One of this year's suggested activities for Winter of Reading is to get a recommendation for an #OwnVoices book. What is #OwnVoices, and why is it important?
The #OwnVoices hashtag was coined by author Corinne Duyvis in 2015 to call attention to children's literature where the protagonist and the author share the same diverse or marginalized identity. The We Need Diverse Books movement defines diversity in books as including "all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities."
What does this have to do with adults if these movements are primarily directed towards children's books? Lots, it turns out. We all read for different reasons--to learn, to escape, to get caught up in a story, to experience a life unlike our own, and/or to feel less alone when we recognize something of ourselves in a character or situation. When talking about children's literature, we often say that everyone needs "windows and mirrors" in their books--windows to the world outside of themselves, and mirrors to reflect their own experiences. Adults need all of these things too.
It happens to all of us---we find ourselves reading the same types of books, by the same types of authors--maybe like ourselves, maybe not--and our view of the world can narrow. It can take effort to find reading material outside of our comfort zones, whether that be cozy mysteries, Victorian romance, or space opera. This is one reason why reading challenges have gotten so popular--people like to be pushed, but need some direction, too.
We challenge you to ask your librarian (or use our Personalized Reading List service) to find one or more #OwnVoices books to consider during Winter of Reading, and throughout the year. While authors are creating characters, and will not share identities with all of their characters, #OwnVoices recognizes that the lived experience of being in a marginalized group brings authenticity to the voices of characters that share that identity, rather than relying on stereotypes. You may find a story that sweeps you away.
Some of my favorite #OwnVoices reads of recent years are:
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson--It's 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She's brilliant, but she's also a young black woman working in an old boys' club.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse--While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. Enter Maggie Hoskie, a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer.
So Lucky by Nicola Griffith--This affecting autobiographical novel recounts a proud and independent woman's struggle to lead a meaningful life despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin--This fresh take on a second chance at love is so very welcome and necessary, with a hard-hitting storyline that asks important questions about sexuality, societal demands, and living on your own terms.
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman--This certainly isn’t the only comic about summer camp, but it is one of the only ones that’s honest about how much summer camp can suck, how much being a teenager usually sucks, and how much being from a group that’s marginalized and forgotten only makes the teenager part suck more.
The Unquiet Dead by Ausman Khan--From a Colorado author, this is a brilliant murder mystery which interweaves the solving of a crime with the lives of her main characters, with a backdrop of the 1990's Bosnian War.
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn--This title beautifully captures the long-lasting psychological effects of colonialism and the abject poverty the imperial powers left behind when they left their colonies behind.