Friday, January 15, 2010

Thoughts on Books and Culture...

Rather, I should say "questions", not thoughts.

I am reading a Christian fiction book by an African American woman. I felt like I should read it, so I requested it. I'll be honest, I'm caucasian. This book has caused me to ponder a lot of questions about books and writing and I'd love your input. Please forgive me if I use the wrong or not politically correct terms--I get so confused nowadays about what words I'm supposed to use. So, if I use the wrong words--I don't mean to.

1. Do white authors expect black people to read their books? Do they hope they will?
2. Do black authors expect white people to read their books? Do they hope they will?
3. What does race equality mean when it comes to books and movies?

So, here's what's going on. I am reading this book. The first third of it I was totally confused! There was no cast of characters in the front and words like "bishop" and "reverend" were used interchangeably. I visited a black church once in Denver, Colorado and served for an inner-city camp in California that was primarily black. In Georgia, I was told by a pastor's wife that black women would only listen to other black women for advice and not to white women. For example, they wouldn't listen to Family Life on the radio because, though it had good things to say, it was the speakers were white. All of these experiences have taught me that the culture of the Christian church and what people expect when they go to church is different for white and black people.

The way the book is written that I'm reading assumes a lot of knowledge about black culture and families that I don't have because I'm white. I would like to understand. Genuinely, I would like to understand.

Unfortunately, earl on in the book, the reader realizes that all of the characters have slept with other people before marriage and it gives the reader a very strange impression of young people in black churches. I am left wondering what impression did the author think her book would give a white person who read it? Did she only intend to write to a black audience? I remember from school that when you write, you do choose an audience that you are writing too. I am very puzzled by all of this am trying to sort it out.

I am not racist. I am not prejudice. But, I do believe that we all have cultural differences. My husband is Italian and an Easterner. I am polish and a Westerner. We have distinct cultural differences between us and we have to navigate them in our marriage.

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