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Like most audiophiles here in the book world, I keep a running list of my favorite storytellers, including Robin Miles, Soneela Nankani, Priya Ayyar, Emily Woo Zeller, and Nancy Wu. These audiobook artists have performed dozens of titles so it’s easy to find something else to tell once someone has discovered their work.
But recently I was wondering, “What about fabulous storytellers who don’t have many names yet?” Without realizing it, I realized that I had already written down nearly half a dozen names of young audiobook artists, all of whom I would like to hear more of (Nudge Nudge, audiobook producer).
Erin Tripp is a Lingít actress with a theater background, and some of you may know Erin from Bookstagram, where she runs a book club with her friend Dani Roulette, an Anishinaabe book lover and artist. I first heard Tripp’s voice-over work on some of the smaller projects popping up on social media, and couldn’t have been happier to learn that she was also telling audiobooks.
For her first audio book title, Tripp narrated part of The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, which won the Audiophile Magazine’s Earphones Award. Most recently, Tripp performed her first full-length audio book “Everyour Dies Famous in a Small Town” by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.
Tripp’s voice has a rich sense of the rhythm and cadence of language, and I appreciate her natural understanding of where to add more emotion and when to take a step back, letting the listener join in and interpret.
You can find out more about Erin’s work on her website or on her Instagram.
Last year, like many young adult literature lovers, I heard and loved Leah Johnson’s debut novel, You Should See Me in a Crown. But I was just as happy to find narrator Alaska Jackson, who brought protagonist Liz Lighty to life in such a brilliant way.
After listening to You Should See Me in a Crown and loving it so much, I was shocked to learn that this novel was Jackson’s only audiobook credit. But a few weeks ago Leah Johnson published her second book Rise to the Sun, which is also told by Jackson.
With experience in both theater and film, Jackson brings incredible talent to her vocal performances. She has the ability to truly inhabit point-of-view characters, making Jackson’s performance and the character’s own narrative one and the same.
In Leah Johnson’s second novel, Rise to the Sun, I also met Lexi Underwood, who plays the section of the book’s second point-of-view character. Underwood recently received wide acclaim for her performance as “Pearl” in the Hulu adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere.
Underwood has listed two other minor titles but has said nothing else. She has a number of upcoming projects, including the role of Malia Obama in an upcoming anthology series. I hope to hear them tell more audiobooks in the future.
You can find out more about Lexi Underwood’s work on her Instagram.
Kinsale Hueston is a Diné (Navajo) poet and performer. I first discovered Hueston last year through her work on Rebecca Roanhorse’s Race to the Sun. Her second performance came later that year with Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe.
Hueston tells these stories in a way that captures the youth and vibrancy of the stories’ protagonists. They are brave and confident, and Hueston provides their dialogue with all of the characters’ living personalities.
You can learn more about what Kinsale Hueston does on their website.
Dakota actress Isabella Star LeBlanc has worked both on stage and on screen. She is also a poet and playwright.
After the first ten minutes of Angeline Boulley’s Firekeeper’s Daughter, I knew I needed to listen to more of LaBlanc’s vocal performances. When I went to see her, I found out that this is her first audiobook loan! She’s also reading part of Chevy Stephens’ Dark Roads, which will be released in August.
Teenage character performances often trip audiobook storytellers, but not LaBlanc. She tells teenage protagonists in such a way that it feels like the characters are standing next to you and telling you their own story.
You can learn more about the work of Isabella Star LeBlanc on her Instagram.