Reed, Amy (Editor). Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment and Growing Up Female in America. Simon Pulse, 2018 320p. ISBN: 9781534408999. $18.99. HS, OT ****
Our Stories, Our Voices is a combination of short essays by 21 female authors who write primarily for the teen audience. Each woman focuses on an issue or set of issues that they experienced first-hand as a cisgender female in America. Many relate their experiences as it pertains to the 2016 Presidential election and American culture, before and after. Topics include sexism, misogyny, the #MeToo movement and rape culture, racism, immigration and naturalization, and body image. Each story is personal and undeniably sad to some degree, but each author is able to leave the reader with a message of resistance, persistence, and hope.
All of the short essays are well written and have their own flare. Each is about the same relative length. Although several authors have reoccurring topics throughout the book, each essay is personal and never feels played out or repeated. The author perspectives are incredibly diverse, although the editor herself admits her disappointment in not having anyone from the transgender community represented.
There are many references to sexual encounters that were coerced or not consensual, child exploitation and abuse, drug and alcohol use by minors, mentions of self-harm, and racist actions and language. There are several uses of the F-word as well. All of the references are spoken about in plain terms and described with only the bare necessity of detail, but the author in each essay always includes how they were able to get help. The authors include how they found support, got out of an unhealthy relationship, stopped unhealthy behavior, or became more active in stopping behavior of others.
Overall, the book is heartbreaking and hope-inspiring at the end of each essay. I recommend it to any mature teen who needs a light of hope and/or needs to know they are not alone in what women and female presenting individuals go through in America. The essays are short enough that they could be read in daily sittings or read aloud with the right audience.