Do You Know your Book Reviewers? Tarie, from ASIA IN THE HEART, WORLD ON THE MIND

Today I’m excited to interview Tarie, book reviewer and blogger extraordinaire! Tarie started the blogs Asia in the Heart, World on the mind, as well as Into the Wardrobe. Both blogs focus on multicultural literature for children and young adults, with a generosity of information about Asian writers and illustrators through book reviews and interviews. Tarie is also a staff member for Color Online, a website dedicated to empowering women writers and readers. Tarie is a grad student in Anglo-American Literature, an editor of EFL instructional material, as well as a former (and future) English teacher. She currently lives in the Philippines. Her websites are a living illustration that multicultural books know no borders!

Hi Tarie, thank you for joining us today! 🙂

Tarie: Thank you so much for having me, Nathalie. It’s great to be here at Multiculturalism Rocks! =D

Please, further develop the statements implied in the names of your blogs, and tell us what prompted you to start them.

Here is my blog story:

I started Into the Wardrobe in early 2005. Even though it was a personal blog, many of my posts were about children’s and YA books because I started reading a lot of children’s and YA books around that time. (But I didn’t know the kidlitosphere and YA blogosphere even existed!) I named my blog Into the Wardrobe because a book takes us to a different world, just like the magical wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe took the Pevensie siblings to Narnia. I love traveling to different worlds by reading books and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are some of my favorites.

In late 2007, I received an email from an author in the UK asking if I was interested in reading and reviewing her YA fantasy novel for my blog. I was really bemused. I thought, “How does this author know about me and my blog? Why is she sending me her novel and wow, she cares about what I will think of it???” I said yes to the author because I love fantasy novels for young readers and because reading and reviewing a book for my blog was a new and exciting thing to do.

Then the personal assistant of an author in the US contacted me about reviewing a picture book. A YA fantasy author, also in the US, invited me to be part of her blog tour. I had a lot of fun reviewing books and participating in a blog tour. I also discovered that there was an entire community of people blogging passionately and seriously about children’s and YA books. I discovered blogs like A Fuse #8 Production, Chicken Spaghetti, and Big a Little a and was so inspired by them that I decided to blog passionately and seriously about children’s and YA books too!

In 2008, I started searching for a blog just on Asian children’s and YA books. I couldn’t find one and told myself that I would wait until such a blog was created and fully support it. In 2009, I discovered and was inspired by Color Online and Reading In Color, but there was still no similar blog for Asian children’s and YA books. Of course there are many, many blogs that feature Asian books, authors, and illustrators. But I couldn’t find one that was WHOLLY devoted to Asian children’s and YA books. And I was looking for an international blog. I wanted to read interviews of Filipino and Filipino American children’s book authors. I wanted to read reviews of YA books by Japanese and Japanese Canadian authors. I wanted to see the work of Chinese illustrators from Sydney and Melbourne, not just from Hong Kong and Taipei. I was interested in Indian kid characters in India and Indian kid characters in the UK. I was interested in Persian teen characters in Tehran and Persian teen characters in Paris.

So I started Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind in 2009 because I wanted to celebrate, share, and promote Asian children’s and YA books, authors, and illustrators from around the world. I love my Asian heritage and Asian cultures and I love children’s and YA books. My second blog allows me to combine those loves.

I started Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind because it was needed.

If a Djinn were to appear and tell you he would grant any wish regarding Asia in the heart, World on the Mind and Into the Wardrobe, what would you ask? (note: this is a twisted way to ask you what you wish to accomplish through your blogs)

I would wish that both my blogs would inform, entertain, and inspire readers. And I would wish (I get more than one wish, right? =D) that Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind would become an invaluable resource and help the development and visibility of Asian children’s and YA books around the world.

May your wishes be granted, though if you ask me you’re well on your way to experience them already. 🙂 As a member of Color Online, what are your functions?

For Color Online, I can contribute any reviews of books by women writers of color and interviews of women writers of color. The books can be for children, teens, or adults, but I try to focus on books for children.

This is a strange question, but I need to ask. In America multicultural books are not considered mainstream. Is this the case in Asia, meaning from your experience would a teen in the Philippines easily pick up a MG or YA book with characters from a culture other than his? Hispanic for example ? 🙂

A young reader in the Philippines would easily pick up a book from another country, especially books from the U.S., the U.K., and Japan! I think that in some ways Filipinos are open to other cultures. This is partly because of our history (we have been under the Spanish, American, and Japanese governments), partly because of the Filipino diaspora, and partly because geographically the Philippines is at a global crossroad.

Now the problem is that a young reader in the Philippines would not easily pick up a book from his own country. This is mostly because there aren’t a lot of Philippine books to choose from. Philippine picture books are going strong, but there aren’t a lot of Philippine middle grade and YA books – yet. We’re working on it! =D

I look forward to MG and YA Filipino books! What is the latest book that made you cry?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. It is just so beautiful, moving, enlightening, and inspiring.

And laugh?

The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer.

I knock on your door one evening, in the middle of a life crisis, an unprecedented emergency: I have nothing to read! Without skipping a beat, you slap a book in my hand. What’s its title? (And why that one)

Ha! If you knock on my door, that means you are in the Philippines. I would give you Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! written by Nanoy Rafael and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III. You’d have to spent the night of course. Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! is a touching story about a boy who is about to become a big brother. We would oooh and aaah over the playful and surreal illustrations. I would explain to you the Filipino words and details in the illustrations. And we’d eat all the dried mangoes and durian candy in the refrigerator!

I am so coming to visit you, now! 😀 Which Filipino children’s book author would you recommend?

Candy Gourlay! She has a fresh voice and a wonderful combination of Filipino humor and British dry wit. Everyone should watch out for her debut novel for young readers, Tall Story. Tall Story is set in the Philippines and in the U.K. It’s out in the U.K. and in the Philippines this year, and next year in the U.S.
Note from MR: Amazon.com lists the release date of Tall Story as May 27, 2010, so the book might be available online at that date as well.

And regarding a Filipino picture book?

Check out Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! written by Nanoy Rafael and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III.

Favorite Asian MG and YA?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin.
Note from MR: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the winner of the Newbery Honor. Don’t miss a chance to read it!

Tarie, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your knowledge with us. I look forward to your reviews and author/illustrator interviews on your blog. Thank you for highlighting multicultural books and their authors!

Nathalie, thank you for making multicultural children’s books so much fun through your blog!

For more information about Tarie and her blogs, visit
o Asia in the heart, World on the Mind
o Into the Wardrobe
o Tarie’s Review Policy
o Color Online
o Follow Tarie on Twitter
o To contact Tarie: asiaintheheart@yahoo.com

Books mentioned in this interview:

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! 🙂