Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices
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Annotation: Shares stories about growing up in diverse homes or communities, from an Asian youth who gains temporary popularity by making a false background, to a biracial girl whose father clears subway seats by calmly sitting between two prejudiced women.
Catalog Number: #5847131
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: xiii, 129 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-7636-9095-3
ISBN 13: 978-0-7636-9095-3
Dewey: 808
LCCN: 2012955218
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
In this anthology that blends fiction and nonfiction, Indian American editor Perkins has assembled 10 original selections about race that have in common a humorous take on an often serious subject. Humor has the power to break down barriers and draw us together across borders, Perkins writes in her introduction. Aside from their humor, these border-breaking stories all share a viewpoint from within the culture that provides the setting and subject. The stories are varied in format: two G. Neri and Naomi Shihab Nye e stories in verse, while a third, by Printz Award winner Gene Luen Yang, is in the format of a graphic novel. Several of the stories come perilously close to being didactic, but all are, in their respective ways, enlightening. As for humor, David Yoo's excellent Becoming Henry Lee is the one that will probably elicit the most laughs. But all invite sometimes rueful smiles or chuckles of recognition. And all demonstrate that in the specific we find the universal, and that borders are meant to be breached.
Horn Book
In her preface to this nicely compact collection, Perkins suggests that humor can help smooth the way in discussions about race--if it's used carefully, laughing with, not at. Contributors to this noteworthy collection include Gene Luen Yang, Cherry Cheva, G. Neri, Francisco X. Stork, and Naomi Shihab Nye, all of whom robustly prove Perkins's assertion that "funny is powerful."
Kirkus Reviews
First the good news: Half the pieces in this uneven anthology are standouts. The Korean-American teen in David Yoo's story makes an unwanted, undeserved Asian "model minority" label work for him, acquiring unexpected life skills in the process. The sole black student at a Vermont boarding school is unsettled when black twin sisters also enroll in Varian Johnson's nuanced tale. Gene Luen Yang's graphic anecdote demonstrates how standing up for one's beliefs can yield rewards beyond self-esteem. Luis' siblings give him permission and support to transcend cultural constraints and be himself in Francisco X. Stork's gentle tale. Naomi Shihab Nye's wistful, bittersweet poem "Lexicon" looks at the power of words to unite or separate, exemplified by her Palestinian father and his fading hopes for peace. The remaining pieces are significantly weaker. Perkins salutes the value of lightening up in her introduction: "Conversations about race can be so serious, right? People get all tense or touchy." She offers ground rules: Good humor pokes fun at the powerful, not the weak; builds affection for the "other"; and is usually self-deprecatory. Yet too few pieces here reflect those rules or appear to have been conceived as humor. Undisclosed selection criteria, author bios that don't always speak to identity, and weak and dated content are problematic. The sweeping racial and cultural judgments and hostile--occasionally mean-spirited--tones of several pieces disappoint; angry venting may be justified and therapeutic, but it's seldom funny. Leaves readers with more questions than answers. (Anthology. 12 & up)
Publishers Weekly
Ten writers and artists, including Varian Johnson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Francisco X. Stork, offer brief works of fiction and nonfiction -about the between-cultures life.- As Perkins notes, -Humor has the power to break down barriers and draw us together across borders,- and the stories within bear that out, though few qualify as laugh-out-loud funny. Most offer a subtler, uncomfortable brand of situational humor: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich calls her high school -an oasis of suburban racial integration-; when the drama club performed The Crucible, -the drama coach was sensitive enough to ask the black members of the troupe if we-d be uncomfortable playing the role of slave Tituba.- And in -Under Berlin,- written in verse, G. Neri describes a -game- that a biracial American family plays on the German subway: seeing how quickly two elderly white women will change seats after the black father sits between them. The edgy joke-flirting between a Jewish violinist and Asian comedian in Cherry Cheva-s -Talent Show- and the hero of David Yoo-s -Becoming Henry Lee,- who comically embraces Asian stereotypes in an effort to fit in, will leave readers thinking about the ways that humor can be a survival tool in a world that tends to put people in boxes. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

School Library Journal
Gr 6&11;10&12; More likely to be used with teens pedagogically than recreationally, this collection of short tales in a variety of genres explores the experiences of young people bridging cultures. Perkins's contribution is a memoir about the Guy Game she and her two older sisters played in their secret pursuit of points earned by being asked out, complimented, or kissed by boys. She tells about when a boy the color of deli turkey takes this chocolate-hued Indian girl on a church trip to an amusement park for a memorable three-point experience. Other highlights include Gene Yang's comic about why he boycotted a Hollywood version of the Avatar narratives that celebrate Asian culture in other formats but cast only white actors in this incarnation. A poem tells a wryly humorous story of unsettling white Berliners with a biracial family while another story focuses on a Korean kid who eschews Asian stereotypes until it becomes expedient to experiment with a reputation for math and martial-arts skills for a rung or two on the social ladder. Teachers will find some powerful material here about how the young can become discomfited and find solace in their multifaceted cultural communities. Francisco X. Stork relates unexpected acceptance and support for a gay Latino teen, while in other selections, characters proudly wave a Black Geek flag or grieve the loss of an Arab father who reached out with both hands to overcome prejudices. Purchase where schools seek useful pieces about YAs who identify with multiple cultures.&12; Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Sugar Hill, GA
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.3 / points:8.0 / quiz:Q61396
Lexile: 810L

“Will leave readers thinking about the ways that humor can be a survival tool in a world that tends to put people in boxes.” — Publishers Weekly

Listen in as ten YA authors—some familiar, some new—use their own brands of humor to share stories about growing up between cultures. Edited by acclaimed author and speaker Mitali Perkins, this collection of fiction and nonfiction uses a mix of styles as diverse as their authors, from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

With stories by:
Cherry Cheva
Varian Johnson
G. Neri
Naomi Shihab Nye
Mitali Perkins
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Debbie Rigaud
Francisco X. Stork
Gene Luen Yang
David Yoo

Becoming Henry Lee / David Yoo
Why I won't be watching the Last Airbender movie / Gene Luen Yang
Talent show / Cherry Cheva
Voila! / Debbie Rigaud
Three-pointer / Mitali Perkins
Like me / Varian Johnson
Confessions of a black geek / Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Under Berlin / G. Neri
Brotherly love / Francisco X. Stork
Lexicon / Naomi Shihab Nye.

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