Review: Our Stories, Our Voices

Title: Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America
Editor: Amy Reed
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 288
Genre: Non-fiction
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: Purchased

Summary: From Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorite YA authors comes an anthology of essays that explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in America.

This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America, and the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.

This anthology features essays from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie LcLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker.

Review: Our Stories, Our Voices is a collection of very personal stories from a wide variety of women. These authors show us many challenges facing young women in this country. They also emphasize individuality and valuing ourselves and each other. In the first essay, “My Immigrant American Dream,” Sandhya Menon wrote, “there is no one way to be American” and in “Roar,” Robin Brown states, “There’s no single right way to girl.” While no book could possibly share all experiences, readers will likely be able to connect with many aspects of these stories and see hope for the future no matter where they are in life.

I so appreciated the honesty in these stories. When reading, there is a sense that someone is sitting with you speaking their truth even if it’s hard. Some of these authors have shared intense and very disturbing experiences. The editor provides a note at the beginning so readers may need to take care with certain essays containing specific violence or abuse. With all of the stories though, even if the authors were traumatized, there is a sense of hope and healing. No matter how dark the stories, the book offers encouragement and more hope than not.

Over and over again, the writers told about finding their own voice and the sense of empowerment that can bring. These women don’t claim to have all of the answers and some are still actively working through pain and issues from the past, but they offer what they’ve learned. They offer themselves. They encourage others to speak, to be active, and to be the change they want to see.

As with any anthology, some essays stood out more than others, but this is a solid collection that will speak to many young women. There were a few unpublished writers who submitted essays and I’m looking forward to hearing more from them. Tracy Deonn Walker, wrote a final piece, “Black Girl, Becoming,” which left me breathless.

Recommendation: Get it soon. These stories inspire and also remind us all that we are not alone.