Disney’s latest smash Moana has just hit cinemas and OMG it is the thing of dreams! Moana is the story of a spirited Polynesian teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master navigator and to fulfill her ancestors’ unfinished quest. Sounds awesome right?!
South Pacific cultures are very rarely explored in film and TV, so it’s brilliant to see this diverse culture getting the exposure it deserves. One of the things that was particularly important to the film makers was to ensure that all the voice actors were of Polynesian decent. Maui, a shape shifting Demi-God, for example is voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Dwayne is half-Samoan, and is actually the grandson of a famous Samoan wrestler! Who knew?
Moana’s mother is played by native Hawaiian Nicole Sherzinger and all the amazing music was co-written by Lin Manuel Miranda and Samoan singer Opetaia Tavita Foa’i. The filmakers also opened up auditions for the title role of Moana, and found a fantastic native Hawaiian talent in 14 year old Auli’i Cravalho.
We love that native voices are being represented more and more in the creative industries and massive props to Disney for leading the way on representation. We’ve picked out some of the best #OwnVoices YA novels that have fantastic insights into other cultures and perspectives.
The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Staying on the Polynesian theme, Heidi Heilig is a born Hawaiian and her debut novel about bi-racial Nix who travels through time on her father’s pirate ship through old maps. With the same themes of travel and navigation as Moana, this is definitely the next on your should pick up after watching the movie.
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
A fantastical and imaginative novel from a Latina author, this story follows a family generations old feud between two families of travelling performers, the Palomas and the Corbeaus. When Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau cross paths, everything could spell disaster. But love is worth risking it all for.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
This is a stunning debut novel by Haudenosaunee Native American Eric Gansworth about friendship, memory, and the joy of rock ‘n’ roll. The story follows the life of Lewis “Shoe” Blake and his life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975. Lewis isn’t used to white people being nice to him, until meets new boy in town George.
Since You Asked by Maureen Goo
Another brilliant debut about a Korean-American teenager who accidentally lands her own column in her high school newspaper, and proceeds to rant her way through the school year while struggling to reconcile the traditional Korean values of her parents with contemporary American culture.
The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
Nicola’s brilliant 2nd novel tells the story of Natasha, a girl who puts her faith in science and facts, and Daniel, who struggles under the pressure to be the prefect son. Natasha’s family are 12 hours away from being deported to Jamaica and the last thing she needs is to fall in love with him.A stunning look at family, love and the meaning of home.
Nicola is a passionate and vocal #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks supporter and her below tweet perfectly sums up why we need to keep pushing for diversity in the media, particularly in books
— Nicola Yoon (@NicolaYoon) May 1, 2014
Have you read any great #OwnVoices novels recently? Are you going to seek out more after seeing Moana? Let us know in the comments below!
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