Urban, Not Necessarily the Opposite of Rural
by Sherryle K. Jackson
Poor Merriam-Webster, how demoralizing it must be to put out an annual reference that is basically outdated before it’s typeset. Once again, I have to call him on one of his definitions: Urban. Of, or pertaining to a city was one of his listings. Is that the kind of Christian Fiction that I write? New genres are created everyday. Citified Christian Fiction, although I like the premise and overall ring of the title; it is not necessarily what I write.
What are categories anyway, but catch-alls, and that’s the catch 22. I write Urban Christian Fiction. I write for Urban Christian (literally, that is the name of the publishing company I write for). Urban, loosely, subjectively and connotatively means of or pertaining to African Americans. It’s that simple or complicated. Like I said before, it’s a catch all category.
Believing that African Americans even in a niche market like Christian Fiction write all the same is like believing all African Americans are citified. What about the Southern Belles and gents. I just came back from The Faith and Fiction retreat (www.faithandfictionretreat.com) in Atlanta created by fellow Christian Fiction author, Tiffany L. Warren (What a Sista Should Do, Father than I Meant to go, Longer than I Meant to Stay and In the Midst of it All) where I learned that our audience, as well as why we write, is as varied as our skin tones.
Some write primarily to edify the body of Christ, and others dubbed as pioneers of contemporary Christian Fiction like author, Victoria Christopher Murray (Joy, Temptation, Sins of the Mother) feel compelled to write for those who may never grace a church pew. Me? I feel a certain weight to write in order to demystify the black church. I am a certified church girl that was tired of movie portrayals of church with their attempts to paint a caricature or rely on stereotypes of “church folk.” Folks who liken sitting in Sunday service to serving fifteen years to life in a maximum security prison.
I really hated those classic redemption scenes where the prodigal son or daughter literally crashes a Sunday service, joining in with the choir and dramatically giving their heart to the Lord. Sorry Steven Spielberg and his adaptation of Color Purple, but Alice Walker’s book shows what happens with Shug Avery between the time she’s singing Sista in the juke joint and when she comes down the aisle singing, Speak Lord in her daddy’s church.
I try to illustrate Christians exercising their faith. I love to write about burgeoning love and a burgeoning relationship in Christ. Either may or may not take place in a church. African American Christian writers are bound only by their conscious and publisher’s guidelines. We are CPA, self and mainstream published. We write multi-layered novels, often tackling taboo topics with the overall theme of God’s love, forgiveness and redemptive power. Our diversity gives us our edginess.
Here’s the catch 22. (I’ll ask you to hold my base steady while I ascend my soapbox.) You will not see Urban Christian Fiction authors in the Christian Fiction section of the local bookstores. I dare you to look for me or any of my titles. Lord forbid if we are placed in two sections. Where are we then? As if we are children of a lesser God, we are clumped into the two to four shelves set aside for African-American interest. We are in with Urban romance, Urban classics, Urban contemporary, Urban Erotica and Urban Urban or what is known as Urban Street Lit genre.
Don’t get me wrong, I know my audience is primarily ‘urban’. I know some authors prefer to be the only race categorized by ethnicity. I am sure there are Caucasian Christian authors who would prefer to be shelved in fiction instead of Christian. Like a true evangelist, I wonder who might be missing my message because they failed to realize or fail to wonder into African American interest section because they are not African American.
Just like rural doesn’t mean Caucasian, Urban does not literally mean African American. According to connotation, Urban is not necessarily the opposite of rural. You’ll find Christian fiction is more alike in its root message than different no matter what section you find it in or what race the author happens to be.
Meet author Sherryle K. Jackson
Multi-published author, teacher, wife and mother, Sherryle continues in her pursuit to be a fresh voice in Christian Fiction. Her triumphant debut novel, Soon and Very Soon (2007) was followed up by her sophomore release, The Manual (2009).
Sherryle is currently working on her fourth novel for Urban Christian (Urban/Kensingon) titled Taylor-Made. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.
Soon After by Sherryle K. Jackson picks up right after Jackson’s 2007 release, Soon and Very Soon. Pastors Willie and Vanessa Green are no more than six months into business as usual, in the combined Mt. Pleasant Harvest Baptist church after marrying and combining congregations, when they receive word that Willie’s former church has been burned down by an arsonist’s match. With more than one person with interest in the deed to the property and still more with an emtional investment in the church itself, it’s up to Alexis Montgomery a local reporter and Chief Herbert Rich to solve the the crime.
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