If you’re in the query trenches like I am, then you have undoubtedly seen the call for #OwnVoices stories and perhaps even wondered, what is #OwnVoices and does my book qualify? Simply put, #OwnVoices are books written by an author who shares a marginalized identity with the protagonist. For example, if you’re Deaf and you write a book with a Deaf protagonist, that qualifies as #OwnVoices. You can read more information here.
Some popular #OwnVoices books you should consider reading
- The Hate U Give
- When Dimple Met Rishi
- If I Was Your Girl
- The Sun is Also a Star
- More Happy than Not
- Everything, Everything
- Dear Martin
- American Born Chinese
- Everything Leads to You
- Everything I Never Told You
My #OwnVoices story
My background is Irish, Romanian, English and Chinese. Growing up, I was called everything from “exotic” to “mutt.” I once briefly dated someone in high school who ultimately told me, “I don’t date Chinese chicks,” and another who wanted to date me solely because Chinese is part of my identity. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve had full Chinese friends say, “you look white and you’re not immersed in Chinese culture, so it doesn’t really count.”
I’ve been asked, “what are you?” and told, “that’s so cool!” when I reply. I once had a supply teacher say, “oh, that explains it, I knew I saw something in your eyes” when I was in grade 7, and still others say, “you’re not Chinese! Really? Oh, I can’t even tell” as though that’s a good thing that part of my identify is erased in their eyes. I wrote a paper in university about being “an invisible minority” from the perspective of someone who is “not quite” white but not a person of colour either.
While I understand and respect some authors not wanting to “out” themselves through the #OwnVoices description, especially if they are part of the LGBTQ2+ community and don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so, I don’t feel that way about my personal situation. I’m really excited to write a character who will have a similar experience to me and I’m best equipped to tell it because I live it. When I hesitated to post this, my friend Luc (who happens to be black) assured me I have a legitimate story to tell.
While I query Twist of Fate, I’m working on several series ideas (you can check out the first chapter of The List, book one in my Bridget Jones’ Diary meets Tinder trilogy). The first book in my latest work in progress features a country music star/cowboy named Bryce (thanks, Instagram for helping me choose his name!) with a love interest named Harlow who happens to be Irish, Romanian, English and Chinese. Coincidence?
I’m not using Harlow’s background as a convenient plot device. It’s her experience and embedded in the book authentically. Her mixed race is part of her make-up and I am able to write authentically about this topic without it feeling contrived or insensitive. I’ve only written the first three chapters (but don’t worry, the rest is outlined and ready to go!) and I’ll share more details with you soon, but here’s a sneak peek!
When we enter the elevator, Bryce tenses when he sees the other people already in it. I momentarily wonder if he’s embarrassed to be seen with me and doubts I’ve lived with since childhood flash like painful vignettes in my mind’s eye. Exotic. Different. Oh, that explains it.
Anxiety bubbles in my stomach and I wonder if it’s that, or if he actually does have a corn-fed Montana-bred housewife waiting at home. Relax, Harlow, I order myself. He’s probably just nervous and excited like you are. Sexy guys can get nervous too. Stop projecting.
Have you ever read or written an #OwnVoices book?
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