Over the years, it seems the book blogosphere has committed itself more explicitly to diversity in books, advocating for more protagonists of color, more LGBTQ representation, and less sexism in media. However, religious diversity is regularly glossed over in discussions of representations or is regularly dismissed by those who find a character of faith to be “too preachy” or don’t want religion “shoved down their throats.” This attitude does a disservice to the many people of faith throughout the world who would also like to see themselves reflected in characters in books. It assumes that the presence of an individual of faith is, by nature, overbearing, unwelcome, and oppressive–that is, apparently an individual is allowed to have a faith as long as no one else has the misfortune of knowing about it.
Yeah, no kidding. Sometimes it astounds even me, and I think I pay more attention to this than some.
Religious diversity does not have to look “preachy.” Religious diversity just means telling more stories about people living out their faiths, the same way most of the people around us are living out their faiths every day. Having a character struggle with saying no because she is waiting for marriage, or being made fun of for wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday, or trying to struggle through school and work or even sports while fasting, does not mean an author is promoting a particular religion or trying to convert anyone. It means an author is representing the life of an individual. The struggles of a character with questions of morality, with being bullied, with trying to find their way in life, does not become less valid because that character thinks of morality in terms of a deity.
I’m not actually a particularly devout person, but the way anything even remotely reminiscent of Christianity is either a) entirely absent or b) entirely negative in most SFF drives me mad. Especially the latter, which is so disrespectful of the experiences and identities of so many people, and frankly all too often showcases the abysmal ignorance of the author when it comes to religious topics.
The whole post, which is more focused on MG and YA than SFF particularly, is worth reading, including the comments.
A couple more titles that could be added here:
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb
The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zack by Brian Kircher
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson — someday soon I MUST re-read that and finish the trilogy.
The Narnia Chronicles, obviously
and, I will add:
Black Dog and the related novels and stories.