Book Review: Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices

Edited by Mitali Perkins

Reviewed by Ali Khan, age 16

When confronting problems regarding race and ethnicity, many attempt to challenge stereotypes with protests, heated discussions, and even aggression. While these options may be effective, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, edited by Mitali Perkins, uses a different tactic against racial prejudices—humor.

Open Mic is not the average teen novel. Rather than share the perspective of just one author, it includes a collection of works from a diverse pool of story-tellers, including Gene Luen Yang, co-writer of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics; Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, writer and producer of the television show Family Guy; and Naomi Shihab Nye, famous poet.

Open Mic is intriguing because it allows readers to enter the world of a comedy club without even moving their hands, except for the occasional page flip. Each story is so vivid that the reader feels like he or she is living alongside of the characters. For example, author David Yoo recalls his childhood struggle to fit in at his new school. He tries to fake a personality based on Asian stereotypes, like the persona of a Kung Fu master. The reader is easily able to relate to the character's conflicted identity and his struggle to be authentic. Ultimately, Yoo learns to balance his many traits into one true self-identity.

I recommend Open Mic to teenagers who are interested in broadening their perspectives. This book uses the power of laughter to illuminate prejudice and to bridge the gap between cross-cultural misunderstandings. Open Mic will not just open your eyes, it will also encourage you to challenge ethnic and racial stereotypes yourself!

You can watch Ali's Book Trailer for Open Mic here.

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