I am so incredibly excited to announce that my anthology, OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES: 21 YA AUTHORS GET REAL ABOUT INJUSTICE, EMPOWERMENT, AND GROWING UP FEMALE IN AMERICA is officially out in the world today, and available from online booksellers including Malaprop’s (my local indie), Books-a-Million, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Simon & Schuster. You should also be able to find it at your local bookstores and libraries, and you can always request that they order it if they don’t have a copy.
First, I want to thank the incredible authors who shared their wisdom, vulnerability, and courage in their contributions to this book: Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, I.W. Gregorio, Maurene Goo, Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker. They are incredible writers and incredible women, and I am honored to call them my friends. Read all their books. Seriously.
I kept trying to think about what I would say here about the book on release day, and I realize I said it best in the book’s Introduction, so, with my publisher’s permission, I am including it below. Thank you for caring about my work and the work of the authors in this anthology. Thank you for caring about our stories. I hope you read them and and are inspired to tell your own. Because in these times when so many of us are feeling silenced, our voices and our stories are our greatest resistance.
OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES
In the days after the 2016 presidential election, I felt lost.
Like so many people, I was overwhelmed by feelings of shock and powerlessness. I needed a way out of my despair; I needed to do something. So I became determined to channel those feelings into action and hope. Out of that determination, and the determination of twenty other YA authors to make our voices heard, this book was born.
No matter where your beliefs fall on the political spectrum, or even if you don’t consider yourself political at all, it is impossible to deny that we are living in a time when many people are afraid. Many people are angry. Hate and fear seem to be the ruling emotions in our country. I’ve had countless conversations with people who are terrified by what seem to be the very real possibilities of nuclear war, the mass deportation of millions of immigrants, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and marriage equality, the government’s open support of white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, ableism, sexism, and racism. I keep hearing stories of emboldened hatred and violence, of kids being bullied in school and nobody stopping it, of trans kids committing suicide. I know so many survivors of sexual assault and abuse whose trauma is being triggered by the behavior and rhetoric of those in power. We are living in a cultural battleground where, for many of us, our very identities seem to be under attack.
My heart hurts. I have a four-year-old daughter who deserves a better world than this. You deserve a better world than this. So I asked myself: How can I help? How can I be part of the solution? What is my power and how can I use it?
My power is in my words, in storytelling. I knew I had a story to tell. I knew my friends, the incredible YA authors in this collection, all had stories to tell. I thought of you—young people across the country who may be feeling scared and threatened, with your own stories that need to be told and heard. I wanted to do something to help you know you’re not alone in your fear and anger, to help you know that your stories—your lives—are valid, and valued. So many of us are hearing the message right now that we do not belong, that we are not welcome. To that—I think I speak on behalf of all the authors in this book—I say bullshit. You are wanted. You are loved. You belong. I hope you read these pages and see yourself in our stories, see that there is a place for you, with us. I hope the words of these authors help you feel less alone. I hope you read about women just like you, and I hope you read about women very different from you, and I hope that your heart opens for all of them. I hope you see in the diversity of our stories a common light, a shared humanity and dignity, a community that includes you and the people you care about.
Telling our stories, speaking our truths, is in itself an act of resistance. Ours are the stories many in power seem to think do not matter. Ours are the marginalized voices they refuse to listen to. This book, this act of resistance, says our stories matter. Our lives matter. Our voices will not be silenced.
The women in these pages are daughters and sisters and partners and mothers. We are young and not so young. We are scared and brave and sad and full of joy. We are not perfect. We are works in progress, still growing, still healing. We are survivors of abuse and hate and sexual assault. We are immigrants. We are Christians and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and agnostics. We are American Indian and Indian-American. We are white and Black and Asian and Latina. We are so many shades of brown. We are straight and queer. I regret that there are no trans writers in this collection, but please know, if you are trans or gender nonconforming, we hold a place for you, too.
In this collection, you will read stories of hope and empowerment. You will read about healing and self-discovery. You will read about love, family, and community. You will read about courage and activism. But many of the stories are not so obviously optimistic. Some of them may be very difficult to read. Many of us have been victims of hate and racism. Some of us have been raped. Many of us spent our teen years confused and lost and angry. Some of us still feel confused and lost and angry. Some of us still feel like we live on the margins, that our identities don’t quite fit in anywhere. Some of us struggled with writing these essays, struggled with finding a message of hope hiding beneath our fear and pain.
But there is one thing we all have in common: we are all still here. We are speaking out. We are refusing to be silent. Whatever is contained in our stories, what matters most is that we are telling them.
This book is about us. It is about our diverse experiences as women in this country. It is about our vulnerability and strength, our joy and pain, our fear and love. It is about our resilience. It is about our humanity. It is about us getting real. It is about us refusing to be silent. Our stories are our resistance.
This is our love letter to America, to the young people who are hurting and scared. You are not alone. We hear you. We are listening. We stand by you. We will survive as we have always survived: together.
This book is dedicated to all the women and all the girls, to our trans and nonbinary siblings, to the men and boys who stand as our allies, to everyone who cares about building a home for justice.
Keep speaking your truth. Keep telling your story. The world needs your voice, now more than ever.