The Jewel Of Gresham Green
Sherri Lewis 

Sherri L. Lewis is the Essence Bestselling author of My Soul Cries Out, Dance Into Destiny, and The List. She attended Howard University as an undergraduate, then medical school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. By day, she “ministers” as the staff physician at a Georgia Department of Corrections’ Women’s prison. Sherri is co-founder of the Atlanta Black Christian Fiction Writers’ Critique Group with Essence Best-Selling author Tia McCollors. She is also a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and founding president of the organization’s Southeast Atlanta Visions In Print chapter. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bridging The Multicultural Gap

After reading my debut novel, a white colleague chided me for placing it in the multicultural Christian fiction category. She loved the book and thought I was limiting my readership by labeling it. She raved about how the themes were universal and that the book could be a blessing to women of any color. I enjoyed her compliments, and I wondered if she would have ever read my book if she didn’t know me personally.

I belong to a predominantly white church, and several church members have enjoyed my books and are eagerly awaiting my next release. They frequently comment that they benefit from learning about African American culture through my work. They agree that the themes are universal and that my work shouldn’t be labeled Urban Christian. Once again, I find myself wondering if they would have ever bought my books if they didn’t know me personally.

In spite of the strides we’ve made, this country is largely segregated and unfortunately most segregated on Sunday mornings. It’s the same with what we read, watch on television, see at the movies. I have to admit that before becoming an author and understanding that I need to read widely to write better, I pretty much stuck to African American authors. People do what’s comfortable and familiar.

Since joining the American Christian Fiction Writers, I’ve taken pleasure in many authors I may have never been exposed to before, simply because I developed relationships with them personally. I’ve gotten e-mails from fellow ACFWers who have enjoyed my work and who may have never picked up one of my books had they not met me at a conference or online.

How do we encourage people to read across cultural genre lines? To step out of their comfort zones to explore and enjoy other cultures?

A more difficult question was asked by my colleague and church members: Why am I “limited” to the multicultural Christian genre? I published with Urban Christian, a division of Urban Books/Kensington because it seemed impossible for me to break into the CBA. That’s probably more a function of my being an “edgy” writer rather than a multicultural one.

Honestly though, I can easily count the number of African American writers in the CBA and either know them personally or at least have an online relationship with them. My African American writer friends and I often discuss why proportionally so few African American Christian fiction writers have met with success in the CBA and why many successful African American Christian fiction authors are published by ABA houses. Is it an author’s choice, or like me, did most feel like they had no choice but to go with an ABA house?

In considering publishing with a CBA house, an African American author must ask certain questions: Will the publishing house know how to market my book? How can I ensure that my books will be displayed in the African American section of the bookstore rather than tucked back in Christian fiction where my readers often won’t venture? Will my editor understand why I choose certain phrases, scenarios, characterizations, etc., or will I constantly be explaining myself? The list goes on and on.

Bottom line, we have to find some way to bridge cultural gaps in Christian fiction. God’s desire is for us to be one, to walk in unity where there is neither Greek nor Jew and where cultural lines no longer separate us.

Sherri Lewis books