What IS a BIPOC author, anyway? The acronym stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color. And these books, authored by BIPOC authors, allow readers to better understand problems other people face. #BIPOC #OwnVoices #YAFiction #Memoir #amreading #TBR #newrelease

What IS a BIPOC author, anyway? The acronym stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color. And these books, authored by BIPOC authors, allow readers to better understand problems other people face.

I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.

What IS a BIPOC author, anyway? The acronym stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color. And these books, authored by BIPOC authors, allow readers to better understand problems other people face. #BIPOC #OwnVoices #YAFiction #Memoir #amreading #TBR #newrelease

What is BIPOC and What Does ‘Own Voices’ Mean?

BIPOC stands for ‘Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color.’ You can check out the BIPOC website for more information on the movement. ‘Own Voices’ refers to literary works written by authors who have the same ethnicity as the main characters.

For example, Stacey Lee’s enchanting YA novel The Downstairs Girl features a Chinese-American protagonist. And Stacey Lee is, you guessed it, of Chinese descent. James Bird, an author with both white and Native ancestry, has a main character in his YA book The Brave that struggles with having dual (and often opposing ) heritages.

Reading a book about someone from another culture authored by a white person is like eating processed American cheese instead of real Tillamook Cheddar cheese. That’s why we need to read books by authors from other cultures and races instead of just books about people from other cultures and races.

Reading a book about someone from another culture authored by a white person is like eating processed American cheese instead of real Tillamook Cheddar cheese. #BIPOCauthors #ownvoices #netgalley Click To Tweet

Books for the Journey

I’ve embarked on a journey in 2020 to broaden my reading to include listening to and reading books written by people who aren’t just like me: a white, middle-class, professional woman.

I realized I had fallen into a reading rut, and needed to get out for so many different reasons. By picking up new books, I’ve discovered a richer world , I would love to share some of the richness with you.

Some of the books I’ve read make me feel downright uncomfortable (the guilty kind of discomfort), but the authors have always written with grace and without condemnation towards those of us who grew up sheltered.

Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify: Essays

By Carolyn Holbrook, University of Minnesota Press, July 2020, 200 pages.

In my quest to diversify my reading selections, I came across this title by a Black woman hailed as the ‘darling of the Twin Cities literary community.’ I almost put it down halfway into the first essay, though, because the author started talking about a visitation from ghosts. Ghosts kind of creep me out. But I realized that if I truly wanted to learn from other cultures, religions, and ways of seeing, thinking, and being, I would have to keep reading without judgment.

I’m glad I did. This collection of essays paints the broad strokes of a Black woman’s journey. Reading the book reminded me of looking through a stranger’s out-of-sequence photo albums. Snapshots of life vividly portrayed with poignant color and flavor offered on the coffee table of life.

The reader must mull over and store the wisdom and stories of each essay in order to better hear the wisdom and stories of the essays that follow.

I’ve long known the narrative of the Welfare rolls filled with minorities to be false. Now I know just how damaging that narrative is from the pen of someone who dealt with the demeaning system. As an educator, Holbrook helped me understand the importance of vulnerability and honesty with one’s students. Our stories help others learn and make sense of their own stories.

Who Will Love This Book

I often wonder what one thing (or group of things) will help a student escape the cycle of poverty. It’s not just receiving a good education, either. Building resilience in an individual takes a community of believers, come alongsiders, encouragers, and picker-uppers. Those of us in supporting roles cannot give up just because the going seems tough or the task impossible. Neither can we ever forget that we play a supporting role—we are Yodas, not Luke Skywalkers.

If you’re looking to broaden your cultural understanding and think about tough topics such as the false narratives of the ‘Welfare Mom,’ this book is for you. Maybe you’re simply looking for a book because you don’t want others to think you’re a Karen. Without ever saying the words ‘white privilege,’ you’ll have a better understanding of what it is and what it isn’t.

And if you’ve ever thought that words can’t wound, think again. The words we use, the terms we pigeonhole people with—they matter. Just because someone feels put on the spot and doesn’t call you on your word choice doesn’t mean your words don’t offend or wound. Listen, read, and learn.

Can a Welfare mom become a 'literary darling?' YES! Check out this beautiful #BIPOC memoir. #amreading #bookreview #netgalley Click To Tweet

The Voting Booth

By Brandy Colbert, Disney-Hyperion, July 2020, 304 pages, PG13-R.

Election Day dawns and Marva Sheridan feels like she can conquer the world now that she has turned 18 and can actually vote in a presidential election. Unlike other teens, Marva has joined a political party, works for causes, and has a passion for making sure everyone’s voice is heard at the polls.

Duke Crenshaw just wants to vote, take his calculus test, and finish preparing for his band’s first paying gig. But when he shows up at the polls, he discovers he can’t vote. Not voting doesn’t feel like an option, because it would dishonor everything his brother Julian stood for.

When a pretty girl offers to help him figure out his voting mess, he agrees—even if it means they’ll both have to miss some school. Surely, he’ll get to vote before his band goes on tonight. Or will he?

Marva and Duke’s lives become inextricably intertwined in their quest to exercise their rights to vote.

You’d think casting one’s ballot wouldn’t take much effort, but Brandy Colbert proves differently. Along the way, she manages to shed light on other issues that haunt young Black people through no fault of their own—systematic racism, misunderstandings about interracial relationships, Black on Black violence, and white ignorance.

Why The Voting Booth is Important

The Voting Booth has enough plot twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes and it acts as a primer in voting for all readers. I even learned something I never knew before—some states allow same-day voter registration.

The book also serves an important role in educating white readers about the facts of life for Black citizens in the United States. Hint—without ever mentioning the words ‘white privilege’ the reader will understand exactly how it works by the end of the book.

While intended for an audience of ’12 and up,’ I would caution parents, teachers, and librarians from recommending the book to younger students. As Marva and Duke begin their friendship, they swear a lot (the f-bomb and s**t). Do the characters swear to establish street cred with each other? Or do they swear to signal the angst of adolescence? Most of the salty language occurs in the first third of the book as Marva and Duke get to know each other. At times, it felt gratuitous.

Teachers will have to weigh the pros and cons of incorporating this important own-voices book into their classroom curriculum. It holds a treasure-trove of discussion starters about race, relationships, stereotypes, privilege, voter responsibility, and community involvement. The language makes it more difficult to use in a classroom setting if one teaches in a conservative district or in Christian private schools.

Regardless of language or intended audience (young adults), everyone over the age of 18 should read the book to gain a new perspective about Election Day and a citizen’s responsibilities to show up at the polls.

What IS a BIPOC author, anyway? The acronym stands for Black, Indigenous, Person of Color. And these books, authored by BIPOC authors, allow readers to better understand problems other people face. #BIPOC #OwnVoices #YAFiction #Memoir #amreading #TBR #newrelease
Everyone old enough to vote needs to read #TheVotingBooth by @brandycolbert #netgalley #BIPOC #ownvoices #amreading #2020elections Click To Tweet

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing these titles, Anita. It’s so healthy for us to read books by BIPOC authors to expand our viewpoints. I learn so much this way that I wouldn’t learn otherwise.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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