I have to mention initially that I am not an ownvoices reviewer for any of the stories here, so it doesn’t really matter what I have to say. As Lamar Giles mentions in the foreword, this book is for all those kids who love reading but are disheartened because they never see themselves represented as anything more than a sidekick or a stereotype. Here, you will find stories about Black, Native, Asian, Persian, Muslim, LGBTQ+ people, all written by ownvoices authors, who wish to bring marginalized characters to life, make them the heroes of their stories and show us a true reflection of of the racist, prejudiced and divided world that we live in today. Each story is powerful in it’s own right and everyone needs to read this amazing collection. My reviews for individual stories are below:
Eraser Tattoo by Jason Reynolds
A sweet story about childhood best friends in love. One of them is moving away and they are unsure about the future but just want to enjoy their last moments together, while remembering the happy times.
Meet Cute by Malinda Lo
I loved the setting of this story at a Sci-fi fantasy convention. It beautifully captured the awkwardness of two queer girls who meet there during a blackout and are unsure of each other’s orientation. There is also commentary about whitewashing of movie characters and less representation of LGBTQ+ people in the media and I think it’s written very well.
Don’t Pass Me By by Eric Gansworth
This was a very compelling story about a Native American boy who lives on the Reservation but has to go to a very majority white school, where he can’t help but stand out due to his looks. We also see how difficult it is for a young boy when he is not even represented in his school literature because white is the norm.
Be Cool for Once by Aminah Mae Safi
The feeling of crushing so hard on someone that you invent excuses to talk to them is captured perfectly here. The concert setting is cool, I loved that the band is named after tragic historical queens including Rani of Jhansi and it also captured the feelings of kids from immigrant families – a Muslim American and another possibly Japanese American. Wonderfully written.
Tags by Walter Dean Myers
This is a story about systemic oppression and racism and police brutality and how this is a cycle that keeps on repeating and young boys lose their lives for nothing. And how we may remember their stories for sometime, but ultimately they become just a memory. A very powerful and poignant story.
Why I Learned to Cook by Sara Farizan
This was a cute story about a young Iranian American bisexual girl who isn’t sure how to come out to her grandma. So, she decides to ask her grandma to teach her how to cook and then invites her girlfriend over for dinner. It’s an endearing tale of love and acceptance.
A Stranger at the Bochinche by Daniel José Older
This was a very different sci-fi kinda setting, so it was difficult for me to get into. I think the story had an underlying subtext but I wasn’t able to grasp it.
A Boy’s Duty by Sharon G. Flake
Set during WWII, this is a story about a homeless black boy who has big dreams about being a sailor and then survive the war, to go to college and become a teacher of astronomy. But he has to deal with everyday racism that was the norm of the day while also encountering the generosity of someone like Ma Susie. And through it all, he has to try his best to keep his dreams alive. What a hopeful story even in a desperate situation.
One Voice – A Something in Between Story by Melissa de la Cruz
This was a very emotional piece of writing. We see a string of hate crimes being committed in the Stanford campus and how it’s affecting the students of color through the eyes of our Filipino MC. She has to deal with the anxiety, how her own campus feels unsafe now and being scared to protest because of her DREAMer status. There is so much packed into this little story and it will resonate with anyone who is a minority and encounters racism and feels their voice will never be heard.
Paladin / Samurai by Gene Luen Yang
This is a graphic novel short and it wasn’t actually easy to read in the digital format. And I also wasn’t really sure what was happening.
Catch, Pull, Drive by Schuyler Bailar
TW: transphobia, bullying
An ownvoices story written by the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer, this is about a trans boy who just came out on Facebook and is about to face his first day on the men’s swimming team. He has to endure a lot of hate and bullying, but his determination to win and prove everyone wrong is working and we get a hopeful message that he will be okay.
Super Human by Nicola Yoon
What a wonderful end to the collection. It is a story of how in the current world – when the media pundits talk about a post-racial society and some people wonder why POC always talk about race so much – even a black superhero can’t escape police brutality, because he fits the vague description of someone who committed a crime somewhere in the country. And one rich black girl who comes to convince him not to go ahead with his plans, has her eyes opened to the reality instead. This is a story that packs a lot of punch in just a few pages and is definitely one of the best in the collection.
P.S: Thanks to Crown Books for Young Readers and Netgalley for providing me an advanced copy of the book for review. All opinions expressed here are solely mine.