The Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (ECPA) has created an Own Voice Award to honor Christian fiction writers of color as part of The Christy Award program.

Own Voice will recognize books from authors whose topic, setting or characters are based on the author’s own experience as a person of color. The category is another in The Christy Award list of categories including Romance, Suspense, Visionary and six others. Authors must already be entered in one of those other categories to be eligible. The winner will be named at the annual Christy Award gala held in November.

Jevon Bolden, owner of Embolden Media Group, was instrumental in helping create the Own Voice Award. Bolden says she has been consulting with ECPA since 2020 as “part of a larger focus on people of color in Christian publishing.” Bolden, who is also a literary agent for many authors of color, says she expects the award will have “a snowball effect. Publishers will see that there’s an award for authors of color, will acquire more authors of color, and then find staff to promote, edit, and sell these authors.”

Author Robin W. Pearson, who won a First Novel Christy Award in 2020 for A Long Time Comin’ (Tyndale) tells PW, “This is a step in the right direction because it’s coming from a place of love, recognizing the lack of authors of color and making sure all people are included.”

Yet, Pearson said, “I don’t want this award to be a ‘separate but equal’ thing. I don’t like to be categorized as a Black writer. I’m a writer. I don’t know if an award is going to change a mindset, but I think it’s great that we’re recognizing all different types of authors.”

Stan Jantz, director of ECPA, said conversations started around six months ago about ways to provide an on-ramp to the Christian market for Black, Latinx, Asian, and indigenous peoples. “We want to bring attention to the efforts of people of color and help publishers identify pathways to publishing and recognition,” he said.

Bolden adds, “Own Voice is a start; it doesn’t solve anything but it’s an additional rung on the ladder to seeing great diversity and talent in Christian publishing.”