October 22, 2018

Introducing Own Voices as an appeal term in NoveList

Big news, folks! Own voices is now a searchable appeal term in NoveList.

What is Own voices?

The term originated as a hashtag created by YA author/disability activist Corinne Duyvis in September 2015. It has roots in another slogan, Nothing About Us Without Us, that became popular in disability activist communities of the 1990s. Duyvis defines the term simply, as it applies to works in which "the protagonist and the author share a marginalized identity."

Here at NoveList, we realized that own voices would be the perfect complement to our existing diversity appeals that call out books for all ages featuring culturally diverse, LGBTQIA diverse, religiously diverse, or ability diverse characters. By focusing on aspects of the author's identity as well as the identity of their characters, we hope to provide a more precise access point for these kinds of stories.

Luckily, NoveList has been compiling information about authors' nationalities, cultural identities, and LGBTQIA status for years, as part of our author characteristics metadata. We also have established a couple of identity-based genres already – African American fiction, defined as "stories of all sorts, written by African American authors" and LGBTQIA fiction, defined as "novels and short stories which include a plotline with LGBTQIA themes." We've also done a ton of work on relevant subject headings, including switching to people-first language when referring to individuals who have disabilities in 2016, and adding intersex and asexual to our LGBTQ heading in 2015.

Readers’ Advisory and Own voices

In short, we felt that our robust existing metadata put us in a great position to provide an access point more and more librarians and readers use to choose the books they read. 

Adding own voices has led to lots of interesting debates within the office. For instance, what qualifies an author as 'out' about their disability or LGBTQIA identity? How do picture books with illustrators (but not authors) who are part of marginalized communities fit in? Why is the own voices concept so clear in YA and children's lit, but a bit muddier for adults?

With that said, please understand that this heading is a work in progress. Did we misidentify (or neglect to identify) your favorite own voices book? Please, let us know.

Want to check out this new heading for yourself? It's easy!

To find own voices books using field codes, type in SC Own Voices in the NoveList search box and set limiters to narrow down your results.

Or, you could navigate to your favorite own voices book and use check boxes to build your search.

We'll also be tagging content as own voices – just look under the lists and articles tab to find ready-made lists and articles.

Do you have ideas for metadata we can add that will make it easier for you to find the books your readers are looking for? Let us know!

Want to stay informed about other changes like this? Sign up for NoveList News and get monthly updates, readers’ advisory tips, and ideas emailed directly to you.


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