Monday Interview: Ari from READING IN COLOR, book reviewer and blogger!

It is a great joy and honor to interview Ari, aka MissAttitude. Ari is a high school student, as well as founder of the popular blog Reading in Color and an amazing reviewer of MG and YA multicultural books.

Ari, thank you for joining us today! What prompted you to start Reading in Color? How did you hear the “calling,” if I may ask?
I decided to start Reading in Color after I discovered the wonderful world of teen books blogs. However, all these great book blogs rarely reviewed books about people of color (POC). I was interested in the titles they spotlighted but I also wanted to see young adult books about people who looked like me; I wanted to learn about different cultures. So I figured I was going to have do something about it, I couldn’t just wait for someone to have a similar idea. Once you find your passion, act on it.

In average how many books do you read per week?
During the school year I read about 1-3 books a week. When not in school, I read at least 7 (a new one everyday).

How do you make your selection?
First, I just wander around the bookstore or library, looking for books with POC on the covers. That’s usually a rare thing though, so then I look for books I may have heard of from other blogs or books by authors that I’m already familiar with. I try to read books with POC that I’m interested in, but I also know that all readers do not have the same tastes, so I’m interested in going outside my preferred tastes (for example, I recently reviewed Perfect Shot, a romance novel for teens; it was very cute and I liked it a lot even though I’d never read a SimonRomantic Comedy novel before).
I’ll give any YA book with POC a chance, because authors of color get so little exposure, I don’t want to be picky and say I’ll only review historical fiction or realistic fiction, etc. We don’t have enough options of books with POC in YA to be that particular in our reading tastes yet, although I don’t think anyone should close themselves off to a particular genre. You never know if you may end up liking it.

You have an elaborate grading system. Could you, please, tell us more about it?
I wouldn’t say that it’s elaborate, I think it’s pretty straightforward. It’s out of 5.

1/5       A disappointment, don’t waste your time reading it.

1.5/5   There was one or two little things that made the book ok. still not worth your time.

2/5      A hit or miss.

2.5/5   Still hit or miss, but if you see it, you may want to give it a chance.

3/5      I liked it and I recommend it if you’re not looking for amazingness 🙂 (i.e. don’t have too high expectations)

3.5/5  It was really good, I’d recommend it, but again don’t have too high expectations.

4/5      I highly recommend the book, it was excellent.

4.5/5  It was a great book. Only a few little things kept it from being fantastic.

5/5      A MUST READ.


How does one become a book reviewer? Any advice for the neophyte?
Oh wow, I’m giving advice. Well I would say that as long as you love books you can become a reviewer. However, I would recommend you provide something a little different from all the other book blogs out there, because there are a lot and you want yours to stick out a little or at least offer something different, cater to a group (i.e. maybe devote your blog to reviews about graphic novels or something, have a wide range of reads, but specialize in something). Also, I think every reviewer faces a burnout sometimes. Don’t be discouraged if you just don’t feel like reviewing. Write a blog post about something else or just take a break completely for a bit from blogging. We readers understand 🙂

The url of the blog says, “Black Teens Read 2.” Is there an underlying statement? If yes, would you elaborate? 🙂
There is an underlying statement. People have the assumption that black teenagers don’t read, but we do. I was tired of Black teenagers calling other Black teenagers “oreos” and “acting white” just because they liked to read, so I created the URL to say that yes we do read and so what! I’m still Black because I love to read, in fact I’m even more Black because I read books about my beautiful culture and I appreciate it. Often the people calling you an “oreo” don’t even know what makes Black so Beautiful, they haven’t discovered the beauty of Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Ralph Ellison, Walter Mosley, Langston Hughes, etc.
I do worry sometimes that it might exclude some people but I’ve decided not to worry about it. I would check out any blog with the URL Latino teens read 2 or Asian, native American, etc. People shouldn’t be intimidated by my URL or any URL that may at first seem to cater to only one ethnic group, check it out first.

The following question is totally unfair, but I’ll ask anyway:
you’re stuck on an island alone, without a cell phone or your favorite TV show to distract you. What are the three books that I see in your hands?
Oh no!! That’s one of my worst fears, I can’t even watch Lost and I really didn’t like Lord of the Flies. For some reason, the idea of being on a deserted island scares me to death, haha. I would say (besides the Bible)
1. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher-Amazing book that blends humor with inspiration. I would need to be laughing if I was all alone!
2. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork-It’s such a beautiful book. It’s so great, it IS (that makes little sense but it’s a fantastic book).
3. A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott-Great book, Gemma is a very genuine and brave character. she would inspire me to not despair because I’m on a deserted island.

I feel like I always include these books (because they’re all amazing) so I’m going to throw in a new one
4. Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon-Ai Ling kicks major butt and her bravery would be a great comfort and sometimes she’s all alone too.

If people would like you to review their books, what are the guidelines?
It needs to be YA or MG about PEOPLE OF COLOR. I’m completely baffled when I get emails from authors/publishing houses asking me to review a book with an all-white cast. It’s beyond annoying, it shows that the person hasn’t even read my blog. Don’t just email a reviewer and not take the time to least learn their name and what they will and will not review. Don’t waste my time or yours.

