Raise Your Voice 2016: The End (For Now)

Raise Your Voice is a special annual month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader whose purpose is to celebrate diversity and inclusivity in literature, with a particular emphasis on #OwnVoices stories. In it, authors recommend books with sensitive, positive and accurate representation that will help to create a resource of diverse books that marginalized readers can turn to when they need them most. Your voice matters. Raise it! For a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates, click here.

Well, friends, it’s with a heavy but grateful heart that I must announce that Raise Your Voice 2016 has officially come to an end. With 24 participants and nearly 10,000 views over the course of the series’ inaugural event, Raise Your Voice was warmly embraced and supported by the community far beyond my wildest imaginings and I’m touched and thankful beyond the telling of it. More important than these statistics, however, are what these numbers represent. The overwhelming interest in this small series help demonstrate what many in this community have always known: That diversity and inclusion are not a niche or a trend but an absolute necessity and something that publishing must embrace in order to ensure that this community is a safe space for everyone. There has been an ongoing discussion in the community as of late concerning the importance of accurate and sensitive representation, particularly in novels aimed at a middle grade and/or young adult audience. While this has proven to be difficult, uncomfortable work as everyone in the publishing industry from authors to bloggers have been forced to confront our individual biases and collective failures, it is inarguably work worth doing. I have to believe that, together, love will prove louder than hate and the community will ultimately be made stronger, more informed and more empathetic because of these conversations and events like this one. If Raise Your Voice 2016 helped even one reader find the right book for them or made them feel a little less alone, I will have considered it a success and I can’t wait to host this event again next year!

I would like to extend a very special ‘thank you’ to Laura Silverman, Julie Murphy, Tanaz Bhathena, Sarvenaz Tash, Jay Coles, Ashley Herring Blake, Stephanie Elliot, Becky Albertalli, Katherine Locke, Caleb Roehrig, Dahlia Adler, Jaye Robin Brown, Justina Ireland, Lily Anderson, Angela Thomas, Amy Spalding, Stacey Lee, Cale Dietrich, S.K. Ali, Karuna Riazi, Anna-Marie McLemore, Nic Stone, Maurene Goo and Nita Tyndall without whom Raise Your Voice never would have been possible. Planning and organizing this event was a bit of a whirlwind but always a labour of love and I will never be able to express the depth of my gratitude for each and every author who took time out of their schedule to share a small piece of themselves and help make Raise Your Voice a reality. I am humbled by your support, honoured by your participation and inspired by your voices. The YA and MG communities are lucky to have such thoughtful, sensitive and compassionate authors writing for and about them. Together we can work to build a better, more inclusive and more diverse future for our children.

Missed an opportunity to read any (or all) of the Raise Your Voice 2016 essays this year? No problem! Below, please find a list of all twenty-two posts to explore and enjoy at your leisure. Happy reading!

October 3: Laura Silverman and Julie Murphy

“It wasn’t until I read Albertalli’s lovely novel I realized how much I wanted and needed Jewish representation. There’s representation out there but not much. And since The Upside Of Unrequited is #OwnVoices it makes the representation that much sweeter. I’ve said before, in one Twitter thread or another: you can write outside of your own experience accurately, but it will never be the pure joy and truth of #OwnVoices representation.”

“There was a lot I didn’t have in common with Molly, but what we shared was something that so many fat girls confront on a daily basis. We want love in a world that has told us everything about us is unlovable. So how do you demand that love? Not only from the world, but from yourself. And when you’re given that love, how do you remind yourself on a daily basis that you’re deserving? Becky hit all these notes for me in her latest book, which is well worth the wait. She gave me the ultimate fat girl gift, and I’ll never be able to thank her enough, because my very short list of fat girl fiction has expanded.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 4: Tanaz Bhathena

“For me this #OwnVoices book was important, not only because it is authentic, but because it showed me that strength can be found even in the darkest of times, and that it is possible to heal from even your worst scars.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 5: Sarvenaz Tash

“Would I have become a writer without ever having read In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson? Maybe. But I also know that book leading to that short story leading to that inscription planted a seed in my head that took root. It was the fact that I could be a writer, that it was in me; that if author Bette Bao Lord had done it, why not me?”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 6: Jay Coles

“I checked out that book in a heartbeat and stayed up all night devouring it. It rekindled my passion for reading young adult fiction. It helped me come to terms with what it meant to be black in America. It helped me push through the grief I had been carrying on my shoulders for years — some of that grief coming from my folks reminding me that I live in a “white man’s world.” Jason Reynolds’ book saved me.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 7: Ashley Herring Blake

“Everything in her was unearthed. This book kept digging and digging until her lifetime of thoughts and feeling about girls weren’t suspicions anymore.

They were truths.

She finished the book, a heartbreaking tale, but nonetheless liberating. Empowering. She found something in between those pages she never thought she’d find.

Herself. A word that brought years of foggy questions into bright clarity.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 10: Stephanie Elliot

“This is why reading is important. We connect with the words on the page; we feel a part of us in a part of the characters, a part of us in the stories we read, and that’s why we are drawn to certain types of books. That’s why I love to read stories about women who have some of the same problems that I have, or have had, or who feel the same way I have felt.

Books remind us that we’re not alone.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 11: Becky Albertalli

“I can’t speak for every type of marginalization, but I know something about anxiety. There’s no universal experience, but there are common threads. We’re often accused of being irrational. Sometimes we are irrational. A lot of the time, we know it. But then we’re asked to kindly stop being irrational. It would be more convenient for everyone if we could just dial the anxiety back a bit. Be less scared. Whatever it is you’re anxious about, just try not to think about it.

