One Year of Blogging: A Spotlight on Own Voices Authors and Readers to Celebrate

Happy One Year Blogiversary To Me!

Hi guys!

One year ago, on Friday the 21st of June, I took that deep breath and leaped into the world of book blogging.

And what a year it has been!

I have somehow amassed more than 1,100 followers here on my blog… thank you all so much. It is baffling to me how you have decided to come along with me on this book journey but I am so grateful for every single one of you.

To everyone who has viewed a post, left a like or a comment… words can’t even begin to express how much gratitude I have in my heart.

And to all of you out there that have offered me the hand of friendship… I love you guys!


To celebrate my one year blogiversary I want to talk to you all about a subject close to my heart:

The Need for #OwnVoices Representation in Both Books and in Book Reviewing

Over the course of the last twelve months I have discussed my being chronically ill quite a lot. I live with an autoimmune disease and a kidney disorder that have left me with a battered body. I experience chronic pain daily, my life is constantly conducted in ‘A Little Haze’ due to never ending fatigue and the brain fog that comes with being on numerous medications and constantly ill. My mobility is also affected and I frequently require a walking aid to just get around my home; I rarely get to leave the house (especially since COVID-19) because I am simply too weak.

And one of the ways I cope with all of these ailments is reading.

I love my books so much.

But more than anything I love seeing characters like me represented in books. There’s something so validating when you read a book with a character that is experiencing the same emotions and life experience as you are.

And this is where #OwnVoices comes into the fray.

#OwnVoices Authors and Writers

With an #OwnVoices author we get to read books that have a true sense of authenticity to them. We know that they are inspired by a lived experience and it means that anyone who reads a book about an #OwnVoices experience can truly gain a deeper understanding into that frequently marginalised existence.

But of course I don’t fully ascribe to the belief that only #OwnVoices writers can write about a given experience or subject matter. There are truly wonderful writers out there that engage in careful research and sensitive discourse, and can deliver a book that is wonderfully engaging, educational, and enlightening. Because as humans we are capable of great empathy and therefore anyone should be able to write about anything because I want to believe that any author writing an incredibly emotive story should (with careful research) be able to metaphorically inhabit that world and deliver an authentic story to the reader.

BUT I think greater spotlight needs to be shed on #OwnVoices.

I believe that more PR and spending needs to go into #OwnVoices writers as they are the ones who should be telling their stories first.

Because if we have more #OwnVoices writers telling the narratives of their experiences then it will make both non-#OwnVoices readers and writers more empathetic to these realistic stories. Therefore it will lead to a greater proliferation of good writing that will feel authentic and true, and also will bring about informed debate on these topics.

I’m a cis-heterosexual woman; if you park my disability in the corner for a second when you walk into a bookshop and take a look at the author photos in the backs of the books you will see a lot of authors who look like me. There is a complete over-representation of cis-het, able-bodied, white people at the publishing table.

And that’s not okay.

That just gives a further platform to the status quo and dampens down the voices of the marginalised.

So as readers we need to demand change.

That to me is why as readers we need to make a more conscious effort to read more diversely. If we look for books written by BIPOC authors, LGBTQ+ authors, disabled authors, authors from minority religions etc. it will then force the hand of the larger publishing houses to deliver those #OwnVoices narratives to us. It will force our libraries and bookshops to stock books from a wider variety of authors.

#OwnVoices Reviewers in the Book Blogging World

As I mentioned earlier, I live with chronic illness and pain. So when I read about fictional characters in a book that are meant to depict the #Spoonie life I have a deep and personal insight. I am able to see what tropes are harmful and what is believably authentic within the realm of life with chronic illness. (Click here to read what is meant by The Spoon Theory and living as a #Spoonie)

I feel this gives me a voice as a reviewer to discuss what is and is not good representation of chronic illness.

