If you’re a writer and/or on Twitter, chances are you have come across the term ‘Own Voices’ at some stage or another. If not, the basic gist is that the hashtag was started as a way to “highlight kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group”, as explained by Corinne Duyvis, the writer behind the term. Further, the non-profit organization ‘We Need Diverse Books’ defines the term ‘diverse’ as “including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native (it’s an American org so I’d add Aboriginal people here), people of colour, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities”. So that’s what it’s about in a broader sense.
More personally, it’s about neurodiverse writers writing neurodiverse characters. Maybe that’s writers with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, or something else. For me, it’s about being autistic and writing autistic characters. It’s especially about writing girls on the autism spectrum, because we are vastly underrepresented. It’s about writing thoughtful, compelling, and perfectly imperfect characters that resonate not just with autistic people, but with everyone. I’m sad that there is such little representation, and much of what is out there is stereotypical, one-dimensional, and sometimes even harmful. I’m still learning about myself, about writing, and about ASD so there may be times when I misstep, but I’ll do my best to self correct, and to learn from other people, especially those talking about their own lives and experiences. The #actuallyautistic community online has already taught me so much.
I have written a book I wish I’d read as a teen and I’m going to write more of them. I just finished the first draft of my second book, which features a completely different ASD girl to Erin from ‘Please Don’t Hug Me’, because ASD people aren’t just one way. My characters and books are not written to educate people on ASD, they are written to tell a story and to represent people that deserve to be included. So that’s what #OwnVoices means to me. I’d love to hear your #OwnVoices recommendations, or if you’re an ASD writer let me know so I can keep an eye out for your work!