Defining #OwnVoices

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 22 2018

In the past two years, #OwnVoices has become a popular hashtag on Twitter and in #MSWL and submission requests from agents. #OwnVoices means a book written by a member of the marginalized community from which it depicts. In other words, if you are writing a character from the LGBTQ community an #OwnVoices hashtag or description would mean that you, as the author, are also from the LGBTQ community.

To claim #OwnVoices it is not necessary that every experience your character goes through is also something you are going through, but it is necessary that you are from the marginalized community your protagonist is also from.




17 responses to “Defining #OwnVoices”

  1. Avatar Bryan Fagan says:

    In other words you, the author, must have a full understand what the character is going through. Right?

  2. Avatar Christine says:

    This is very helpful, as I hadn’t realized it was specific to marginalized voices. A couple of follow up questions. If I were to write about a character with a disability, would it need to be the same disability that I have in order to be considered Own Voice? And if you are not writing about a marginalized group, but an agent or publisher asks if it is in own voice, should you say “no” or “N/A”?

  3. Avatar Kate says:

    Do most agents consider chronic and mental illness to fall under disability?

  4. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Jessica, I’m curious… I know authors identify themselves as #ownvoices when submitting to an agent (who I assume also identify it as such to a publisher). The #ownvoices I’ve read, I’ve heard of from writing circles (conferences, agents, authors etc), but most readers wouldn’t have that exposure.

    How does a reader identify #ownvoices? Is something included on the back of the book with the blurb?

  5. […] learn more about #ownvoices, or curious to learn what it is, please refer back to this blog post on Defining #OwnVoices and this one on Further Defining […]

  6. […] received a lot of specific questions following my post on Defining #OwnVoices and will attempt to answer as many as I can. Ultimately though I have one blanket answer. If you […]

  7. Avatar Carla Pavone says:

    I have sent this to Moe. I believe my PB is well worth a look at #OwnVoices. I am a grandma of 5 growing children that need the support and love that Henrietta the Hen gives.
    Gender identity has been a widely controversial topic over the years. Many children have faced the pre-conceived stigma, the feeling of shame and the experience of bullying during their impressionable years. “Henrietta the Hen” aims to help children by sending out the message that it is okay to be different and to be your true self. The book is designed to help children around the world know that they are not alone in their struggles and that one day, life will be filled with laughter and love. Children need a support system and the confidence to talk to someone. “Henrietta the Hen” is based on a true story, about a baby girl hen growing into a big proud Rooster named Henry!

    • Avatar Zampano says:

      A quick feedback from a trans person: I’d recommend you title the book after Henry and not Henrietta, because after all Henry is his true self. 🙂 Bringing up the past, non-applicable name is usually hurtful, and you’d want your book’s title to reflect who Henry truly is and not who had to pretend to be, wouldn’t you?

    • Avatar Quinn Reid says:

      Carla, do I understand the correctly that you’re not trans yourself, but are the grandparent of a trans person?

      If that’s right, I think you may want to stay clear out of labeling your work #OwnVoices. My understanding of that term and hash tag is that they apply to someone who is part of a marginalized group (like trans people) who is writing about a character in that same group. Speaking as a trans and nonbinary person myself, I would be dismayed to pick up a book that I am told is an #OwnVoices book about a trans character only to find that it was written by an ally of a trans person, not by a trans person themself. I think your book idea is lovely, but supporting someone who’s trans is very different from being trans.

      I’d also echo Zampano’s comment that using a trans character’s deadname in the title of the book could be hurtful. Do you have some other title ideas?

      Good luck with your book project!

  8. Avatar Sandy Starr says:

    I am in the process of researching all aspects of getting a book published, from query letter to book proposal and manuscript, etc. I got into BDSM as a fluke, but I can look back and see so many signs that this was what I was meant to be. As a complete novice, the first sub I saw quickly changed from a Professional relationship to a Personal and Intimate D/s relationship. During this time, I also became one of the most well respected Professional Dominatrix, owning a Members Dungeon Playspace in Atlanta.

    This is so much more than just memoirs. It is at its core, a love story, told with both touching moments and humor, over a span of 12 years and excerpts from 500+ emails. There is such authenticity as the emails we wrote in the emotions of the moment with the on again, off again back and forth complexity of the relationships, seen from all sides. Truth is perception, and the time warp of our memories can make it difficult to be an authentic narrator of our pasts. These unique perspectives will show a wider, clearer view of evolving relationships.

    The fetish that my sub had is more common than I ever imagined in BDSM. Since LGTBQ and anal sex no longer shock anyone, I believe the desire to please a Mistress by performing oral sex on her strap on is possibly the last frontier. Most submissive men that are into that are very masculine and don’t consider themselves homosexual or bisexual, even those who will undergo a certain amount of feminization.

    My question is what genre would this be considered? Memoirs, #OwnVoices, narrative non fiction? It’s critical I use the right genre since different types of submissions are often based on the genre.

    I apologize for writing a Novella, but I am having a really hard time trying to research this and get the same answer from more than 1 person.

    • It’s hard to know without reading the book, but be aware that #ownvoices is not a genre while memoir and narrative are. If the story is about your story it is a memoir.

  9. Avatar Christine says:

    Thanks for the post, super helpful!

    I’m really curious about this one. My MC is biracial (Asian & Hispanic mix), but I’m 100% Asian. I do have a Hispanic boyfriend and Hispanic friends, who I asked lots of questions to, and they were able to help me out a lot.

    Does this count as OwnVoices?

  10. To be clear then, a memoir about growing up on welfare with a paranoid schizophrenic mother who sexually abuses you, and then as a teenager is placed in the foster care system, could accurately be categorized as #ownvoices?

  11. […] them.”  Since that time there have been improvements, as Rudine Sims Bishop conceded in 1990 in her groundbreaking essay Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding […]

  12. How a New Generation of LGBTQ Young Adult Books is Reshaping the Literary Landscape – Literary Reviews says:

    […] from the straight best friend, not about a gay uncle,” says Gofman. Whether the book is “ownvoices,” a YA industry buzzword meaning the book’s author is publicly the same marginalized identity […]