A Writer, Blogger, Reader Journal, Discussions

My 1st Discussion // #ownvoices // Feeling the Love, Not the Hate…

I’ve been preparing to write my first discussion post for the last month. I had a safe but inspiring topic I wanted to talk about (that I still love) but which was shoved to the side due to the lovely May @ Forever and Everly, the Mango lover and Discussion Queen! Yesterday she posted her discussion before going on vacation and it really hit home for me…

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May’s Inspiration

(If you haven’t already then you need to read her post on why diversity is needed and  wrong!) The thrust of her post is that diversity is first about representing ALL people. (I really liked that!)

Normal People Scare Me

Second that we need more diversity and better represented diversity. (A given!)

BUT May’s point was that it needs to be natural diversity and readers shouldn’t criticize books for NOT having diversity. (Again read her post, it is excellent!)

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Judge the Book, Not the Author

A helpful diversity-loving book blogger explained the whole diverse movement to me (about a year ago when I first heard about it) and since then I have been by turns excited by diversity and totally disheartened!

There were strict percentages given (50% of the author’s blood MUST be the race in order for their work to be from a POC, i.e. an #ownvoice read) and what the author looked like mattered BIG time (white looking Hispanics without the proper amount of color DID NOT count as Latin – fact is these are Latin people with Spanish blood, i.e. from Spain and are NO LESS Latin!!) NOT everyone subscribes to this strict of rules when it comes to diversity, but the fact is many readers are weighing in on what counts and doesn’t count.

I’m NOT saying readers SHOULDN’T have an opinion!! Everyone SHOULD have thoughts of their own that add up to their own opinion.

It is my belief that the story should be what is judged, not the author. In other words if the diversity is A PART of the story NATURALLY then it will resonate with the reader. It won’t matter what color or sexuality (etc.) the author is because the book will BE SPECIAL due to how it affected the reader (the feeeeeeeelllsss)!!

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I have a vested interest in this as a writer myself…

I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity, specifically how it relates to own voices as the two seem to be tightly connected. If you met me in real life you’d see a “white” woman but I’m actually a quarter Japanese* and have been STRONGLY affected by my mother’s culture and my Japanese grandmother.

Park Shin Hye grumpy

*Why am I not 100% Asian?!

I LOVE Asia and the cultures to be found far and wide across the continent. A quasi-Asian inspired culture is to be found in my own fantasy writing as I have studied my own and other Asian cultures from Korea and China.

Unfortunately my book WOULD NOT be considered #OWN VOICE… why? Let me share the definition of #ownvoice by the woman who coined the term:

“Use it for whatever marginalized/diverse identity you want … and for whatever genre, category, or form of art you want. As long as the protagonist and the author share a marginalized identity.”

I don’t share a marginalized identity.

So Good Luck With That

(mar·gin·al·ize v. Treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral.)

People don’t look at me and SEE an Asian girl. (They do listen to me fangirl and know that I’m that odd white girl who loves k-dramas but I don’t think that “counts…”)

While I’ve NEVER experienced the HATE, I DO FEEL THE LOVE!!!

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So what I’m saying is…

Some white people (me!!!) are writing about diverse characters, not to cash in on diversity but because they are a total fan of that marginalized group!

Readers shouldn’t criticize the amount of diversity in a story but share whether the book itself, the characters and the events they went through made us think about ourselves… made us scream… made us squeal in delight… In other words made us feeeeeel!

Lay it on me

(I’m now totally nervous about my first discussion post! Please be kind but also honest… no offense was intended in the writing of my thoughts!)

What is your opinion on #ownvoices? Are you a writer blogger? Are you marginalized? How do you incorporate diversity into your writing? Was this post too much, too fast (for my first discussion)?

