some people classify Amish as Christian, but I don’t think that they are.  Christians believe that you are saved by the grace of god.  The Amish do not.  They believe you are saved by the works that you do

Alana:  Do you think people have a misconception of what the Amish are?  We believe they live these holy, clean, simple lives.

Gwen:  In theory they do.  When you get down to the theology of it, no, they are totally different.  That’s what bothers me with newer novels.  It’s not Christian, not really.

Alana:  Well, do you think authors are writing in this genre to make a buck?

Gwen:  I think they are.  Honestly, I do.  Let’s write this Christian fiction and make it Amish - even more people will buy the books.  For some authors, I really think that’s going on. 

Alana: You work in the cataloging department. I know we have some guidelines for Science Fiction and Mystery.  Is there a definition for Christian Fiction?

Gwen:  No.  The book I have now (from another library) has one of those stickers (denoting Christian Fiction) on it.  And I thought to myself, how did you decide that?  What is the difference between Inspirational and Christian?  How does someone decide what those are?  My personal opinion would not work for what I do in my job here at the library.  To me, somewhere in those novels characters should be professing Jesus Christ and talk about salvation - If they don’t, then it isn't Christian.

Alana:  Here’s a question: You’re sitting in your office with a book in your hand. How would you determine if it is Christian or Inspirational? 

Gwen:  We wouldn’t.  We have enough problems trying to figure out what fantasy is!  I'm serious!

Alana:  Do the publishers give you some indications? 

Gwen: Well, for example, the book I have now was published by Bethany House, which is predominantly Christian.  They (they owning library) decided it was Christian Fiction.  Sometimes there are subject headings on the books.  Sometimes there is something written on the back.  Sometimes on the spine it will say Inspirational.

Alana: If you have different publishers, they could be defining the genre differently?

Gwen:  Definitely!  I don't know how they figure it out except that maybe someone mentions Jesus in it.  (Laughter)  I'm still trying to figure out the difference between Inspirational and Christian and I can't figure it out!  But you will find them separate in a bookstore...   I just don't like the labels. 

Alana: Religious fiction maybe?

Gwen:  That might be better.  That covers it all.  But then, that's the problem.  It covers too much.  However, that might be better for the Amish.  They have a religious thing of their own. 

Alana:  I think the vast majority of the people who are choosing a book to read are doing it for entertainment purposes and they don't care about the underlying philosophy. They just want to read a good story. It is a bonus if there is something in there that makes them pause and think about things.

Gwen:  True!  But that's my problem.  I branched off and learned more.  I know it is fiction, but it's too far from my theology.  I'm not one who reads fantasy either.  I can't read a book with just a little bit of truth and the rest something else.  I hear there's fantasy in Amish too.  I don't know what they’re doing with that!  It has really branched off and gone way beyond Christian Fiction.  Cataloging is a little complicated sometimes…

Stay tuned for our last post from this interview when Gwen will talk about cataloging issues.

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