Our Stories, Our Voices: Strong Words for Important Times

Our Stories, Our Voices: Strong Words for Important Times

Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America Edited by Amy Reed Simon Pulse August 14, 2018 When I was a young, queer, Latinx girl growing up on the East coast, my options for stories about people like me—even lived experiences by authors—were few and

Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America

Edited by Amy Reed
Simon Pulse
August 14, 2018

When I was a young, queer, Latinx girl growing up on the East coast, my options for stories about people like me—even lived experiences by authors—were few and far between. The essay collection Our Stories, Our Voices, edited together with painstaking craftsmanship by Amy Reed, does a beautiful job encapsulating the growing experiences of a wide variety of authors from disparate backgrounds in detail. In the thick of the Trump presidency, where if you’re not white or cis you’re “the other,” it could not be a more refreshing or important.

Our Stories, Our Voices, Simon & Schuster, 2018

There isn’t any one common, unifying theme in the collection. These are tales of lived racial and gender bias, sexual, physical, and emotional assault, discrimination, and the triumph of self-actualization. They are also stories of how they have coped, in one way or another, with the election of Donald Trump and his ensuing presidency.

I loved every single piece in the volume.  Each story pulls no punches, and each story is incredibly valuable. Narrowing down the volume to a few standouts is hard for me. It’s really best grasped as a full volume. There’s Sandhya Menon, who wrote one of my favorite YA novels of the year, From Twinkle With Love, who movingly details what she experienced in immigrating from Bombay to South Carolina as a teenager in a voice every young reader can grasp. Sona Charaipotra talks about the importance of representation in the media and the damage stereotypes wreak. Julie Murphy’s celebration of her fatness, and Ilene Gregario’s story of rebellion against “social norms.” Other standouts come in the form of tone, like Jaye Robin Brown’s perfectly-told tale of their realization of their lesbianism.

But the essay that caught my heart the most—as a Catholic school survivor—was Anna-Marie McLemore’s essay about her desire to portray the Virgin Mary in a school play, a notion that was laughed at by her teacher because she didn’t match the pale-skinned, blond-haired image the teacher had of the saint. The Catholic Church has been painfully unwelcoming to the innocent children that once attended it and dared to be queer, to transition, to take birth control, marry out of the faith, or, as in McLemore’s case, meet the whiteness of the plaster icons looming down and over us. McLemore captures everything that’s raw and painful about forging ahead and being yourself, about yearning for a reconciliation with faith, and about finding it while still being true to your queerness and your skin color. As Eartha Kitt once said, “When I walk into a church I only see white angels. Why?”

No matter who you are, no matter how you feel, you’re bound to be emotionally moved by at least one of the essays contained within the pages of this book. It earns my highest recommendation.

Lisa Fernandes
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