I didn’t used to care that much about Native American history and culture. That might surprise people who’ve met me in the past few years. 🙂
Oh, I knew some. I studied a little in school, knew the Native peoples of this land hadn’t been treated very well, and even lived near the Navajo reservation for five years during my teens. But there remained much history I didn’t know, and for some reason what I did never transferred from my head to my heart.
Not until a story began to grow within me, and I got to know a young Navajo man named Tse, struggling to bridge the gap between the white man’s world and that of his people, still weighted by boyhood wounds from mission boarding school and struggling to know how faith in Jesus fit into all that.
Tse, the Navajo hero in my first novel manuscript, is fictional. But it was through coming to care about him—and doing the research needed to develop his character—that I started to care about the actual people he represented. To realize that, in a sense, Tse was real, because what he experienced, his hurts and heartaches and history, are the reality for a whole culture and tribe of very real people, past and present.
Therein lies the power of a story.
Other stories have touched me too—Lynn Austin’s Candle in the Darkness that brought the Civil War to life for me like never before, Kathi Macias’s Freedom series that gave faces to girls caught in human trafficking today and renewed my giving to the International Justice Mission, Neta Jackson‘s Yada Yada Prayer Group books that remind me how much we need diversity and of my own need for a Savior, Lauraine Snelling’s Red River and Blessing novels that have softened my heart with their lessons of forgiveness, trust, and God’s love for His children.
All these books are fiction. But the truth in them is very real indeed.
Why can a story sometimes touch us when nonfiction does not? I don’t fully understand it. But somehow stories can bypass defenses we might otherwise put up against the truth. One of my early writing instructors pointed to the prophet Nathan, who used a story to confront David with his sin with Bathsheba rather than admonishing him directly. I think that story of the poor man and little lamb engaged David’s sympathy and emotions, softening his heart enough to feel God’s conviction and repent when he realized “he was the man.”
I’m part of a group of authors passionate about these kinds of stories—we call them “Transformational Fiction.” We write about many different tough issues and topics, but all seen through the power of Christ’s redeeming love. And I thought you might like to know that…we just launched our first official website! Feel free to check it out here if you’d like to learn more about our vision, our authors, and their latest books. You can even sign up for our quarterly newsletter, with no fear of being spammed. 🙂 Jessie Gunderson (she and I are the yet-unpublished authors of the group) has done such a fabulous job of putting it all together…I trust one day you’ll find her amazing books available too! I love what she’s writing about Christian-Muslim relations and stories around the world.
So…what do you think? Has fiction been transformational in your life, or is reading nonfiction more powerful for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts…please comment and share!