2020 Reading Challenge: Read an “Own Voices” Book

In 2020, OPL invites patrons to take part in the reading challenge! For each challenge, OPL offers suggestions for titles to read or listen to. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to let us know which read you picked up this month!

Books have metaphorically been known as mirrors, windows and sliding doors. A book can reflect a version of yourself, or be a window or sliding door to see outside of ourselves and learn about those who have different experiences.

As author and illustrator Grace Lin said, "Books erase bias, they make the uncommon every day, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal."

In 2020, OPL encourages readers to read diverse books written by diverse creators. Created via Twitter by author Corinne Duyvis in 2015, the hashtag #OwnVoices indicates a work of fiction whose protagonist and author share a marginalized identity. "Own Voices" describes a book, not a person. By definition, writing about a character who shares your identity makes the story "Own Voices." Fiction is often best represented by someone who has experienced facets of the story in their real life. 

Queenie” by Candice Carty-Williams is a great example. Queenie is a 25-year old Jamaican British woman (like the author) and is both endearing and sardonic. As we follow her compelling and complicated life, we learn with Queenie as she struggles with identity, family, work, and relationships, and discovers herself in the process.

#OwnVoices is about opening the door to let marginalized groups tell their stories. It’s about people seeing themselves in the stories and knowing that behind that story is a person like them. When diverse authors write from an #OwnVoice perspective they are able to portray the subtle nuances of an identity that other authors might miss or misinterpret.

As author Kayla Whaley says, “I’m intimately familiar with enduring and combating ableism, navigating an inaccessible world, exploring disabled identity, and embracing disability pride. I know not only which tropes to avoid, but how much those tropes hurt — because I’ve been hurt by them before.”

Reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s “The Poet X,” a novel in verse, you'll learn the joys and struggles of Xiomara Batista, a young girl in Harlem with Dominican immigrant parents, like the author. Xiomara discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Acevedo is also a National Poetry Slam Champion.

Representation matters, and I encourage our readers to find a book that reflects your own identity or an identity different from your own so you may gain a new perspective. This list, opens a new window has some suggested titles or you are always welcome to stop in and ask for ideas at your local branch or request a custom reading list

Happy reading!

Starting April 1, 2020, once you complete the 2020 Reading Challenge, enter your reading log online or turn in your completed tracking sheet at your nearest OPL branch and pick up your button prize for completion. All submissions will be entered into a drawing for some fun literary-themed merchandise! All completed tracking sheets or online challenge form entries must be received by December 31, 2020, to be entered into the prize drawing.