Now I’m going to preface this post with, I could very well be wrong. And if I am, please, please give me examples in the comments, because I’m genuinely interested in this topic and it relates tangentially to my research.
So, why is it that religion is practically invisible in children’s and YA literature? You have to look far and between to find any mention not only of God or a church, but especially of a character holding any religious beliefs or partaking in any religious practices. Over the past year or so, the only religious details I’ve gotten from any children’s or YA books, that I can recall, have been Laura Amy Schlitz’s Splendors and Glooms and Ruta Sepetys’ Out of the Easy.
Now both of these are set in the past, and it is a fact that people in general were more religious in the past. But I’ve read many a historical fiction book where the author failed to add the historical detail to have their characters exhibit any religiosity. So I commend both Sepetys and Schlitz on staying true to the historicity of their pieces and not taking out the religious details for the sake of safeness or political correctness!
However, have you read any books recently, picture books, children’s novels, or YA stories, especially in a contemporary setting in which religion plays either a prominent role or at least is a part of a character’s lifestyle or worldview in any way? And I’m specifically referring to mainstream publishers, obviously there are many Christian publishers for example that are heavy with these themes, but I’m curious about major publishing houses.
You could tell me, well why don’t you just read Christian fiction? I could, but I’m curious why religion evades so much of mainstream children’s/YA fiction. We live in a time when we are asking our children to relate to others, to read about characters who live very different lives from us, and also about characters who may resemble us or people we know but we ask readers to look at them with new eyes. I don’t have to go to a specialty bookstore or specially labeled off shelf in a bookstore in order to read children’s and YA books on Asian Americans or African Americans or LGBT characters or Latinos. We are asking our children to embrace diversity, to read about characters from all of these backgrounds, lifestyles etc, but why is it that we aren’t asking them to read about characters who have religion as a major part of their life?
In part I think so many are afraid that, well if we have them read about a character who has religion at the center of their life, or who participates at some level in religious practices, we’ll be imposing views. Why is this? We don’t call it an imposition when children are asked to or choose to read about a character from various backgrounds and lifestyle choices?
Religion is still a major part of many, many children’s lives, but you wouldn’t know it if you took a look at children’s books coming out today. I’m not asking for books where religion is the sole theme of the story, although that would be interesting, but at least some characters that have religious mindsets and that acknowledge that, yes in fact, religion is part of culture, and part of the lives of children and young adult readers.
Again, if I'm wrong about this, please leave me any examples or comments or thoughts below! I'm genuinely very curious :)