Both Heart of Darkness and The Mzungu Boy deal with themes of colonialism in Africa, but Mwangi is Kenyan and the Mzungu Boy tells a story about African colonialism through the eyes of a Kenyan boy.
Worldview 2017: #OwnVoices Literature in the Classroom
in the Classroom
WorldView Symposium, October 26
Postdoc, UNC Chapel Hill School of
Information & Library Science
Doctoral Student, UNC Chapel Hill
School of Information & Library Science
■ Hashtag proposed byYA sci-fi writer Corinne Duyvis in 2015
■ Denotes books about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse
Why are #OwnVoices books important?
■ Dominant-group authors (White, abled, straight, cisgender, etc.) often write outside
their experience to tell diverse stories
– Sometimes this works…
– Often it doesn’t: stereotypes, tropes, harmful portrayals, erasures
■ The stories of marginalized people are often taken from them by dominant-group
authors who then profit from them
– Obstacles to publication for marginalized authors
■ When authors write from lived experience, their portrayals are often richer and more
nuanced than when an outsider attempts to write these stories
But wait, does that mean authors can never
write outside their own experience?
■ #OwnVoices is not about policing what anyone writes.
■ Instead, it’s about:
– being aware of the stories we seek out and promote and the perspectives of the
people who write these stories.
– recognizing that diverse voices are as important as diverse content.
– confronting systemic inequities in the publishing industry by privileging authors
from historically marginalized groups.
#OwnVoices in the Classroom
■ Consider replacing texts about diverse people with texts by diverse people
■ Consider adding an #OwnVoices text as a companion to a required or historical text
#OwnVoices in the Classroom
■ Use excerpts from #OwnVoices texts as discussion starters and to bring in
perspectives not represented in the classroom
– This also helps avoid pressuring students from marginalized groups to speak for
their entire race / gender / religion etc.
■ Discuss the concept of #OwnVoices literature with your students.
– Encourage them to write their own #OwnVoices texts.
– But be cautious that you are not asking them to out themselves by doing so.
■ Ensure that classroom libraries include texts from diverse authors.
– Fiction AND nonfiction
– Feature these books prominently in the classroom.
■ Work with your school librarian to include and highlight more #OwnVoices texts in the
■ Other ideas?
There are plenty of
#OwnVoices texts out
*But you may not find them at the book fair or from large publishing houses.
■ With others who teach students at your general age level (elementary, middle, or
high), look over the #OwnVoices text examples provided and discuss the questions
■ How could you use these in your class?
■ What areas of your curriculum might be good opportunities for seeking out
#OwnVoices texts, either as substitutions or additions to texts you already use?
■ If you have a classroom library, have you evaluated it for representation of
■ If you haven’t already, assess your classroom library and your curriculum for their
representation of #OwnVoices literature.
■ Don’t forget informational texts!
■ Recruit some students of color to assess the collection alongside you.
■ Add more #OwnVoices texts to your curriculum and classroom.