Dani Signature


37 thoughts on “My 1st Discussion // #ownvoices // Feeling the Love, Not the Hate…”

  1. Diversity is everyone and everywhere. I am never comfortable voicing opinions I feel might upset others, but you have nailed some important issues here. When I discussed diverse reading a while back, my focus was to read more of “everything”. More of various authors, more of different genres, more varying themes. By being open to it all, I feel in turn my experience is much more diverse. I feel sometimes that by placing demands and guidelines on diversity, it is actually having the opposite effect. We are actually setting limitations that can be detrimental in the end, ultimately receiving a less diverse experience. Thank you also for mentioning that we are not hear to read or review authors ❤

    1. Awww I totally hear you Danielle! I love how you said “Diversity is everyone and everywhere.” So, so true! We just need to let it in. It goes so well with how you approached diversity… such an open direction… but really it helps you to appreciate what you love so much more (I find from my own experiences)…

      And I am also loathe to upset others and have dreaded writing a discussion post but I do LOVE to hear what others have to say… thank you so much for your thoughts! ( I really do dislike seeing all the author hate on goodreads…)

      1. Author hate is despicable in my opinion. I think that at times there are those in the community who want to blow things out of proportion and point fingers or make a scene. It is a terrible tactic that only reflects badly.

  2. I absolutely agree with what you are saying and May. You have both raised some really good facts, I don’t know really what to say? After reading all through the comments, everyone has some good points to say. What I do think is that there needs to be a balance of things, each book and author has a different case therefore you can’t relate two books. I do agree you need to judge the book not the author, and who knows if the author resonates with her characters but is not confident to speak about it? That is why you should never assume things (at least in my opinion!

    1. It’s hard not to assume, I think everyone thinks they can judge by the facts given (we of it all the time with the news) but I love that we are trying NOT TO ASSUME… especially when writing a book is such a process! BALANCE! I totally agree!

  3. Both of these posts (yours and May’s) raise interesting points.

    Here’s a thing that bothers me. I am white, so this is my opinion and obviously I could be so wrong. BUT. I think it’s incredibly problematic to not count a book as diverse/#OwnVoices if the Latinx character is light-skinned. We already have a lack of biracial/multiracial characters as well, but apparently those people “don’t count” because they aren’t “enough”? From what I understand, biracial/multiracial people (as well as light-skinned Latinx people) ALREADY feel “not enough” because they get it from all sides. I 100% acknowledge that this is not my lane whatsoever, BUT I think that you can consider yourself an #OwnVoices writer, regardless of what percentage you are.

    But on another note: I do thing it’s important to read books by marginalized authors. But sometimes the push for #OwnVoices makes me uncomfortable: for me to call my current WIP an #OwnVoices novel means being public about my identity as bisexual – despite the fact that I’m not comfortable being out “in real life” at this point. I’ve seen this happen with other authors who aren’t open about whether or not they share a queer ID with their characters. It’s never okay to push someone to come out or to be a representative of their marginalized group.

    I also like what May said in the original post: we should be reading books with natural diversity, and we should be reading for the story and not nit-picking whether or not the author is marginalized. I recently wrote a discussion on how I’m tired of the “Oppression Olympics,” this insane competition about who is “more marginalized.” It doesn’t do us any good to critique and nit-pick other people, especially because we never know what they’ve gone through.

    Sorry for the super long comment, I have a lot of thoughts. Thank you for bringing up such an important topic and sharing your thoughts. I look forward to more of your discussions in the future!

    1. I loved when you said: “It’s never okay to push someone to come out or to be a representative of their marginalized group.” I never thought about this POV but it is so true! Another aspect of not judging an author (even in a good way) but instead reading and talking about the book itself.

      I loved May’s post and she and other great discussion writers are why I wanted to do my own discussion. (I’d love to read your post – could you include it in the comments so others can read it too?)

      I can’t bear to share the ways I’ve been marginalized (too often) with others… to be frank I just feel like it is something I want to use in my writing and not beat my chest about (and not even in the same ways but through similar emotions). I applaud others who speak out (I know they help others) but I also don’t want my life to be a poster child for anything but me.

      I LOVED your thoughts! Such a different viewpoint on the same topic ❤

      1. I do think the book community tends to put a lot of pressure on marginalized writers and readers to be a representative of their marginalizations. While there are plenty of folks who are willing and happy to do that, it’s not fair to expect that of everyone. Especially when you consider how many white bloggers expect POC to do the work of the diversity movement, as far as education goes. So I totally get that you wouldn’t want to be the “poster child” because ultimately you’re just you, and that’s absolutely wonderful.

