We need more #OwnVoices books.
Have you ever walked into a bookstore, that tingling excitement of buying a new book filling you up, and then felt your heart sink to the floor when you couldn't find a single book with a protagonist that looked like you? If yes, welcome to mine and so many other kids' worlds where we still have to hope for accurate representation of our culture and race that isn't clouded by stereotypes and bias. The literary world should be diverse and beautiful in all the colours it celebrates. We haven't been able to achieve this in the real world, where oppressors continue to try to step on people of colour, especially African Americans, but bringing in a necessary spectrum of cultures into our books could be another small but powerful step in the right direction. And we need these books to be written by authors who can understand what we're going through because they have lived it their whole lives too. No matter how much a white author tries to weave authenticity into the story of a Filipino American girl, the story would still be incomplete in my opinion, because it's lacking the raw, real truth of what a Filipino American girl's life would be like.
I'm an Indian American who has grown up reading books about white kids who have experiences that I could never imagine ever having, because my life is so different from theirs. Although I moved back to India from the USA when I was 6 years old, I still have vivid memories of going to school there. I was lucky enough to grow up in a city that was diverse and had a large Indian American population so I never felt like an outsider unless someone went out of their way to make me feel different. But that didn't exempt me from being bullied about how my skin was darker than the rest and how my lunches always smelt different, rich with the spices that accompany Indian cooking as opposed to their PB&J sandwiches (now don't get me wrong, I love those sandwiches too). Looking back, I realise that I was slowly and unconsciously taught by a racist society to be ashamed of who I was, how I looked, where my parents had come from.
No kid, no one, should ever have to go through that.
We need #OwnVoices books because we need children of colour, of different backgrounds, who look different, who talk different, who think different to not feel invisible. The feeling of not belonging is one of the worst things that can grip someone and yet, millions and millions of kids are shaken up by that cruel thought everyday. This is why good books by #OwnVoices authors need to be included wherever they can be: in school curricula, in bookstores, by publishers so we can build an ingrained sense of acceptance and celebration of differences in a kinder world tomorrow.
Here are some #OwnVoices books that I love! I'm sure I'm missing out on a lot of spectacular books, so if you're an author or a reader who's written or read any books that I haven't included, I'd really appreciate it if you reached out to me :).
Some community book recommendations :)
I'd love to hear more of these!