Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices

Edited By Mitali Perkins
Published on September 10th 2013
Published by Candlewick Press
Source: Netgalley
Using humor as the common denominator, a multicultural cast of YA authors steps up to the mic to share stories touching on race.

Listen in as ten YA authors -- some familiar, some new -- use their own brand of humor to share their stories about growing up between cultures. Henry Choi Lee discovers that pretending to be a tai chi master or a sought-after wiz at math wins him friends for a while -- until it comically backfires. A biracial girl is amused when her dad clears seats for his family on a crowded subway in under a minute flat, simply by sitting quietly in between two uptight white women. 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 poingnant, in prose, poetry, and comic form.

In her introduction to this book, Mitali Perkins makes it clear that its goal is to use humor “to break down barriers and draw us together across borders.” Each story in this volume is as different as the author who wrote it—different cultures, locations and experiences—but all of them show how even those we perceive as being “different” share embarrassingly laughable moments.

From David Yoo, who writes about a young Chinese boy who decides to use all of the Chinese stereotypes to his advantage, and soon finds himself in over his head, to Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetic account of growing up Palestinian-American, there’s something for every teen’s taste. I would recommend this book for older teens, just because there are some mild references to sex, but I think anyone over the age of 13 will relate to at least one of these hilarious stories. Even though I didn’t grow up “between cultures,” as Perkins calls it, I can definitely relate to the embarrassment that each of these characters faced. That, I think, speaks to the power of this simple book. By laughing together, we come together.

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