Author Topic: A question about #ownvoices  (Read 865 times)

Offline kciswriting

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A question about #ownvoices
« on: March 22, 2021, 09:51:06 AM »
This is probably a stupid question. Anyway, I'm a Chinese American currently working on a YA fantasy. The setting is based on ancient Chinese culture. Most characters are Chinese (the others are Asians, too). Is my book considered #OwnVoices? OR OwnVoices must be real life stories?

Thank you.

Offline Tabris

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2021, 10:07:47 AM »
My understanding is that being a part of the culture or demographic you're writing about is sufficient to make it ownvoices.

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2021, 10:35:26 AM »
Your story is definitely an #ownvoices story! OV stories don't have to be nonfiction. I was actually introduced to the concept through YA/MG fantasy authors. Dhonielle Clayton's The Belles is an #ownvoices story, as are Karuna Riazi's The Gauntlet, Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone, and Justina Ireland's Dread Nation. Also, OV doesn't have to be about ethnicity or racial identity. It's for all marginalized people. Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient (adult romance) is also a good example of an OV story, because one protagonist is Vietnamese and the other is autistic, and the author identifies as both.

Offline Miss Plum

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2021, 12:47:04 PM »
That's a Yes.

I wrote a Shangri-la love story about a fantastical kingdom "unconquered by the Ming and Qing emperors" -- hence NOT Chinese -- but it's still considered too "Chinese" for me, a white person, to author it. (I don't know whose voice would be appropriate considering the setting is 1899 A.D. and the place exists only in my imagination.) Still, two agents so far have cited the #ownvoices concern in their rejections.

What I'm saying is, #ownvoices can be broad and would surely include you and your work. Go for it.

Offline littlewritings

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2021, 01:20:03 PM »
I agree! Basically, if you're part of a marginalized community and you write about that marginalized community, it's considered #ownvoices, no matter if it's fiction or nonfiction. Agents do care whether or not a story is #ownvoices if the MC of the book is part of a marginalized community, although in some cases (like for LGBTQ+ authors) mentioning that you're part of that community can be an issue for the author. But if you feel comfortable sharing that your book is #ownvoices, definitely go for it!

Offline kciswriting

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2021, 01:41:52 PM »
Thanks everyone!  Very helpful indeed. ;D

Offline kciswriting

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2021, 09:33:01 PM »
That's a Yes.

I wrote a Shangri-la love story about a fantastical kingdom "unconquered by the Ming and Qing emperors" -- hence NOT Chinese -- but it's still considered too "Chinese" for me, a white person, to author it. (I don't know whose voice would be appropriate considering the setting is 1899 A.D. and the place exists only in my imagination.) Still, two agents so far have cited the #ownvoices concern in their rejections.


Wow, I don't know what to say to that. I know you didn't write a "Chinese" story, but I honestly have no problems reading books written by white authors portraying Asians as main or major characters, as long as the writing is great and the characters are memorable.

Offline MKWrites_318

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2021, 03:52:11 PM »
The reason #ownvoices became a thing wasn't about gatekeeping. It seems that way from the outside until you actually look into the statistics and lived experiences that make it necessary. It has to do with making sure that stories about marginalized people are authentic and not harmful, and it's also about highlighting and fighting the opportunity and pay discrepancies in publishing.

Authors of color, especially Black and Native authors, make up a tiny percentage of those who get published, and they are often considered niche. "There's no market," publishers say, but they also spend very little money in marketing those authors, so it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Protagonists of color are much rarer than white protagonists as well, and an author is actually more likely to get a book with a protagonist who is BIPOC published if they are white. The same goes for trans stories and trans authors; cis authors get the priority. The same goes for stories by disabled authors and about disabled experiences; abled authors get the priority. Same with narratives that explore immigrant experiences, impoverished experiences, gay experiences, etc., etc. And white, cis, hetero, etc., authors are also routinely paid a lot more than those who are more marginalized. All of that, I hope we can agree is deeply unfair and, to be real blunt, ass backward.

Most of the time, authors don't get rejected for writing about marginalized communities of which they are not a part, even when their stories are deeply misguided or outright harmful. Rejections do happen, as was mentioned, but that's rare. #ownvoices is a good thing (when it isn't misused). It's seeking to make publishing more equal, not gatekeep.
« Last Edit: March 24, 2021, 03:55:52 PM by MKWrites_318 »

Offline Johnny 5

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Re: A question about #ownvoices
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2021, 04:33:02 PM »
Well said MKWrites_318, and couldn't agree more. I hope agents and publishers see it that way too.