I do “off-color” reviews but those either
a) have a significant secondary character who is a POC (like in Ten Cents a Dance, about a Polish dancing hall girl but she becomes close friends with an African American trumpet player and some Filipino guys. It’s a really good book that details the racism not just African Americans, but Filipinos faced in Chicago and other places in America) or
b) written by an author of color (although to be perfectly honest, I would rather read a book by a white author that writes about POC than read a book by an author of color about white people).

Bonus Questions:

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, your favorite MLK bio is…
I’ve only read one (I’m not sure how that even happened since I love MLK, I need to read more on him) but I really enjoyed it: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr, edited by Clayborne Carson.
I would also highly recommend Freedom’s Children: young civil rights activists tell their own stories by Ellen Levine. This book inspired me, it told me that children and teens can make a difference (I even wished that I could have lived during this time so I could go out and protest! I felt like teens were more useful during the ’60s and ’70s, but now I think teens are useful and can make a difference regardless of when they are living. Find a cause you’re passionate about, and promote it. Never shut up!). That book first introduced me to Claudette Colvin and then I read Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Fantastic book, everyone should read it! She was so brave at such a young age and it makes me angry that she never received full recognition. At least she is now.
Finally, I recommend this great autobiography of Dorothy Height, Open Wide the Freedom Gates: a memoir by Dorothy Height. It talks a lot about the role women played in the civil rights movement, especially the National Council of Negro Women. Very interesting.

Who is your favorite POC character ever?
This changes, I’m always adding to the list. I will always love all the characters in the books I’m bringing with me on a deserted island. Currently, I’m in awe of the coolness of the characters from 8th Grade SuperZero by Olugbemisola. Ruthie is such a compassionate, well-rounded, amazingly cool 8th grader (so in the book she’s a misfit but in my book she is so cool!) And Reggie is so lovable. He has a big heart and wants to do the right thing, but sometimes he drags his feet, as do we all.

Thanks so much for this interview Nathalie 🙂 These are some great questions and I love Multiculturalism Rocks!
Ari, thank you for your time and for our exchange. Reading in Color is a great resource for both writers and readers! 🙂

For more information, visit Reading in Color at http://blackteensread2.blogspot.com/.
Follow Reading in Color on Twitter: http://twitter.com/readingincolor
A former post about Reading in Color can be found here.

Thank you for reading.  Have a wonderful week! 🙂
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About Nathalie Mvondo

Nathalie Mvondo lives in Northern California and studies anthropology and nutrition. She is a writer and a blogger.
This entry was posted in All Interviews, Book Reviewer Interview and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Monday Interview: Ari from READING IN COLOR, book reviewer and blogger!

  1. Pat K says:

    Valuable column, Nathalie. Thanks

    Like

  2. Esme says:

    Oui, je parle un peu. Je suis canadiene et un ecole je attende le lecons un francais. Mon ecrivre c’est terrible. Je fini l’ecole secondandaire vente anne passe. Je t’aime ton blog.

    Like

  3. What a great interview, I learned new things about Miss Attitude whose blog I have been visiting for several months. Thank you!

    Like

  4. Zetta says:

    thanks for putting the spotlight on Ari–she’s one of the hardest working bloggers I know, and writers of color *so* appreciate her tireless efforts to promote our books. I always tell students to visit her blog whenever I do a school presentation…if only we could clone her, but she’s truly one of a kind!

    Like

  5. Zetta, she truly is. Her actions and dedication speak volume. It’s impressive.

    Like

  6. Hannah says:

    This girl sounds like an absolute treasure. I hope my own children will have the confidence, eloquence and joy in reading that she has when they are teens (a long time from now)!

    Like

  7. olugbemisola says:

    Thank you so much for this interview, Nathalie! I’m so grateful for thoughtful readers like Ari; I hope other teen readers are encouraged and inspired by her. I sure am!

    Like

  8. Ari says:

    THANK YOU EVERYONE! I wish I had a clone too, or at least another poc teen blogger 🙂 I love how blogs allow you to really get to know people. I’ve been able to connect with awesome authors and fellow book lovers and have great discussions.

    Thank you Nathalie for interviewing me, it’s an honor =)

    Like

  9. GREAT interview! I’ll def be checking out Ari’s blog! 🙂

    peace,
    Donna

    Like

  10. Tamara says:

    Wonderful interview! I’ll definitely have to check out some of Ari’s fav books, especially Marcelo in the Real World (have been meaning to read it since it’s gotten alot of buzz for awards).
    I’m wondering if Ari has read any of Christopher Paul Curtis’ books? I recently read Elijah of Buxton and was completely taken away by such a lovable character!

    Like

  11. Kim Kasch says:

    I used to read a book a day, when I was young. Usually on the weekend though and we only had one t.v. in our house so there weren’t a lot of options.

    You rock!

    Like

  12. linda covella says:

    Ari–you’re amazing! That’s a lot of reading. Thanks for the advice on reviewing. I loved “Marcello” and still really want to read “Silver Phoenix.”
    Thanks, Nathalie, for this great interview!

    Like

  13. Lynn Hazen says:

    Great interview. Thanks for introducing me to Ari’s blog.
    And great to see your blog, Nathalie!

    Like

  14. Edi says:

    Ari is amazing! Thanks for the opportunity to learn just a little more about her!

    Like

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