Stories and storytelling is woven into the fabric of our lives. We tell stories in many different formats. We tell stories in our music, in how we talk about our everyday lives, in what we watch for entertainment, and we even tell stories to sell cars or breakfast cereals. It’s not surprising that we are in a never-ending search for new stories in our books.
In recent years, readers have demanded greater diversity in their books. This desire may be the reason the #OwnVoices movement has gained traction. Author Corinne Duyvis started the movement when she created the Twitter hashtag #OwnVoices to highlight books by authors that shared a marginalized identity with their main character. For example, Kevin Kwan, author of “Crazy Rich Asians” is from Singapore and the main characters of his novel also have the same racial identity. He has stated that he wanted to depict educated Asians living their lives that went beyond the norm. In another example, African American novelist Walter Mosley, writes about African American heroes. He has written over 50 novels and many of his protagonists are African American private investigators. In his most recent book, “Down the River Unto the Sea”, the main character is an ex-cop turned private investigator trying to understand why he was framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Mosley and Kwan both share their racial identity with their main characters and provide the reader a more authentic experience.
#OwnVoices stories are not just about shared racial identity. These stories can also focus on gender identity and sexual orientation. The book “If I Was Your Girl” by Meredith Russo, is about a trans girl starting at a new school and falling in love with a boy. This is one of the first books written about a transgender teen by a transgender woman. The novel, “The Line of Beauty” by Alan Hollinghurst, explores the life of a young gay man living in London in the 1980’s. The author is also gay and used his own experiences to create his character. Russo and Hollinghurst provide different perspectives not seen in many books. These authors share a facet of their world that give us richer and more nuanced stories.
We are living in exciting times, our world is increasingly more diverse and this wonderful diversity is now reflected in how stories are told and who tells them. Kirkwood Public Library has generated several reading lists from #OwnVoices authors that share racial and gender identities and sexual orientation with their characters. Please stop by the reference desk if you’d like to know more.