Previously, I had written a post detailing how Authors Aren’t Infallible, and gave examples of authors who screwed up one way or another.
In this post, I thought I’d go into how people seem to glorify Own Voices writers, and are unlikely to admit that they too can write problematic content, whether that be an intersection bit that they screwed up, or an internal phobia against themself.
Although I’m sure readers of my blog know what #OwnVoices means, I’ll provide a definition just to make sure everyone knows where I’m coming from. #OwnVoices means that the writer of the pieces shares a marginalization with a main character/protagonist. So, if a gay male author was writing about a gay male character, it would be #OwnVoices. Simple!
But, contrary to popular belief, even #OwnVoices authors can screw up. Lots of people still hold internal biases against themself, or against others. There’s also a lot of vocabulary that’s ingrained in society that people still use, despite being disrespectful or even -phobic. Words and phrases like “cr*zy” and “spirit animal”. Even diligent and well meaning people can end up writing something harmful for their readers.
It’s easy for someone not of the marginalization to not understand why using certain wording or stereotypes can be harmful, but it’s imperative that they eventually understand. Someone who is queer can write racist lines. Someone who is gay can write transphobic content. This isn’t exclusive to allocishet white people. It’s as simple as saying this: if you’re ignorant about something (a marginalization) then there will be a chance that your ignorance can hurt someone. Even if you research for years, there might always be something that slips through.
One of the best examples I can think of is Juliet Takes a Breath (Gabby Rivera). While Juliet has been known to have wonderful black lesbian representation, others have called it out for being transphobic as well as racist against Native Americans. I myself won’t be reading it because of the transphobic lines I’ve seen, but the book can and will still be important to black and lesbian people.
Another example would be Everything, Everything (Nicola Yoon). Despite the amazing black girl representation in Everything, the whole story line is highly ableist and basically belittles having disabilities. Many people have related to the protagonist and says the book is important to them, but others have also said how harmful it has been to them.
That’s another thing. A book can be harmful to some and still be important to others. People read things differently, and, as I said before, not everyone is aware. I’ve read plenty of non-binary books in which there is a representation that could have been done better, like the POC rep or mental illness. However, I still enjoyed them for the representation they gave me, personally.
Marianna at Boricuan Bookworms also wrote this post on Diverse Books Being Problematic and I would highly recommend giving it a read if you want to know more.