Introduction: Emily Hubbard, is a writer, reader, and member of the discussion group with which I read For Such a Time by Kate Breslin. Emily wrote the following letter to Bethany House, the book’s publisher. It’s easy for us to focus on the author of this book, but Bethany House contracted, edited, and published it. I have said I feel they did Breslin a disservice by publishing this book in its current condition, but Emily beautifully states how the publisher has also done a disservice to Christians. I truly appreciate that.–Jackie
Dear brothers/sisters in Christ–
I am an evangelical Christian. I’m married to an ordained minister in a conservative Presbyterian denomination. I’m teaching my children the catechism. I believe the Bible is the authoritative word of God, that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And I believe this faith is worth sharing, and I have many friends that I pray end up in Heaven with me–even though not all of them are excited I feel that way.
I’ve loved your books since my mom cracked open the first Winslow book and read it aloud to us when I was 7 or 8. I would read over her shoulder while the older kids cleaned up from supper. Later I read George MacDonald, Janette Oke, the Thoenes, and even more Gilbert Morris (Cheney Duvall and Shiloh Irons was a favorite). I knew that books you published would be ones that I enjoyed, my mom approved, and that I would probably re-read.
I am YOUR people. I love your publishing house and want you to flourish, to encourage Christians and expand God’s kingdom.
And that’s why I’m heartbroken that you chose to publish For Such a Time by Kate Breslin. I understand the author’s intentions and motivations. I get it. But in order to achieve her narrative goals, Breslin actively rewrites a well-known chapter in history, replacing real people and documented events with fictionalized versions that erase the actual experience of those who were interned at Theresiendstadt. This book is not actually a historical novel–it is a-historical–and ultimately, really a fairytale about the Holocaust. As people have shared their family’s experience of the Holocaust (I’ll link to some at the end of this letter), I cannot believe that anyone would publish a book that creates a happy ending for three people by manipulating the history that caused death and pain for 6 million+ people and their loved ones. There was no freedom train out of the prison camp, only the ones that went to Auschwitz to the gas chambers. The Nazis/SS were NOT humiliated by the Red Cross visit. My knowledge of the Holocaust is mostly from The Hiding Place. I don’t alway read back matter, so because I read what was labeled as a historical romance, I would have assumed the train, the escape, the failed Red Cross visit, were all true. As I have read the stories people have shared about their grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts and uncles–even though I understand that white evangelicals have a interesting relationship with Jews and Israel–I am struggling to understand how you/I/anybody can consider it acceptable to write a story whose purpose is to leave the reader optimistic and emotionally satisfied when the Holocaust should leave us with grief and mourning for the lives lost and our own American inaction.
A romance is supposed to have an emotionally satisfying ending. How is this possible for a man guilty of war crimes and sending Jews to their death? While I do believe that everyone is capable of the same evil the Nazis perpetrated, and that no one is beyond the grasp of Jesus’s saving grace, this story is NOT the place to address that. This story should not have been labeled or sold as a romance, and frankly, shouldn’t have had a happy ending. Though I was moved to tears by the sacrificial actions of the Jewish people as they planned their final days, I was so disappointed when Aric showed up in the final chapter.
I can’t feel the pain that Holocaust survivors, their families, and the people who lost family members in the Holocaust will feel about this book, but I imagined a scenario that would cause similar pain for me and tried to imagine it published as a romance. As a white woman in an interracial marriage in the South, it actually turned out to be an easy shift. Can you imagine EVER approving an inspirational romance between a KKK member who is a policeman enforcing Jim Crow laws, and a young black woman. Even if both of them could get past their prejudices and fears and the power imbalance to fall in love [which honestly hurts me to even type], anti-miscegenation laws would make their life together NOT a happily ever after. I cannot see this ever being accepted as a romantic premise. Ms. Breslin’s story makes a fairy tale out of a time that should only cause mourning at the evil that occurred, and at the collective failure of Christians, and everyone, to act.
By publishing this novel you also put your author in an untenable position. I have read a lot of the online attacks on this book and on Kate Breslin. Some of it hurt my heart, but most of this is not persecution. We are not being persecuted for our faith, as scary as it is to have people angry at us. Christian publishing is being rightfully excoriated for publishing a truly terrible book (I’m not going to get into legitimate literary criticism but I do think that’s another reason this book shouldn’t have been published).
Using photos of Auschwitz victims on the cover, and photos of the gates of Auschwitz for marketing material (I don’t know if Ms. Breslin is responsible for that or y’all) is particularly hurtful. While it may be “authentic” to use these photos, it also is using them to profit off the people who suffered AND DIED. And it is particularly unbearable considering the book’s plot turns on multiple purposeful inaccuracies and fabrications.
I’m going to return my electronic copy of this book and donate the price of the book to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. I am writing to ask you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, to offer a sincere apology for the hurt you have caused–you don’t have to look that far behind all the internet anger to see the hurt–and donate the profits from this book to an appropriate charity (and Jews for Jesus is probably not the right one, but you could ask someone from there for a suggestion). You might even stop selling it and pulp the remaining paper copies. And maybe in the future if you publish books with Jewish characters, have a Jewish person read them and make sure they accurately reflect the Jewish experience. The Jewish people who read the book along with me found very little in the book that expressed their experience of Judaism, or what they know of Judaistic theology.
Christians throughout the ages have been participants in anti-Semitism. Even though I do not believe it was purposeful, by publishing this book, Baker and Bethany House have perpetuated anti-Semitism. The book of Esther that started this whole debacle is a triumph over anti-Semitism, a reminder that God is at work even when we can’t see it. Christians are called to a life of repentance, and I think for us here today, this is an important time to repent. You have the ability to make a statement showing that evangelicals value and care for the Jewish experience and Jewish people today, not as pawns in an eschatological game, but as individuals, who though they may choose to reject our Jesus, deserve to have their memories honored, not desecrated.
Love in Christ / Under the Mercy / in Christ alone