For example:

  • I can call out those harmful tropes where characters are magically cured for a happy ending rather than the author creating an ending that can be happy but still have that character living their best #Spoonie life.
  • One that really is harmful is when the chronically ill character is cured and only then can fully be loved by another person in a romantic sense.
  • Or there’s that trope whereby a chronically ill person’s live is deemed so unlivable that they risk death just for a moment of romantic happiness.
  • Another harmful trope is when the chronically ill character is killed off so that they can inspire the able bodied to live their best life.

There are A LOT of harmful tropes out there that are unfortunately glamorised in books. So as an #OwnVoices reviewer, because a chronically ill lifestyle is all I have known since my childhood, I feel that my opinion should be listened to so that there will be a greater understanding and empathy for the true lived experience of someone who is chronically ill.

And obviously, #OwnVoices reviewers should not just be limited to the chronically ill experience.

We need more BIPOC reviewers, more LGBTQ+ reviewers, more disabled reviewers, more religious minority reviewers, more ethnic and cultural reviewers.

Putting books in the hands of these reviewers will ensure that representation is authentic and is held to a high standard.

It will lead to publishers and authors understanding that within the realms of fiction there are certain guidelines that must be upheld to guarantee a reading experience that will be enriching but also entertaining. People will be able to read books and know that there isn’t a harmful representation and can simply enjoy whatever narrative the author places these characters into.

Hear Our Voices Book Tours

Since joining the Blogosphere one year ago I have made some great friends. And one of those friends is Leelynn @SometimesLeelynnReads.

Leelynn is amazing. There’s simply no better way to describe her.

What Leelynn saw in her time as a book blogger is how the right books were not getting into the hands of the right bloggers.

She puts it best herself when she says…

Growing up, I didn’t really see myself in many books but I still loved to read.

Hear Our Voices‘ is a dream that I’ve had since fully immersing myself in the book community a year ago, and something that I feel has been sorely needed for a while now. I hope that our dream will be able to grow and bring all kinds of novels to all kinds of #OwnVoices readers, regardless of follower count, regardless of location in the world, and allow readers like us to see themselves in novels and share their experiences with us and the rest of the community.

Leelynn @SometimesLeelynnReads

What Leelynn has done is, with some other book blogging friends, co-founded an amazing Blog Tour company called ‘Hear Our Voices’ that aims to give #OwnVoices reviewers the platform they have been crying out for.

And I for one am thrilled.

A Blog Tour Company like this one was long overdue.

I encourage you all, whether you are an #OwnVoices reviewer or an ally, to check out the ‘Hear Our Voices’ website (by clicking here) and supporting them in any way you can.

You can find them on Instagram HERE and on Twitter HERE.

If you wish to sign up as a reviewer then CLICK HERE to be taken to the Book Tour Masterlist Sign Up form.

To Wrap Up

With the recent announcement by NetGalley that they are attempting to raise awareness by providing an #OwnVoices category on the NetGalley USA website (although the jury is out on how effective this will be at giving #OwnVoices reviewers preference), and with people like my friend Leelynn organising #OwnVoices blog tours, there is hope that this is the beginning of #OwnVoices authors and reviewers being given the platform they deserve.

And finally, on a personal note, here’s to another twelve months of book blogging. It’s been a blast so far and I cannot wait to see where my blogging journey will take me next!

61 thoughts on “One Year of Blogging: A Spotlight on Own Voices Authors and Readers to Celebrate

  1. Congrats on one year, Emer 🥳🎉!! Your blog is always such a joy to read – it’s always so funny and insightful! I was nodding along to your whole discussion about own voices! One of the biggest things I enjoy about books and the book community is how much better it’s gotten at promoting own voices and diverse stories in the past few years (although we still have a looooot of work to do). Thinking of some of the own voices books that have gotten movie adaptations/made it into mainstream media recently makes me so happy and reminds me why need to spotlight these books. Own voices reviews are definitely so important and 100% need to be highlighted more. Fantastic post as usual, and I’m excited for all of the other ones that are sure to come 😄💛!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Belle!!! That is so kind of you to say. It really means a lot :)))) xoxoxo
      And absolutely agree with you. I think the book community has been brilliant at highlighting areas that need reform within it… like obvs there are some people who are still blind to the problems that there can be with non-own voices narratives but slowly things are changing. I for one feel hopeful :)))) xoxoxox

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel weird thanking you for writing this post because I know your intention wasn’t to get gratitude, it was to raise awareness for Own Voices books and reviewers. One of my favourite things about reading is being able to gain insight into experiences that are not my own – whether that be characters with chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, LGBTQIA+ characters etc. It’s a privilege to read from authors who have lived these experiences themselves, and I absolutely think we should all be championing these books and authors!

