Carole Whang Schutter
Linda Hargrove

Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her writings include two novels: The Making of Isaac Hunt (June 2007) and Loving Cee Cee Johnson (September 2008). The former environmental engineer currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and three sons, where she designs Web sites when she’s not writing. She blogs at and

A Rich Unity

It was laundry day and I’d asked my eight-year-old son to sort his dirty clothes before I started the washer. Minutes later I peeked into the laundry room but found no color-coordinated piles of dirty clothes at the foot of the washing machine, and no eight-year-old. After ten minutes of searching, in and around the house, I found him glued to the TV. As I was about to launch into my lecture about irresponsibility, he blurted, “I know why we’re not rich.”

My mind flew to one of my favorite motivational Scriptures. You know the one that advises all sluggards to find wisdom by studying the ants. Before I could share my vast maternal wisdom, he pointed to the TV. “See, we’re not rich because we don’t give money to the poor.”

I watched as the short video clip played out across the screen. There, in vivid color, my little big-hearted boy had been watching dusty, half-naked little African children standing in line to get their bowls filled with rice. The announcer, affiliated with a large American church, was gently assuring his listeners that if we gave money to the poor little children half a world away, God would give back to us.

I reigned in my emotions and explained to my son that we were not by any stretch of the imagination poor. I spared him the lecture about my childhood stories of growing up in the swamps of northeastern North Carolina and just cut to the chase. I told him about the American, Haitian, and Canadian missionaries we support every month. He was stunned.

My dear, compassionate son had an “Aha” moment that day. My husband and I have told him about our work with missionaries before—even shared pictures from our trip three years earlier—but at five years old, he had no mental hooks on which to hang that information. He wasn’t ready to receive it then. He had listened but not comprehended.

Last December, Carleen Brice, an ABA author and one of my Twitter users, used a publicity trick that some folks did not fully comprehend. On her blog entitled “White Readers Meet Black Authors,” she declared the last month of the year as “National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give It to Somebody Not Black Month.” She was called racist and narrow-minded. It was all meant to be a quirky, tongue-in-cheek stunt. She’d even made a video inviting nonblacks into the so-called African American Literature section of Borders and browse openly.

On a November blog post introducing the idea, Carleen says, “[My friend] Beverly mentioned that her friends were a little scared of the Ebonics they expected to find.” She then went on to urge her black readers to assure their white friends that “there are books without Ebonics, and books by black authors are much like any other book.”

The simple fact is some whites do read black. Gina Conroy of Portrait of a Writer...Interrupted blog says, “[The ethnic language used] should be enough to get the flavor of the culture but not too much overdone so that the culture overrides the story.” Gina, a writer and creator of a popular, reads multicultural fiction on a regular basis. She seeks it out. Gina adds, “I think if it’s a good story, no matter if it’s cultural or not, word will spread.”

What is it that keeps so many good stories wrapped in ethnic packaging, out of white hands? Book placement (or the lack thereof) in Christian bookstores? Online marketing to black audiences exclusively? Ebonics? Cover art? Subject matter?

I don’t have the answer to those questions. I’m not sure if anybody does. Fortunately, this quandary in Christian publishing hasn’t dampened the spirits of African American speaker and author of Business Unusual (2007), Dr. Linda Beed. She says, “Multicultural projects can help to expand our horizons.” In fact, many of the black authors I interact with think the future of Christian multicultural fiction is bright. They, like me, have a passion for the written word. In the end though, I personally have ended up in a box I never wanted to be in, a box that’s kept me out of the hands of some believers.

It seems many black authors don’t mind being in that box marked for black readers only. In fact, they confess that they write so they offer nonwhite readers alternatives with which they can identify. But others still (blacks and whites) yearn to see all the boxes eliminated. The reality is the boxes, though flawed, do serve a purpose in the world of publishing for God, albeit not in the kingdom of God. For now, I will continue to pray for an “Aha” moment for the entire church—a moment in which we will all be able to listen and comprehend, and move forward with such a rich unity that all men will be drawn to Christ. On that day, we will not be known as multicultural, but as one.