cover image Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Two Cultures

Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Two Cultures

Edited by Mitali Perkins. Candlewick, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5866-3

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.)