What is an Own Voices Author?
#OwnVoices is a hashtag created in 2015 by author Corinne Duyvis to recognize books that are written by an author who shares a marginalized identity with the protagonist. If an author claims to be “own voices”, that means they are writing a main character who is part of marginalized group, which the author themselves is apart of. Popular examples of Own Voices novels are The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Haan, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Today’s guest post comes from Alexis Sands, an Own Voices author who is passionate about advocating for mental health awareness as well as authentic representations of diverse characters in fiction.
Alexis is a single-mom, drinker of too much coffee, obsessive cleaner, expert at starting over, and a master at building walls. An avid reader, she’s always had an obsession with romance novels. When she’s not writing, Alexis loves soaking in the sun at the beach, and enjoying time with loved ones.
I’d always dreamed of being a published author, but fear of rejection held me back for years. I was terrified to tell anyone about my diagnosis, convinced everyone would think I was “crazy.” Facing the shame of the stigmas associated with Borderline Personality Disorder prevented me from sharing my emotional turmoil for quite some time. Though that pain was ultimately what motivated me to publish my debut novel, Slated: Blurred Borders Series, Book One.
Conflicted and a bit vulnerable, but driven by my fear of abandonment, I created Sloane Slate, my borderline protagonist. I’ve always felt strongly that more characters with mental illnesses need to be represented in contemporary fiction. My series will portray the protagonist’s journey to find true love as she comes to terms with her BPD.
Before publication, a few literary agents suggested Sloane be successfully treated in therapy by the end of the book. Others advised “toning down” her emotional extremes. I knew from first-hand experience that wouldn’t give readers an honest depiction of the disorder. As an own voices author, I longed to unveil my struggles through an identifiable character. In my case both Sloane and I suffer from borderline personality disorder.
In Slated, Sloane’s story is only beginning. I feel that to accurately portray the complexities of BPD, her personal transformation needs to unfold over a period of time. Most people who struggle with mental illness don’t heal or recover in six months. Throughout my own non-linear journey, I’ve experienced several strides and setbacks amidst a few roundtrips down the rabbit hole and back.
In Split: Blurred Borders Series, Book Two, I interweave more of the complicated and often misunderstood symptoms of the disorder with elements of the plot. My goal is to show the emotional dysregulation and splitting behaviors, such as angry outbursts, impulsivity, and dissociating, in a relatable way in order to help breakdown many of the detrimental stereotypes.
I hope by the end of my Blurred Borders Series, readers walk away with a compassionate understanding of both the positive and negative aspects of borderline personality disorder. I’d like to inspire more mentally ill characters to reach people from a variety of genres in popular literature.