We spend a lot of time being misunderstood.

Which makes it that much more powerful when we’re finally seen.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 12: Katherine Locke

“I want more books like this, that are willing to crack open and say that the world will be hard and messy and painful and bright and loving and ours. That living with mental illness is work, but it’s work worth doing.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 13: Caleb Roehrig

“Even as an adult, I still feel an impact when I see myself in the pages of a book — when I encounter a protagonist who has truly walked in my shoes, or who speaks a language meant just for my ears. Queer teenagers, who have so little access to this experience, are especially in need of it; and so it moves me deeply to think how fortunate they are to have books like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 14: Dahlia Adler

“I wasn’t Other growing up as a teen, but I’m Other now. Vacations days don’t accommodate my holidays and book events are always on Sabbath and Kosher food is rare around my office and and and. And that’s okay; resisting the blend-in, resisting assimilation while being in The World is what Modern Orthodox Judaism is about.

But for the length of Playing With Matches, I was in a hall of mirrors again, and it was beautiful.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 17: Jaye Robin Brown

“What I liked in these pages was the ease of storytelling. The history lessons and stories of current day lives lived fully. The slices of life so varied, yet all carrying the warp and weft of South, queer, religion, family, and isolation. These stories helped me see that I’m not alone and gave me hope. We are out there. We are Southern. And we are queer.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 18: Justina Ireland

“This is what it feels like to read a story that reflects your identity for the first time. It feels like finally being able to finally come home.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms did that for me.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 19: Lily Anderson

“What it had was a family that felt like my family, my first inkling that there were other people like us – big families full of brown girls wearing ridiculously fancy dresses and getting in trouble and then eating something homemade and yummy and decidedly non-white.

It felt like being seen.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 21: Angie Thomas

“Knowing that a black person could even be a hero and not a villain in a society that so often said otherwise was incredible. And a black girl as a superhero? Life changing. Storm went on adventures, she overcame ridiculous odds, and she saved the day, melanin in her skin and all. She was #BlackGirlMagic before the hash tag was created.

And she gave me hope. I knew that if Storm could survive half the stuff she did, I could survive hearing gunshots at night and all the other ills that came with my neighborhood. I could be a hero, even without the superpowers.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 24: Amy Spalding

“Willowdean, Dumplin’s main character, is fat. She doesn’t hate herself — except for when it’s hard to drown out society. She’s fierce but vulnerable, brave but looking for the easy way out, trusting but protective. She’s a mess of contradictions, like any person. She’s not perfect, but I didn’t want her to be. She felt real, and she felt like me. And when you see yourself on the page, you feel in your gut how representation matters.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 25: Stacey Lee

“The story takes place in the 50’s, and the sisters are Japanese American, not Chinese American, but I so connected with the feeling of being a duck out of water. I grew up in a mostly white and Mexican community where at elementary school, the only two other Asians were my sisters. Like the protagonist of Kira-Kira, I relied on my sisters for friendship. I depended on them for identity and survival.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 26: Cale Dietrich

“I personally engage with stories best if I find them entertaining, and I find things more entertaining if they are unlike anything I’ve read before. I feel like there is so much storytelling potential here, and if Last Seen Leaving is any indication, I think publishers are figuring this out as well, which I am so thrilled about.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 27: S.K. Ali

“Here’s what compelled me to read Taro and the Tofu over and over as an eight-year-old: the echo of shared-experiences — of people and situations I knew. Though the characters were Japanese, it was the closest I’d seen to a family like mine in a book.

While I went on to devour books of all kinds, I continued to search for that echo. It was elusive. Books seemed to be about other kids, other girls, other families. They were still wonderful of course. Just not my-very-own wonderful.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 27: Karuna Riazi

“She (Kamala Khan) came to show us that Muslim girls could be heroes. There is nothing more important, more powerful, more desperately needed than that. And even though no longer a teenager, no longer as lost as she used to be, no longer as distant and adrift and worried, the Muslim girl writing these words didn’t realize how much she needed Ms. Marvel until she had her.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 28: Anna-Marie McLemore

“Kristin left me with truths I needed to know. Not just her diagnosis or the way she took it with her into the life in front her. But her, Kristin herself.

Yes, you are different. Yes, the way you are different will always be here. But there is also nothing wrong with you.

She reminded me that all these things could be, at the same time, true.”

Read the rest of the post here!

October 31: Nic Stone

“Because #OwnVoices books aren’t JUST for the marginalized people represented within them. Yes, we all need to see ourselves as the heroes/heroines of our own stories…

But other people need to see us that way too.”

Read the rest of the post here!

November 1: Maurene Goo

“Because I can’t even imagine having had a book like this to read when I was growing up. Sure, my reality was much closer to the world in Little & Lion than in the hundreds of books I read as a kid — but my life was also so much more sheltered and narrow than this incredibly rich world that Colbert has written. Books as mirrors and windows? Yeah, it’s necessary. And I’m so glad voices like Colbert’s exist for the lucky readers of today.”

Read the rest of the post here!

November 2: Nita Tyndall

“I want shelves to be full of books of girls like me, because right now I only have a few to point to. But these few, with representation done well, mean so much — not only to me now, but to me then, who needed these books and couldn’t find them.”

Read the rest of the post here!

One Response

  1. Jenn, your Raise Your Voice 2016 essays by these wonderful authors was a fantastic series. Thank you so much for inviting these writers and to the authors who shared with us. Their honesty and compassion will bring some hope, empathy, or both to your readers. If no one speaks, then no one can listen, and nothing is changed.

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Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!