Friday, January 29, 2021

January Diversity Reading: Open Mic

I'm posting about my last January diversity read, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices edited by Mitali Perkins, just in time for Multicultural Children's Book Day, which is today. You can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Many years ago, soon after I published my first book--or maybe my second, the publishing world thought I was funny. And maybe even a little desirable. As a result, I was invited to submit a funny short story to an editor who was putting together an anthology of middle grade humor. For the life of me, I cannot recall what I submitted, though I assume if I hunted through the office I could find it. Why can't I recall what I submitted? Because it wasn't accepted. I remember the rejection letter including something about how important the book was to the editor. I read the book after it came out. Not funny. Not well written. Not well received. Disappeared rapidly. Maybe my story sucked really big time if it couldn't make that line-up. Or maybe I dodged a bullet. That experience may have gone either way. 

Open Mic is something similar. It's a humor anthology, but on the theme of growing up between cultures. (I don't remember if the book I submitted to had a theme.) I can't say I found the book particularly funny, though I am known to have a dark, twisted sense of humor, and these people may have been too nice for me. I can say, though, that every story or memoir was well done. The book is a good read and a good way to be introduced to authors you may not be familiar with. I'd like to read some more of David Yoo's work, for instance. And maybe Debbie Rigaud, because I'm getting into the Haitian American thing.

All About Gail

In considering my January diversity posts, I realized that, though I said in my first post that with books that can be described as "diverse" I look for a situation that is new to me, I am also attracted to books that have some connection to me. Really to me, personally.  I read Jasmine Toguchi because I'm Facebook friends with the author, Debbi Michiko Florence, and she appears to be an absolutely lovely person. With One Crazy Summer I got very tied in to wanting to be a mother to Delphine and her sisters, because momming is something I know. I read Finding Langston because I read Langston Hughes back in the day. Open Mic I read because it was similar to a book I was almost involved with and I know the editor, Mitali Perkins, through blogging. (Another very nice person, btw.) In Debbie Rigaud's story for that book she begins "When I was little, my great-aunt Ma Tante..." Well, I had a great aunt who my father's cousin always referred to as Ma Tante Yvonne. In fact, Micheline refers to the late lamented Uncle Napoleon as Mon Oncle Napoleon. (And his wife as Ma Tante Josephine--I kid you not.) My grandfather was Mon Oncle Elie. We were down in New England and didn't do that with the French family, but I still get it. 

It occurred to me that maybe I'm a little (or a lot) shallow, only reading books about cultures different from my own, if I can connect with them in some way. I'm hoping that that's not the case. I'm hoping that finding connections between ourselves and people who come from backgrounds different from ours is a way of enjoying and becoming comfortable with new stories from other cultures.

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