Is there such a thing as Catholic Fiction?

A shopping mall is my area has a Catholic bookstore, so I went inside to see what they had in their fiction section. I passed by a lot of plastic trinkets probably made by Chinese Buddhists, and the usual jewelry, rosaries, crosses, baptisms and confirmation gifts, etc. on my way to the books. There I found nonfiction titles on parenting, apologetics, vocations, liturgy, and the like. But I couldn’t find any fiction.

A clerk asked if I was doing okay (I was), and if I had found what I was looking for. Actually, I told her honestly, I could use some help in that regard.

“Where’s the fiction section?”

All I found was a blank stare. So I began to explain.

“You know, stories. Maybe they’re about people who lived a long time ago. Historical fiction. Or—”

“We don’t have anything like that.”

Now it was my turn to respond with a blank expression.

“You mean to say that every book in this store is nonfiction?”

“That’s right. There is no such thing as Catholic fiction.”

“I’m sure I don’t mean to disagree. But this is a bookstore. Wouldn’t it be prudent to sell books of various genres that promote Christian ideals? Nonfiction or otherwise?”

“There is no otherwise. Everything in here is true.”

Our dialogue continued for a while longer, and the clerk assured me there was no fiction in that store, and for that matter, no such thing as Catholic fiction. I thanked her and headed for the door, when to my right I saw the video selection. So I called my new friend back.

“Look here,” I said, as I pulled Molokai off the shelf. “I love this movie so much, I’ve seen it several times. In fact, I own it. Would you say this story of Father Damien is historical?”

“Of course.”

“What about the dialogue? And the scenes? What he ate and when. These things come from the author’s imagination, so those things are fiction, wouldn’t you say?”

“No. None of it is fiction.”

“I’m not saying that Father Damien’s work with leprosy is not true. Only that it’s unlikely every word heard in the movie is a transcript of every word he uttered. The author had to make that up, don’t you think? And in that case, wouldn’t this be a good example of historical fiction?”

“But it’s not fiction. It’s real.”

“Yes, history proves that these events actually happened, but …” I could see I wasn’t making any headway. I began to wonder if she was right, so I decided to investigate elsewhere.

Here is what I found:

Catholic Fiction Is Real

First, I found a discussion thread on this very topic on Goodreads (CLICK HERE).

Next, Tuscany Press, publisher of Catholic nonfiction and … fiction broaches the subject (CLICK HERE).

Then, there’s (CLICK HERE).

Finally, the Catholic Writers Guild has several blog posts regarding Catholic fiction, including (CLICK HERE).

There are many excellent Catholic authors who write fiction, but their work may not have a Christian theme. If not, their work may not qualify to be placed in a Catholic bookstore. But if an author writes a story that inspires Catholic/Christian ideology, wouldn’t that be acceptable and shouldn’t that be available to anyone who goes into a Catholic bookstore looking for good fiction?

What do you think?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. And if you’d care to share a few titles, that would be great too. In the meantime, I may copy a list of Catholic fiction and bring it with me the next time I go to the mall.

And that is as real as it gets.

“The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination …” Cardinal Newman

2 Responses to “Is there such a thing as Catholic Fiction?”

  1. Henry McLaughlin

    Hi Amy. What a sad experience. I agree with you. There is Catholic fiction out there, just not in that store (and maybe not in the sales assistant’s mind). And there may not be much of it.

    Besides the other resources you mention, I understand Ignatius Press also publishes Catholic fiction.


    • Amy Nowak

      Dear Henry, I agree that the idea of Catholic fiction was simply not in the sales assistant’s radar, and that there is a scarcity of this type. This will change when authors write excellent stories that capture the Catholic imagination. This I know: change is in the air, and a well-known author is helping to make it happen. Check back to find out who!


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