Amplifying #OwnVoices

Open book on table with library backdrop Zora Mai Quynh

Diverse books matter. At the end of the day, the narrative that survives is the one that may become, by default, the story that defines a person, a peoples, an issue, an event, a topic, a civilization for the next generation of readers.

This is why conquering nations destroyed the writings and collected stories, mythologies, and narratives of the people they were in the process of decimating, enslaving, persecuting, conquering…

Sometimes it is unintentional as in the case of my story, “The Chamber of Souls,” printed in The Sea is Ours and later translated into Czech. When I wrote the story, I purposefully created a non-binary world with no pronouns or identifiable genders namely because I wanted to demonstrate how I experience the world as a gender-queer individual – but also because I wanted to write a story that mimicked the Vietnamese language, which has no gender pronouns. The Czech language is based upon masculine and feminine conjugation, however. “You have to choose a gender,” the translator told me.

Sometimes it is completely intentional as in the erased narratives of 3000 people along with their books and writings who were massacred and buried alive in my mother’s hometown of Huế, Vietnam. If not for Nha Ca’s book, Mourning Headband for Huếthe stories of those that were buried alive by the communist in the horrific Tet Offensive of 1968 would have died with them in their shallow graves.

Silencing can be as subtle as it can be violent.

The idea that someone can take my story and my reality and irrevocably translate it into their own language – whether that be an actual other language or the language of blame, patriarchy, misogyny, racism, nationalism…the languages of “othering” – is terrifying to me.

For this reason, I wanted to create a blog just about book lists that are intentionally created to free the shackles of misinformation that can hide in the corners of our recorded history.

I do my best to pull together books that have met my personal criteria for authenticity or integrity – not making any claims that any one book is better than any other book – but all reflecting my obsession to chase the most truthful narrative. I’m not perfect though – I may miss or misunderstand things. I’m no expert on anything but myself – and even that, at times is challenging. As with any subject you seek to gain an intimate understanding of – I would say – read deeply, read between the lines, read a lot and often. Determine and decide for yourself.

Fill your repertoire with diverse voices, #ownvoices, authentic voices, and voices of those that bring integrity, respect, and a great deal of research to what they write.

I welcome any comments, corrections, opinions about any of the books on my lists.