        Here’s the link to the discussion I wrote about the Oppression Olympics, in particular, the ways that it hurts people who are not open about their marginalizations (e.g. in my case, the fact that I don’t always talk about being bisexual) and those with mental health struggles. https://thestorysalve.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/mentalhealthmonday-on-the-oppression-olympics/

  4. I agree, books should be judged on the stories, not the authors. I think diversity and #ownvoices are great, but I don’t think #ownvoices are the only books that deserve to be read. I think if an author who’s not part of a specific marginalized group wants to write about a character who is, there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they do them justice and aren’t writing something that’s offensive. I feel like the fact that some readers believe the only diverse books that should be read are #ownvoices ones is only discouraging authors. But then, of course, if they don’t include enough diversity, they get scolded for that too. It’s like authors are damned either way.

    1. There are so many topics to write about that I feel like readers are limiting authors to certain perspectives through diversity demands (which is one reason May’s post hit home for me!) For example a book written about a small coastal town where a family from Africa moves into is hit by a firestorm of hate about how the author is racist… and these critics haven’t read the book, just the blurb. This is just an example but my heart goes out to any writer who becomes marginalized due to other people’s good intentions.

      Thanks so much Kristen for sharing your thoughts! Everyone is so inspiring to me!!!

  5. Awesome topic for a first discussion, Dani! I really loved the thoughts that you presented because I fully agree that we should judge the book rather than the author. I know some people who are so obsessed with the diversity of the AUTHOR that, even if the book is just awful (or problematic in other ways, even!), they won’t admit it because they’re just pleased the author is getting hype. Of course we need to be fully supportive of diversity in the author pool, so to speak, but if you overlook the story and only focus on the author, you’re doing EVERYONE a disservice.

    On the other hand, I do think it’s particularly awesome when a book is own-voices, but if the author is someone who – like you – looks “white” but tells me they are own-voices for POC? Dammit, I’m going to believe them, because you can do so much more harm by saying “no way, you’re too white!” than by just taking them at their word. I mean, you can’t SEE bisexuality in a woman author who’s married to a cis man, but does that take away the fact that Ashley Herring Blake is an own-voices writer with bi female protagonists? No, nothing can take that away from her, and you can even FEEL the authenticity in her writing.

    Sorry to rant on your post here, but I guess I just have lots of feelings about this, lmao. Anyways, bottom line – I agree wholeheartedly with what I felt like you were trying to put across, and great post, as always! ❤

    1. Thanks Destiny!! I’m so glad that I got my thoughts across! Your point about author Ashley Herring Blake is perfect! That is exactly what I meant… if it feels real to you then it doesn’t matter about the author, though I’m sure she appreciates your support! ❤ Diversity is such a sensitive topic because I do believe it’s important!

  6. “diversity is first about representing ALL people”- yas!!! That’s perfectly put! That’s exactly how I feel about it. I think that whole thing about 50% is really harsh to people. I will say that in my own experience as a white ethnic minority (yes they exist), I find it frustrating for people to decide who is and isn’t “diverse” by these standards (especially when it’s just by looking at someone). I also don’t think that authors should be criticised if they don’t have diversity- especially when I’ve heard people complaining not only about historical fiction, but books like Austen, written in a country that was almost 100% white at the time. And yes, it bothers me *even more* that it’s seen as cashing in for writing diverse characters. I’ve even seen people complaining that a book doesn’t have diversity and then saying it’s shoehorned in- it feels like a no win situation. Personally, I’ve always written diverse characters- maybe because I grew up in London and had lots of friends from different backgrounds- either way I didn’t really think about it when I composed the characters, (especially since it was in an alternative world where people aren’t marginalised along these lines)- but now I’m not I’m worried how people will perceive them :/
    Anyway, I loved hearing your thoughts on this!!! Amazing discussion!!

    1. Yes! Europeans aren’t all the same and in fact neither are Americans though they are all white. Diversity has done a real number on people’s kindness levels, making judgments on others a norm rather than accepting everyone. Literally everyone (which is what I would prefer 🙂 ) Not that I don’t enjoy diversity, as we’ve talked about before I adore culture and think it deserves to be preserved (and I want to learn about them all!)

