1

My Love/Hate Relationship with Amish Fiction

20150309_074940

The other day at lunch, I was outed as an Amish fiction reader. It’s not something I really talk about and I will rarely read an Amish book while I’m out in public but since my Goodreads account IS public anyone can see that yes, bonnet fiction shows up from time to time on there.

Amish fiction is still really popular in the Christian fiction audience. It’s a big enough trend that shelves are flooded with books that have a bonnet on it. There are enough readers that will buy all these kinds of books so that many authors will just turn to writing something Amish because it’s popular and will make a sale. The thing is I both simultaneously hate and enjoy Amish fiction. I actually don’t read as much as I used to because I kept getting frustrated with stories. There are some authors who I think share my views and therefore I gravitate towards them more.

What I like about Amish fiction:

I enjoy reading about the food in Amish fiction. Seriously, there’s a TON of food to talk about because everyone is basically cooking all the time. I’ve actually been to Amish country in Pennsylvania once myself and I can confirm that the food is every bit as good as you read about in the books.

I really like Amish fiction that questions the faith of those in it. What usually ends up happening is someone begins to wonder why they follow these rules blindly and why things are considered prideful even if it’s about developing a stronger personal faith. This might sound weird but I cheer when people leave the community. Now I don’t want them abandoning their faith but I want to really explore why they believe what they believe in and to really experience life. I enjoy authenticity and realism in my fiction regardless of the genre and this applies to this kind of fiction as well.

Basically I’ve come to realize that I treat the Amish as a culture no different than if I was reading a book set in a foreign country. I refuse to idealize and think of their culture as a utopia and I expect them to have flaws and problems just like the rest of us. When I read a book that shares that same opinion, I end up liking it.

What I hate about Amish fiction:

It’s so white. There are barely any non white characters that ever show up in these stories. Everyone who lives IN the Amish communities is white. And for some reason, all the tourists or anyone who ever comes into contact with anyone Amish is white too. They never seem to ever meet any POC characters in these things. It almost makes me wonder what happens if a small Amish child in the story sees someone who is black or Asian. Would they say something really awkwardly racist out of ignorance?

Faith is either 1) blindly followed with no questioning or 2) just in the background. I said earlier how I enjoyed the types of Amish fiction that question the faith. But I can’t stand when people don’t even really talk about why they believe what they believe. I honestly really don’t consider these books to be Christian fiction because faith is sometimes never even brought up.

The fact that people seem to love how safe and perfect these communities are portrayed. Notice I say portrayed and not actually are. I know fully well that things are not idealistic and wonderful in real life. Amish folks have their share of problems too. But in these books, I’m not sure if it’s the author’s intent but it comes across very much like these people have the perfect lifestyle and this is how we all should strive to be. Electricity and modern inventions are all wrong and if we only lived simpler lives, then we’d discover true peace and happiness. I’ve read so many comments from readers saying how they wish they could live like the Amish because they think it’d be fun.

It always amazes me how women in these books so easily will give up their lives for an Amish guy. I can only deduce that these women weren’t really happy to begin with and they never really enjoyed their current life. To give up your job, your family, your lifestyle to live in a completely different culture where, let’s face it you’re doing nothing but housework and most of your independence is going to be gone, just for a guy never sits well with me. I mean kudos if that’s what you want to do but it frustrates me at how many times this works out perfectly in these books.

I actually could go a lot longer on this topic but it’ll be WAY ;TLDR. If you’re an author who write Amish fiction, more power to you. If you’re a reader that enjoys Amish fiction, good for you. This is just how I feel because I want people to not generalize and just assume that everyone feels the same way about this genre.

Oh and for the record, in case you’re looking for something non traditional with Amish fiction? Amish vampire stories and gay Amish fiction exists too.

Advertisements
1

When the genre you read the most fails you

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I’m still trying to reach my goal of 225 books for 2014 (I’m currently at 144 books) so I have about 3 and a half more months to go to read about 80 books.

One of the book bloggers that I follow (S. Krishna’s Books) tweeted this the other day:

I thought that was interesting because for me the majority of books I read are written by white women. In fact out of those 144 books, only 8 were NOT written by white women. 6 of those authors were white men and the other 2 were POC authors (Asian women to be exact). That’s a rather dismal statistic. In 2013, I read 217 books. Again only 8 of those authors were NOT written by white female authors (2 male, 6 POC).

The reason why my books are geared towards this way? The majority of what I read is Christian fiction.

And that’s is incredibly sad.

I’ve been reading Christian fiction for most of my life since I was 8 years old. I’ve watched the market change throughout the years and there has been a lot of good that’s been done.

However I’ve also accepted the fact that there are some things about Christian fiction that are just not going to change.

The market is targeted at a specific kind of reader (white middle class Middle American woman who is usually a mother). There is nothing wrong with that type of market. That just usually tends to be who the authors are as well. And they write what they know. What is super popular in Christian fiction these days? Amish fiction, historical romances, and contemporary romances. All three of these genres do not really appeal to me, though I will admit sometimes I can find good books among the weeds.  I’ve accepted the fact that since I do not fall into the demographics for the market, I will never be completely satisfied with the market itself.

I’m not asking for edgy fiction. I’ll just read books outside the Christian market if I wanted that. I realize that a lot of authors don’t want to write about what they don’t know because it can sound not authentic. Ok, I can understand that. You don’t want to come across as sounding fake. It just gets me that so many of these stories feel like the characters just live in a bubble. Barely any POC characters. Maybe a few people will go through some hardships. Barely anyone questions things. To want to further your education or move to a big city for a job is a bad thing. Romances happen after 2 hours of knowing someone and marriages take place after 2 months.

I know it’s hard because you don’t want to offend people. But it just feels like to me that it only happens like that in the Christian world. I don’t see general market authors having such strict guidelines on how or what to write in fear of offending  group of readers. No wonder why Amish books are so popular. It’s so….safe.

Why then do I keep reading the books? I ask myself this question all the time. It’s not that I don’t read outside of this market. I also read a lot of general market young adult fiction as well as general market contemporary women’s fiction. I will also pick up a random book out of my normal reads from time to time and find it liking to my taste. Yet I still find myself going back to the Christian fiction for the majority of what I read.

Another book blogger (Relz Reviewz) asked this question on her blog the other day: “Do you prefer a “comfort” read or something “out of the box” in Christian fiction?” She talked about there were some authors who when writing their books, they know what sells and what their audience wants. Therefore their stories have a same formula to them where the story and the characters are so similar that it’s completely interchangeable almost to the point of predictable. They’re comfort reads because you know what to expect. And in Christian fiction there’s A LOT of these.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’m never going to be fully satisfied with the market. It’s never going to cater to exactly how I want but then again just like many things in the Christian world, there are so many personal preferences that cause dissention among everyone. I know that what I CAN do is continue to seek out writers and books that do understand that there are more readers than the targeted demographic and talk about their books (future post!).