    Thank you for introducing me to Hear Our Voices – I think having reviewers who can educate us all about the accuracy of stories and call out harmful tropes is equally important, and I’ve learned so much from reading reviews from bloggers such as yourself!

    💛 💛 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much Ngoc! And yes, the aim was definitely to raise awareness and encourage discourse. Many people still don’t quite realise why we need own voices, but that’s just simply because they haven’t thought about it rather than their being opposed. ❤️🧡💚💙💜💖😊😊😊

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  3. Congratulations on 1 year of blogging Emer!!! 🎉 That’s gone very quickly! Your commitment to diversity is one of the reasons I love reading your blog, and I’ve definitely been educated by the unique perspective of your Own Voices reviews. I’ll definitely checking out the ‘Hear Our Voices’ blog tour site and I can’t wait to see what another year of blogging brings for you!!! ❤️ X x x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 *gives a standing ovation* 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
    Own Voices are SO SO important. They speak the truth when authors (usually a white person) can only tell half of that truth because it’s not their experience. And it’s also SO SO important to have Own Voices reviewers to let others know how authentic and true the books are.
    This was a really well written and put together post. Emer, you have such a way with words I’m in awe of your writing.

    HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY! 😀 ❤️🎉
    Here’s to another year to blogging! I’m so glad we’ve becoming blogging friends! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much Meghan! It’s been such a joy becoming blogging friends with you over the past number of months. ☺️☺️💙💚💖
      And absolutely, I’m so tired of privileged authors getting stuff so wrong and not properly engaging in careful discourse, sensitivity beta reading etc about the themes they are covering in their novels. If we could just normalise equality through own voices reading and reviewing the book community could really become a brilliant, and truly open space to discuss societal issues ☺️☺️☺️💚💛

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Jessica ☺️☺️💜💙 can’t believe it’s been a whole year!!!
      And thank you so much for reading the post. I’m so passionate about the need for authentic representation and truly believe supporting own voices authors and reviewers is one of the best ways to ensure that we get the best books ☺️☺️☺️❤️💛💚💙

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Congratulations to one FANTASTIC first year of blogging!!! I’ve added so many books to my tbr these last few weeks, I can’t wait to read them. And I also pledge to do better. Read more Own Voice authors, support them, talk about them.

    Corina | The Brown Eyed Bookworm

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much Corina. That means a great deal to me 💚💚💚 And I’m with you in that pledge. We can all do better in our own small ways thus leading to greater empathy, discourse and changing the current status quo ☺️☺️☺️❤️💖💜

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats on one year of blogging! I definitely think its important to have Own Voice reviewers get those Own Voice arcs in their hands! I don’t understand why Publishers don’t already since I feel like it would be a good PR move but you know, people are dumb. 🤷‍♀️ I’m glad that Leelynn is following her dreams!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Joanna! It’s hard to believe it’s a whole year ago now that I first set up my blog. I truly didn’t have any idea how much it would come to mean to me and how much I would come to love my book blogging friends. Thanks for being there for me this past year ☺️☺️💛💖
      And totally agree with you! If we had more own voices reviewers I do think it would force non-own voices authors to do better!! ☺️☺️❤️💜💚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much Sabrina. And I’m so pleased that you read The Spoon Theory article too. I’ve tried to share that with some friends before so they could understand a little more about my day to day life and why I can’t be as sociable as I would like… and the majority didn’t even read it!
      And isn’t Hear Our Voices a wonderful book tour idea. It’s so important that we begin to normalise the need for own voices authors and reviewers just so we can all gain greater insight into the lives of those who are marginalised. Anything that brings about greater understanding and empathy is a good thing in my books ☺️☺️☺️💜💙💖