      On a slightly different note, I LOVE London and it is so, so great to know you live there! (Not sure why but it is super cool, lol) Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, particularly about your writing!! It makes total sense that you naturally made your characters diverse, particularly since you live in London, literally one of the first melting pots in the world. (Was the first in Constantinople?) ❤

      1. yes absolutely!! I’m the same as you- it should be about *everyone*. That’s the most important thing. And of course- yes- I love diversity- it makes me excited to read something different and like you I love learning about lots of cultures- as we’ve talked about 😉 😀
        Hehe yes it’s awesome!! You’re welcome- I’m glad!! Yeah exactly! I also think 90s tv/books/music/sports played a role 😉 (I may or may not have based a character on a footballer I loved 😉 ) But yeah, it is and I didn’t know that about Constantinople- that’s cool- I now want to look into that

  7. I do agree to this. I often feel like diversity supporters become discriminators themselves. Which is sad. Anyway awesome post, but I gotta go to bed so I’m sorry I didn’t write a long comment xD maybe tomorrow. Congrats on your first discussion post, it was great 🙂

      1. Yeah. I mean, “all-white” cast often gets criticized. But what if it’s my life? The lack of PoC in my country is not discrimination – it’s history. We just.. don’t have any PoC. Almost any whatsoever. They just don’t live her. This shouldn’t make my experience invalid and forbid me to speak.

  8. Great post Dani! I am totally with you that people need to stop judging the authors for their content. It boggles the mind to me that people can claim they want more diversity in their books they read, and then turn around and attack an author offering it because they look “too white” to really give voice to what they’re looking for. That just doesn’t make sense.

    I also like to write creatively in my spare time, and as a white male, (although I am gay) I am terrified to think that someday when if/when I get a book published, it will be denounced not because of its merits, but because of my skin color and that a privileged man happen to write it. I want people to look at the work I offer and not my skin color when I show them the things I’ve written. I think most authors feel this way.

    Honestly, I think the #Ownvoices movement is harmful to publishing in general. Ever since it began, young people in particular online have sort of militarized themselves as sort of protectors of people they consider marginalized. I see an awful lot of young white women on Goodreads and Twitter for example, publicly denouncing books as harmful and triggering and warning POC to stay far away from them and it just feels so false to me. Like they’re not actually doing it to help fellow readers, but rather to earn kudos from fans online, while forgetting that fiction books can cover difficult topics from time to time and not everything is “dangerous” or offensive just because the reader couldn’t handle reading it.

    1. You know Bentley, your posts about Goodreads are all a part of the same conversation I had here in this post… and so I know you’ve been attacked by these “militarized” bloggers… And so I totally understand your fears. I think all blogger writers who secretly or not so secretly desire to present a book to the world one day worry about how their “baby” will be viewed… and anyone can be attacked with the present attitude of some in the social media community.

      One of the reason I enjoy your reviews is that you focus on the writing and even still keep reading a series when you don’t like some of the author choices! I really respect that. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, I think you have a really distinct view of the subject!!

      1. Thank you Dani! I totally am of the mind that a book review needs to be able to separate thematic content of a book from their own personal beliefs. Do I agree with everything I ever read? Absolutely not. Lots of characters are offensive in books, and are typically written as such because fiction is supposed to tackle tough subjects from time to time. Otherwise, what’s the point?

  9. Nice post! I feel like #Ownvoices is actually harming diversity in the way that May says so many readers are. Diversity is the inclusion of everyone, or almost everyone, not just the marginalized. It bothers me how SO MANY people forget that. Who cares what the authors are? I don’t. We read the books because of what’s in *them*, not because of the authors–or at least, that’s how it should be in a rational world.
    I include diversity in my own writing by imagining the characters as completely as I can and letting them take charge. Sometimes a certain book leans more toward complete diversity than others, but I never force it. The only thing that I do purposefully include is most of my protagonists having type 1 diabetes, but this is for a specific reason. I have the disease, and I have never found a YA or fantasy book representing T1D, and I really, really want some out there.
    I don’t think of that as diversity, however, because I’m not writing those stories for YA readers or fantasy lovers. I’m writing them for T1Ds. Other people may read them and say they’re diverse, but the target audience won’t count them as diverse. They’ll (hopefully) feel understood.
    So many people are pushing for diverse reads now that people don’t bother for authenticity in the way that they would if their target audience was the people they were actually writing about.
    This comment kind of spiraled out of control on me, but I hope it makes sense. I can;t wait for your next discussion!

