Narratives help us understand the world, including our internal world. When we read or watch a story that speaks to us and our own experiences, it helps us feel less alone, heard and can give us the words to express our experience that we didn’t have before.
The #ownvoices movement aims to increase the diversity of authors which is important because many many stories about marginalized people were told by people who were not from their own community and therefore tended to be full of stereotypes, bias, and negativity.
There are some great resources to find books that offer positive representation and #ownvoice narratives for children and adults. Below are our favorite lit resources and some personal recommendations.
- Books for Littles: This organization has powerful values and this is apparent in their book reviews and recommendations. They have many different topics from disability destigmatization to decolonialism to ending toxic masculinity. Bonus, they put their values into action in may ways, but is most recently evidenced by their leaving Facebook to take a stand against Facebook’s numerous problematic actions and stances.
- Paper Boat Autism Library: This is a wonderful little organization ran by a dear friend, artist and autistic advocate. They care deeply about autistic representation in literature and always has wonderful book recommendations for current and upcoming books. They also try to dismantle sexism and myths in autism research with their #operationsecretswan origami. They run a free lending library in Mississippi and give autism welcome bags to doctors’ offices with the aim to challenge the tragedy narrative parents are given when their child is diagnosed autistic. Finally, they are the catalyst that started my own personal work at unlearning so many biases I held.
- A Kind of Spark: This is an #ownvoices author about an autistic girl who faces discrimination and sees parallels with her experience and the witch trials as people persecuted for being different. There are some bullying incidents, both by adults and kids and at a couple points the r word is used by the bullies. This book lead to many great discussions with my neurodivergent daughter: adults can be bullies too, what does stimming look like and feel like for her, feeling dismissed by adults, having passion topics and more. If your child can read this on their own, make sure you read it too and have a discussion about it afterward.
- Upside-Down Magic: I read this book to my 5th grader and 2nd grader. It is about a girl who has magic, but it doesn’t work the way every one else’s magic does. She gets sent to a different school which has a special class for helping kids with magic that is different. The parallels for students who understand what it is like being segregated into special education are very clear. What I loved was that they taught the kids that their magic wasn’t wrong, weird or wonky, it was just different and they just needed to learn to understand how to work with their particular magic, not try to change it or suppress it. It spoke to my personal values of embracing neurodiversity and learning to work with your brain’s uniqueness. While the author is white, the main character is biracial and the cast of characters were also diverse.
- Planet Earth Is Blue: This is an #ownvoices author about a non-verbal/vocal speaking 12 year old girl who loves space. It has some really sad elements including family death and neglect. I enjoyed this book immensely. It brought back memories of working in my former traditional ABA ways with some of the main character’s experiences in her special education classroom which was heartbreaking knowing I used to do the same things to other kids like her.
- Anne with an E: This is a series on Netflix based off the books Anne of Green Gables (fair warning, I never read any of them) and I love watching it with my neurodivergent daughter because Anne is a great representation of female presenting ADHD (even academic papers and other writers agree!). I love her emotional impulsivity, how she plays games that are “childish”, I love her creativity and imagination and her energy. I see myself and my daughter in her and I makes me feel very seen. There are some heavy elements within the series of abuse and death.
- She-Ra (reboot): I started this series with my kids and we all really enjoyed it, so when a friend mentioned that Entrapta was written to be autistic I was excited. I never watched the original, but I have loved the reboot. If your neurodivergent daughter feels unseen and alone, check it out and talk about Entrapta!
- The Bride Test: This is a book definitely for the adults (explicit sex scenes). My local library has a romance book club. While I usually don’t read romance and I never actually go to the meetings, I like to push myself outside my reading comfort zone so I try to pick up the book every month. When I picked up this book I had no idea one of the characters was autistic until I sat down to read it. This author is an #ownvoices author as an autistic person and Vietnamese American. I ended up loving this book because of how they talked about love. I related to the difficulty the main character had with recognizing his actions and thoughts as related to feelings of love. I have only recently begun realizing that like many neurodivergent individuals, I deal with alexithymia which it seems the main character was struggling with too. Representation matters. It gives words and narratives to things we couldn’t quite understand or articulate about ourselves.