Why is it important to see characters that look and sound like us in the books we read? How do words shape the stories we tell ourselves? How can we look beyond the single story and raise up the other voices that need to be heard?

Stella Schools Ambassadors Leanne Hall and Rebecca Lim discussed these questions and more with Stella Schools Manager Bec Kavanagh this week during Stories for Everyone at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Rebecca and Leanne discussed whitewashing in Hollywood, the importance of recognising yourself in cultural representations, subverting cultural stereotypes, and their recommendations for readers who want to consciously seek out and read more diverse YA stories.

To give you some idea of how ‘exotic’ some of her childhood reading seemed to Rebecca, she’s “re-imagined” passages from Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery (1970 edition) by Julie Campbell with Trixie as a Chinese migrant kid with traditional ‘tiger’ parents.

Download the slides from Stories for Everyone to learn which books Rebecca and Leanne read when they were young, the diverse YA books they recommend, and for a visual representation of why ‘Own Voice’ and ‘Diverse’ stories are so important.

Rebecca Lim’s diverse YA recommendations:

Leanne Hall’s diverse YA recommendations:

RebeccaLim-credit-EugeniaLimRebecca Lim is a writer, illustrator and lawyer based in Melbourne and the author of 16 books for children and young adult readers, which champion strong female protagonists and greater representations of diversity. Her most recent novels are The Astrologer’s Daughter (A Kirkus Best Book of 2015 and CBCA Notable Book for Older Readers) and Afterlight.

Leanne_Hall-450x450Leanne Hall is the award-winning author of novels for young adults including This Is Shyness and its sequel Queen of the Night. Iris and the Tiger is her first work for younger readers. Her work plays with the borders of reality and fantasy. Leanne has worked in the arts, educational publishing and as a bookseller, but her enduring passion is for youth literature.