#OwnVoices and #IndigenousReads

The hashtag #OwnVoices was coined on September 6, 2015, by Sci-Fi and Fantasy Young Adult and Middle Grade author Corinne Duyvis, to “recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group”.

Screenshot of a tweet.
Screenshot from Twitter

Since then, the concept of collecting #OwnVoices in children’s and young adult literature has taken off. As we’ve written about before, these titles are especially important, as they allow children to see themselves reflected in the books they read.  #OwnVoices books also offer windows and mirrors into people’s experiences and lives, building empathy.

The problem — especially historically, but by no means exclusively so — of having identities represented by dominant (often colonial) powers is one of racism and stereotypes.  It has been important for scholarship to critique and deconstruct and confront this problematic of indigenous representation in children’s literature, from indigeneity represented through racist caricatures to the trope of the “noble savage“.  I am reminded here of work by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, who argues for a “need to decolonize our minds, to recover ourselves, to claim a space in which to develop a sense of authentic humanity” (as cited in Bowechop & Erikson 2005, p. 263).  There is always more work to be done.    

#IndigenousReads is a more granular hashtag, with a focus on indigenous authors.  And yet a recent article in Medium highlights how few of the children’s books published annually in the United States are written by indigenous authors.  What is happening, and what has to continue happening, is that Indigenous peoples have to be able to “produce and control knowledges about themselves, their communities and their societies.” (Duarte & Belarde-Lewis 2015p. 121). 

We have thus been working actively to augment our #OwnVoices and #IndigenousReads collection, and, in honor of Native American Heritage Month, wanted to share a few recent titles we purchased:

Collage of indigenous book titles
(Collage courtesy Johanna Jacobsen Kiciman)

Highway, T., & Flett, Julie. (2016). Dragonfly kites. Markham, Ontario: Fifth House.  Text in English and romanized Cree, this bilingual book is the story of two boys and their dreams.

Dupuis, J., Cole, Kathryn, Kacer, Kathy, & Newland, Gillian. (2016). I am not a number. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.  The story of a young girl forcibly sent to a residential school, based on the author’s grandmother’s life story.

Sorell, T., & Lessac, Frané. (2018). We are grateful : Otsaliheliga. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. With Cherokee and English text, this book examines celebrations big and small within the Cherokee Nation.


*While we usually do not usually duplicate children’s or young adult titles held in Seattle or Bothell, we feel strongly about making our collection more representative.  As always, please let us know if there are titles you’d like to see in the library!

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