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Question about #ownvoices books

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#1 Ajax


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Posted 25 June 2017 - 01:39 PM

It seems like agents prefer manuscripts about the marginalized groups BY the writers belonging to those particular groups. For example,  white writers aren't ostensibly the preferred choice to write about the experiences of Muslims. Only Muslims should write about other Muslims.

But does this also mean that a writer from a marginalized group shouldn't write about the experiences of a different marginalized group? Like a Muslim writer cannot write about the experiences of a black Christian?

What's the scope and scale of owvoices books?


P.S. This agent talked about the "right credentials" (at 18:55 mark, if the time stamp doesn't work): https://youtu.be/7bnSq-ndy54?t=1133

#2 b.katona


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Posted 18 October 2017 - 01:44 PM

Thanks for your comment on my query. I'll try to chip in (not sure if this is even relevant to you anymore but I'll still do it...)


In fiction you can't really have a perfect match with your own characters--not even with your protagonist, so it's just not realistic to go for perfectly similar characters. This factor really comes into play when your book's marketing will have, say, a character's skin color as a building block. So, if your character suffers extensively because of stigmatization due to her being black, then sure, people will check out the author and will make an issue out of him being a white dude. On the flipside, when race/gender/religion is not in the focal point or not an essential question or isn't reflected upon too much, I don't think anyone would bat an eye. On top of all this, if you've got a story you're passionate about, I don't believe you should really worry about not being completely identifiable with your characters, as you are supposed to be convinced that the story will carry you through, no matter the possible controversy. I mean it's a sensible thing to consider (your original question), but you really can go ahead and push your luck.

#3 Gibber


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Posted 18 October 2017 - 03:06 PM

An ownvoices manuscript is typically defined as a story about a person who has some marginalization (being Muslim or Hispanic or bisexual) that the author shares. If you were, in this case, a Hispanic lesbian woman writing a book about a Black, bisexual boy, the manuscript would not be ownvoices (elements a: Hispanic and b: lesbian do not reflect in the story's main character). If the story were about a Black, lesbian woman, you would share that one (lesbian) marginalization.


I can write aroace and genderqueer/questioning characters and call that ownvoices. I cannot do so for any other marginalization. Again, the debate is still figuring this out, but I'm sticking to the "stay in your lane" line of thought, because I want to leave those spaces open for people from those communities to tell their own stories and represent themselves (they're likely better at it than I would be). EDIT: this paragraph applies to main characters. Writing supporting characters that are not your marginalization is a different ballgame and I'm not sure that answer can be found on a single forum topic. Basically, the more privilege you have, the more careful you have to be not to accidentally smash someone with it.

#4 NCruz


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Posted 27 December 2017 - 06:03 PM

I have issues w/ the scope of #ownvoices.
How much of a match do you need to be to call yourself an #ownvoices writer?
If a heterosexual half-Chinese man writes a book w/ a gay half-Chinese protagonist, is it still #ownvoices?

#5 Niambi


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Posted 31 December 2017 - 02:35 AM

b.katona and Gibber hit the nail on the head for the most part.


It all depends on your main characters and what you decide to portray.  As writers we have to be experts or at least well-versed in the topics we choose to write about.  Ownvoices primarily deals with writers of marginalized groups writing about characters and topics related to that group.


Others can write about those topics as well though, but they may not be considered #ownvoices novels.  While it may be hard for someone who isn't marginalized to write about being marginalized, it can and has happened.  This goes for a black woman trying to write about the marginalization of Irish immigrants in America.  


Unless of course that person has extensive knowledge and experience.


Mike Resnick wrote a few novels set in Africa and about African cultures.  One of his famous ones, "Ivory" deals extensively with the culture and heritage of the Masai tribe of Kenya.


He's a white guy.


But he has extensive knowledge for Kenya, its history and traditionalism.




With that being said, Mike Resnick wouldn't say he's an ownvoices writer, but he can write about Kenya and Africa and have African characters all he wants.  

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