Choosing voice is about application: When do we speak and when do we keep silent? What do we choose to give voice to and what do we choose to ignore, or remain silent with? Using our voice is taking a stand, defining ourselves.
In any given situation there are three basic choices: exit, loyalty, or voice. We can leave, disassociate, or remove ourselves; we can remain loyal to the situation, supporting or with silent consent; or we can choose to give voice—and thereby express our unique perspective.
Choosing voice, for me, and for our authors, is about knowing per- sonal values and moral code, and standing up for them.
When a situation becomes intolerable to our own moral code or values, strong emotion can be evoked. Loyalty or exit become unacceptable. Strong emotions can clarify our voice, as we become acutely aware of the stand we choose to take. Listen to Caroline Bird and Yoko Kawashima Watkins.
Caroline: I wrote a pretty hot article that said women were discriminated against. Well, the Saturday Evening Post turned it down.
An editor said, “What Miss Bird doesn’t realize is that the really smart women in the offices get hauled off to the suburbs to have babies. And so in the offices, only the dregs remain.”
I was absolutely furious. I was so furious that I went to bed, just catatonically for a week. And then I got up and I said, “I will do a book on it.”
Yoko: I came home, Donald my husband of 43 years, was watching “Peter Jennings: Evening News” . . . when on the screen I saw a Bosnian woman, all the people, and sick, young women pregnant, holding their little child, escaping, some hurt, some crying….
All those things made me so angry, I did not know where to throw my anger. I went to a typewriter and I quickly typed ten pages of a story. It is called “Cherry Tree Suns.”
I was so mad. All those people are still fighting. They don’t know what it means to be in that, refugees . . . do they have enough blankets? Do they have enough water to drink? Do they have food? Were they cold? How hurt are they? I see myself 51 years ago. That’s what I saw on the television….
So I got mad. And so I wrote the story, a short story. This will be a picture book. So you see, for me writing is completely healing.
Writing with voice is a way to make a difference.