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Happy blogiversary! As someone who also struggles with an autoimmune disorder, we need more #OwnVoices stories. I was just talking with a friend of mine the other day about how I would love to see more homeschooled reps in YA. Not just introverted homeschooled kid starts going to public school, but real, authentic homeschooled students who socialize just as much as public school students and are just as successful. I’ve been homeschooled since I was four and still haven’t found a book character that realistically portrays me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Brianna! And that is so true! I don’t think I’ve ever read any book with homeschool rep which is very disappointing. I truly hope that the more us bloggers shout about the need for better representation the more that publishers and authors will listen to us and we can change the tide of only just having the stereotypical white, cis-het, able-bodied viewpoint.
      💚💜💖💚💙

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  8. Happy one year Blogging anniversary! I agree with you completely -own voices rep is so important and as a member if LGBTQ community its something I love to see. Hear Our Voices sounds like a fantastic initiative

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much JJ! I can’t believe how the time has flown by ☺️☺️ And totally agree, hear our voices sounds so good to me! I love that change is coming from book bloggers. That there are people out there who are actively trying to change the status quo and I am more than happy to lend my voice to amplifying theirs ☺️☺️☺️💖❤️💙

      Like

  9. Happy Blogiversary Emer! 🥳🌟🥂🍾 I’m so happy to have met you through blogging and I love reading your posts! You are a total star and a I completely agree with you about the crucial importance of ownvoices authors and reviewers! We definitely need to try and make it a priority! All my love! 💛💜♥️🧡💜💗♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you so much Christine, I feel exactly the same way. It’s been such a privilege getting to know you through blogging over the past number of months. I can hardly even recall what life was like before blogging. It’s made such an amazing difference to my life ☺️☺️❤️💛 And couldn’t agree more, amplifying the voices of the marginalised has to be something we all actively get involved with ☺️☺️💙💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Kristin! I really appreciate your kind words ☺️☺️☺️ and I’m so glad I could bring Hear Our Voices to your attention and that you are helping to amplify their voice ☺️☺️💜💚💖❤️

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    1. Aw thank you so much dearest Destiny! Can’t believe it’s been a year already! It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you over the past number of months. I feel truly blessed to have made such wonderful blogging friends ☺️☺️💚💛 Thank you for reading the post. Own voices is such an important cause 💛💙💜❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Congratulations on your year of blogging!! I love your discussion on ownvoices, It is so important to have more ownvoice books (as well as ownvoice reviewers to read them)! I agree that other authors can be empathetic and include marginalised characters into their stories but definitely am on your side about how we need more ownvoices to be promoted. I think it is so important to have ownvoice books and ownvoice reviewers who can call out the harmful tropes (like with chronic illness/disability as you said which I too identify with) so that we can see a change towards better representation for all people from LGBTQ+ to BIPOC etc… I think it is so important to try and establish and maintain this platform because rep is so essential! Excellent post as always, very insightful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much KB. Your words truly mean a lot to me and I’m so glad that you are in agreement. It’s just so important that we get the right kind of rep out there, rep that doesn’t have to narrow the types of stories that are told …because I often feel that non own voices authors and reviewers get hung up on the idea that authentic rep somehow means that they have to have flawlessly perfect characters, story arcs that only result in one outcome etc.
      But instead what it is is rep that just brings that sense of authenticity to the characters and storylines that actually then opens up the myriad of narratives in which to place those authentic characters.
      Thanks so much for reading the post my friend. Really means a lot to me 💜💙💚💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Emer. I completely agree, rep is so so important! That’s true it is a shame that authors feel the need to conform to perfection and standard story arc’s just to include rep – it would be great tp get more diverse stories, plots and flawed characters.
        It definitely adds more authenticity and creates more narratives!
        You’re welcome, it is a great post – and one that is definitely needed! 💜💜

        Like

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