What began as a Twitter movement and hashtag to recommend diverse books, making the writing world more inclusive, #ownvoices has grown into a genre with a transformative voice. We searched for authors whose books bring #ownvoices into the limelight, and these voices “include (but are not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.”

Even in the Breaks (2020)
by Hend Hegazi

#ownvoices / Muslim-American experience

Ayda is an uncompromising, salacious woman who focuses solely on her work. She gets close to no one, and no one gets close to her. Didi, on the other hand, is fun-loving and family-oriented. She looks forward to the day when she and her husband will become parents. When tragedy strikes unexpectedly, Didi disappears and Ayda becomes the guardian of a young girl named Shams — a child who, in all societal respects, she should resent. As Shams’s presence in Ayda’s life induces transformative consequences, the truth behind the two women’s relationship is revealed. Even in the Breaks is the story of the strength born when women refuse to let adversity defeat them.

About the author:
Hend Hegazi was born and raised in Attleboro, MA. She graduated from Smith College in 2000, majoring in biology and minoring in religion. In 2002, she moved to Egypt to be with her husband.

The Mountains Sing (Algonquin Books 2020)
by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

#ownvoices / Vietnamese Community 

The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore apart not just her beloved country, but also her family. Steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves while showing us the true power of kindness and hope. (Read Jennifer Blankfein’s review and author Q&A here.)

About the author:
Born into the Việt Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street seller and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia.

Photo © NZ Pacific Studio

The Radicals (2019)
by Marolyn Krasner

#ownvoices / LGBTQ 

After twenty-five years of extremist feminist activism, D is on probation for assaulting homophobes and she is becoming something she never wanted to be: respectable. D’s mom and girlfriend hope her life as leader of the feminist collective Pussy Power is over, but D feels like a failure. When she finds out her estranged father has jumped on the white power bandwagon and is sharing the personal details of marginalized people on his badly designed website, she reconnects with her toxic Pussy Power cofounder and triggers a chain of events that causes her new life to implode, which is very bad, but is also exactly what she wants.

About the author:
Marolyn Krasner is a queer woman writing a women-centered story that explores toxic relationships, estranged fathers and parenthood. Her queer-focused stories are strategically designed to make you laugh, or not. 

Judge’s Girls (Kensington 2020)
by Sharina Harris

#ownvoices / African American Authors  

Beloved Georgia judge Joseph Donaldson was known for his unshakable fairness, his hard-won fortune, and a scandalous second marriage to his much-younger white secretary. Now he’s left a will with a stunning provision. In order to collect their inheritance, his lawyer daughter Maya, her stepmother Jeanie, and Jeanie’s teen daughter, Ryder, must live together at the family lake house. But fragile ex-beauty queen Jeanie doesn’t know who she is beyond being a judge’s wife and finds herself in a dangerous downward spiral. With the trouble they didn’t see coming and secrets they can no longer hide, these women must somehow find the courage to admit their mistakes, see each other for who they really are and discover everything they could be.

About the author:
Sharina Harris earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgia State University. She is currently a digital and eCommerce marketing professional in the hospitality industry.

Photo Credit: Adrienne Albrecht

The Talking Drum (Inanna Publications 2020)
by Lisa Braxton

#ownvoices / African American Authors / displacement / gentrification

It is 1971 and the fictional city of Bellport, MA, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. Tensions rise as the demolition date moves closer, plans for gentrification are laid out, and the pace of suspicious fires picks up. The residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives and question the future of their relationships.

Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support her dream of opening a business in the heart of the Black community of his hometown. For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career to spread African culture across the world while trying to save his marriage. Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts.

About the Author:
Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated, former television journalist, essayist, short story writer and novelist. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Her stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals. 

Photo Credit: Farzad Afzali

A Door Between Us (Blackstone Publishing 2020)
by Ehsaneh Sadr

#ownvoices / Iranian-American / social justice 

When the matriarch of Sarah’s family arranged her marriage to Ali, it was with the intention of uniting two compatible families. However, as the 2009 election becomes contentious, political differences emerge and Sarah’s conservative family tries to call off the wedding. Sarah and Ali, however, have fallen in love and, against the wishes of their parents, insist on going through with the marriage. Sarah’s cousin, Sadegh, is a staunch supporter of the government and a member of the Baseej, the volunteer militia tasked with arresting protestors and shutting down speech against the regime. Meanwhile, Ali’s sister, Azar, is an activist, a divorce attorney, and a passionate Green Wave supporter, trying to enact change in a way that many Iranians see as inflammatory. Sarah, Sadegh and Azar’s stories weave together in an unflinching, humorous and at times terrifying story that demonstrates that, even as the world is falling apart around us, life goes on.

About the Author:
Ehsaneh Sadr is an Iranian American novelist and social justice activist with a PhD in international relations. She currently works with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to create the cultural and infrastructural changes needed to support a shift away from carbon-based modes of transportation.