    1. Thank you Lillian, such a thoughtful comment! I love that you are including T1D characters in your own stories (everyone nowadays eats differently and it’s a great added detail – though I know T1D is about more than that)!! I agree that misrepresentation is a serious problem with diversity and a lot of it has to do with pushing for diversity for diversity’s sake… i LOVE that you let your characters take CHARGE!! That is great and exactly how I do it in my own writing as well. I have detailed (like so detailed I could write a prequel) back histories so that I get my character up and walking around… May really hit it on the head about natural diversity. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I so appreciate it (it empowers me to think of another good discussion topic!)

  10. This was an AWESOME discussion, for your first time! (And thanks so so much about shouting out my post!!! ❤ Sorry about stealing the topic away though haha!) I myself am marginalized — both my parents are Thai, so therefore I am pretty much Asian. (But I do live in America so I am technically an Asia American… XD)

    The last paragraph, about how we shouldn't criticize books for the amount of diversity it has but OTHER aspects of the novel, is SO TRUE. Diversity shouldn't make a book good or bad — it's important,but not the heart of the story itself. It frustrates me when books are given five stars for DIVERSITY SOLELY. Like no???

    And about #ownvoices… if I wrote about a main Asian character (specifically Thai), it would be #ownvoices. But if I wrote about an African — would that also be #ownvoices? Since we do share "marginalized identities"? (Sorry, I'm still new to this #ownvoices thing!)

    I also agree that the story should be judged and not the author — and not just in diversity! If you criticize the author themselves… it's a little rude. It's like saying "YOU are a bad writer." But if you criticize the book, it's more of "YOUR BOOK is bad" which isn't as direct??? But yes, if diversity is in the book, it won't matter about the author, but the story itself.

    I loved this discussion, Dani!

    1. Thanks May! (You’re post really helped me! You’re thoughts about being a blogger writer inspire me!)

      If you check out that link I included about #ownvoices you’ll see that she is a little fuzzy on that issue, she feels people should decide for themselves. BUT you make my point exactly… since you’ve experiences being marginalized as an Asian American you can certainly imagine similar feelings for an African character! It’s not the author that matters but how their work/book/writing makes you feel.

      Many authors are personally attacked and I know that when I’m personally attacked I feel very defensive. When my teachers would point out problems with my writing I didn’t take it personally at all but realized that I can keep improving. When you write it’s such a personal and intimate task, you don’t always think of everything or examine how each reader will feel. As a writer myself I feel like readers should first be grateful the writer finished their book so it could be published and read! As I haven’t gotten to the finish line yet I feel like this is a major accomplishment even if no one likes my writing in the end. (Readers can show that gratitude by being respectful toward the author as a human being and instead commenting/criticizing/ranting on how they felt about the book and their experience with the book…)

      I enjoy diversity! I so look forward to a book about a Thai character *hint, hint*

  11. Imagine being an author with a mixed background (like yourself!) who finally writes the book they’ve always dreamed of writing, gets it published, and then gets bashed by readers for not being [insert race here] enough? How awful would that be! The whole 50% heritage thing is just horrible as well. To me, that’s saying that you’re not good enough and your voice doesn’t matter enough because of something beyond your control.

    An author and their experience is incredibly important, especially to younger readers who have never/have rarely read books related to their own experiences. However no one should have a checklist to determine whether or not they’re diverse enough. While I absolutely believe that more diverse authors are wanted and needed, there’s a line that must be drawn between the author and their work.

    White authors absolutely can and should write diverse characters (although it gets a little iffy in situations like, say, Memoirs of a Geisha). It drives me crazy when you read a fantasy novel and it’s all white people. Many authors will defend their lack of diversity by saying that their book is based on Medieval Europe, which is completely silly because people of color and trade routes existed back then. Also, if your book has dragons in it, it’s not based in reality anyway so that argument goes out the window anyway.

    Bear in mind that I’m a white woman, so I might have no idea what I’m talking about in terms of diversity.

    You picked a great topic for your first discussion post. It’s a controversial one for sure, but you wrote very eloquently! Topics like diversity need to be discussed.

    1. Thanks Justine! I absolutely agree about medieval Europe fantasy world! Haven’t we seen enough of those? Let’s get creative! And with such a world view in society now there is no reason to limit our stories to such a microcosm (unless that is the point behind your story *shrug*). Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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