A/N: I’d like to apologize in advance if this post offends any of my religious friends in the clean indie writing world with this post. Additionally, I’d love to hear feedback and other perspectives on the issue I’ve raised. Please feel free to leave a comment below!
When I browse the web for “clean” fiction, I usually find books that are both clean and faith-based, specifically in the Christian faith. I don’t see much differentiation between faith-based clean fiction and … regular clean fiction. I get that there’s a huge demand among certain religious Christian circles for books with minimal “offensive” content and an abundance of positive messages. But I think I’m living proof that the desire for such books and for positive messages isn’t limited to Christian religious people, or religious people in general.
Several of my writer friends are Christian authors who write clean stories infused with values found in the tenets of their religion; I have the utmost respect for them; they’re lovely people and talented writers; but I’m not sure I’m the ideal audience for their stories.
The thing is, I’m Jewish. While we have similar views on many things and value religiosity on a whole, we practice different religions and worship in different ways. I’m just not sure the religious themes in specifically Christian clean fiction are relevant to me.
Digression: Additionally, I’m not particularly interested in faith-based fiction from my own faith. I could write a whole other post about what I love and don’t love about that genre. That isn’t to say I don’t love a good, mainstream story where religious Jews, especially Hasidic Jews, are given some positive representation. But really, faith-oriented fiction just isn’t my thing no matter what faith it’s coming from.
My personal interest in clean fiction has nothing to do with religion or my religious values. It’s more of a prudish thing. (Seriously, even my religious Jewish friends think I’m a bit weird for being so “sensitive.”) I think it’s great that there’s clean fiction from a Christian perspective, available to anyone who wants to read it. Yes, non-Christians can read it too and, in the process, learn about a faith that isn’t their own. If they want to do that, okay, that’s cool. But my concern is that these books seem to be marketed as the only kind of clean fiction, or alongside neutral clean fiction without any differentiation. Basically, I’d like to see some differentiation made between clean fiction and faith-based clean fiction when they’re being advertised on the indie market.
I try to write clean fiction myself, but I don’t make it my habit to use my books as a medium to educate others about my religion. The positive messages I try to infuse into my plots don’t necessarily stem from Judaism either, even if many of them happen to be consistent with the ideas found in scholarly works like The Ethics of Our Fathers, or in the Torah itself. I like to keep things as neutral as possible, because I also know religious people aren’t the only people who like a substantial, quality clean read.
Digression II: Not all religious fiction, by the way, is “clean.” I’d say The Red Tent by Anita Diaman is a great example of religious (Jewish) fiction that is geared towards mature audiences. Likewise, there are definitely portions of the Torah, the Books of Prophets, and Writings (aka the “Old Testament” among Christian circles) which are not “G-rated,” even by today’s standards.
My intent as a writer is to tell good stories that anyone can enjoy (whether they’re theists or atheists), not to proselytize or even just inspire people to strengthen their connection with the Almighty. I feel like that’s none of my business. Just as I don’t believe it’s my job as a writer to teach young readers about the joys of puberty and procreation, I don’t think it’s my place to teach my readers about religion (or politics, or the Great Pumpkin). That’s yet another sensitive and intimate matter that, personally, I’d rather gets left to parents (and the religious leaders they trust).
But my intent as a clean fiction writer is probably different from other clean fiction writers. All the same, I hope that my colleagues in this genre will keep these points in mind as they continue on their noble task of filling the literary world with substantial, clean fiction with all kinds of good values:
- The niche audience of clean fiction may be slightly more diverse than one might assume from its current offerings.
- I don’t think it should be assumed that the only audience looking for clean fiction is religious, or of a particular religion at that.
- If you’re writing and marketing clean fiction that’s specific to any religion, please be upfront about it.
- Clean fiction ≠ religious fiction, even if the two genres can, do, and should intersect.
That said, I think you’re all doing great. Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. 🙂