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Own Voices, Say What?

Updated: Apr 9



Jeffrey Wright stars as a marginalized author in this satiric gem of a movie.

First off, I loved American Fiction's satirical portrayal of the NY publishing scene and its biased attitudes toward Black or minority authors. Although I have not experienced racism in the quite same way, there have been times I've felt marginalized by the publishing world's zealous demand for works they call "Own Voices."


Almost every literary agent's page includes a phrase referencing "Own Voices," although I haven't a clue where it came from. I did find one definition that went like this:


"An #OwnVoices book is written by a member of the marginalized community from which it depicts. To claim #OwnVoices it is not necessary that every experience your character goes through is also something you are going through, but it is necessary that you are from the marginalized community your protagonist is also from."


Did you get that?


I realize #OwnVoices agents are earnestly trying to be inclusive. But I also get the feeling they don't want mainstream literary works anymore, only "jive" or "street" works similar to the ridiculous novels the hero eventually published in American Fiction.


Whoever wrote the script for American Fiction must have submitted his novels to literary agents, because the film's Black author was as frustrated and disgusted as I've been by this obsessive thirst for #OwnVoices. In the film, the star Black author couldn't get his latest literary work published because it was too traditional, while his past novels were stuck in bookstores' "Black History" sections, not in the literature or fiction sections where they belonged.


Being an academic, he had been told publish or perish. What does he do? He writes a fake #OwnVoices work titled the "F" word. And the NY publishing world goes wild!


I laughed loudly at the "whiteys" pretense. Clearly, Black authors who have diligently trained to craft well-written works are as offended by this demand for #OwnVoices as some "whitey" authors like me, although in a different way. First off, we suddenly have a more difficult time getting published and, perhaps more importantly, we don't like to be marginalized either.


American Fiction: 4.5 on the Pat-Oh_Meter.
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Hi Pat, I'm looking forward to American Fiction myself. I just messaged you on IG and FB, asking if you'd like to speak at our Sun City book club. I can be reached at: CamilleCerria@SmoothSailingCelebrations.com. Thank you, Camille

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Thanks, Camile. Because you've jumped through so many hoops to contact me, other than using my "contact button" below, that tells me I need to move my contact button to the top!

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