Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices
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.

Hey everyone, Angie here with a review of this YA book: Open Mic. I was very excited to read it after reading the description. I started reading the introduction and was thoroughly entertained. As for the rest of the book, I have mixed feelings. 

3 out of 5 stars

Let me start out by saying that the Editor of the book, Mitali Perkins, is hilarious. She wrote the introduction and one of the riffs in the book. When I read her sections, I was rolling with laughter and telling her jokes to anyone that was near enough to listen. A couple of the other authors were also quite hilarious, but my complaint is that the description was not true to the book. It says, “Using humor as the common denominator…” as if everything in the book was going to be funny. In the later description it says that the authors are diverse “from laugh-out-loud funny to wry, ironic, or poignant.” These two things contradict each other. The latter description is much closer to the truth. When you are expecting a comedy and get a drama, you are sure to be disappointed. Now, I don’t want to judge the whole book because of a poorly written description, so let’s move on.

My other complaint was in organization. It was odd to jump between authors so diverse so quickly. You never quite knew what to expect. At the end of the book was a description or introduction of each author. I felt that the book would have benefitted from having those descriptions before the story that each author had written to give you a little cushion in the transition. Luckily, this can be remedied easily. If you are reading the book, I recommend going to the back and reading the author’s bio before his or her story. 

Other than these two minor complaints, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the book. I thought it did a good job of expressing how it can be living “between cultures” for any person of any race or ethnicity. There was a broad range of situations, touching on different prejudices. It was fun to see all the authors’ perspectives on race and prejudice and how different situations molded their attitudes. Mostly, it was nice to see a positive upbeat book bringing attention to this, sometimes-too-sensitive subject. After reading the introduction, I loved what Perkins had to say about how this topic is viewed and how she wanted to change that. I just loved her attitude and thought her cause was just for wanting to compile this book. And like I said there were some parts to the book that just had me rolling with laughter. I have to say, cultural differences can be so funny. I lived in Brazil for a short while and man could I relate with some of these authors who felt the culture shock of being in a new place. The book did its job in making me feel closer to those belonging to a culture or background different than my own.

I would recommend the book for older teens because of some sensitive material and innuendos.

In conclusion, this book was a good read—interesting, thought-provoking and quite hilarious at times. I felt they could have done some things better and though it didn’t have me hooked from start to finish, it was a lot of fun and, I thought, worthwhile to read.

This book will be released September 10, 2013.

Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.


  1. This sounds like a book I’d like to read. It doesn’t matter to me if a story about someone’s experience as a person of color evokes humor or drama. I just want to see a well-written story I can connect with.

    Thanks for sharing, and welcome to Sher’s blog!

    • I’m glad the book sounds interesting to you, it really was fun to hear their stories and connect with people. And really, that was it’s purpose more than being funny. Like I said, I just felt it was described wrong in the blurb I read.

      And thanks for the welcome!

  2. I am glad to hear that some of the stories were so hilarious. I would have thought all of the stories would have been funny based on the title. Your idea about the introductions also sound like they would add to the enjoyment of the reader. Thanks for the thoughtful review! 🙂

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