Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blogger Spotlight: Multiculturalism Rocks!

Today is my first ever Blogger Spotlight!

This feature will be weekly and in it I will highlight people and their blogs who are POC and/or review books about POC.

I want a more creative name for this feature so if anyone has any suggestions leave a comment.

My first ever spotlighted blog is Multiculturalism Rocks! Please everyone welcome the wonderful Nathalie who created Multiculturalism Rocks! Seriously, Nathalie rocks and her interview made me even more in awe of her. she always comments on my reviews and her words always bring a smile to my face, she knows what to say when I most need to hear it.

1) Explain about your blog.

The explanation is in the name: "multicultural" is the world we live in today, and it's never been truer in any country than in the United States. "Multiculturalism" in children's literature is vibrant, full of life and it challenges conformity--of thought and expression, just to quote a few. The blog aims to celebrate that, because it truly is a joy when a person of color is featured in a book, or when a writer of color or illustrator has a book out there. It is a unique and enriching gift to the young reader, Western and non-Western. It's a bridge between cultures that invites to an analysis and understanding of the world we live in, while providing all the fun of a great read.

2) What 2010 debut book are you most looking forward to? And non-debut?

Ari, how can you ask me to pick just one book?! :)

Okay, for a debut author, Olugbemisola is the first name that comes to mind! Right now I'm dying to read her book, 8th Grade Super Zero. Yes the reviews are very good, but my anticipation goes beyond that: I fell in love with the trailer and I caught myself drinking her words during her interviews. I'm anticipating larger than life characters in her novel and a straightforward, unapologetic honesty in the narration. :)

As for a non-debut author, it's Sweet, Hereafter, by Angela Johnson. The themes of solitude and personal loss are close to my heart, and from working with kids of all age and background in the past, I am convinced her book will resonate on a deep emotional level with the audience.

3) What are your top five favorite POC books?

1-The House of Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer. The beginning is so thought provoking! I like that it engages the young reader into thinking about the implications of cloning.

2-Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson. It is hard not to be touched and affected by the story, and the mix of sadness and hope as experienced by a middle-grader.

3-Dark Sons, by Nikki Grimes. My favorite poem is Divine Discourse.

4-Girls for Breakfast, by David Yoo. It is a fun and light read, but I had to put it on the list; I embarrassed myself by laughing out loud in public so many times because of that book!

5- The Pact by Dr. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins and Rameck Hunt. The book isn't a YA and it is non-fiction, but I think a teenager can enjoy it, definitely be inspired by the story, and be encouraged not to give up on his/her dream whatever that is.

I wanted to put the following one the list, however the book isn't available in English.

-The Three Little Shoeshine Boys (original title in French: Les Trois Petits Cireurs), by Cameroonian author Francis Bebey. I read it when I was a kid, and the story is still very much alive in my heart. I mention it in the hope that someone picks it up and translates it. It's the story of three Cameroonian kids who, like it is the case for many, work after school to help their families. It's moving and humorous at the same time.
4) Talk about yourself =)
Well, I'm in my thirties. I have a background in nutrition, and I currently study cultural anthropology at an undergraduate level. I practice Tae Kwon Do and play volleyball.

I once worked as a fork lift driver, for over a year, to help my family. I am a former bookseller specialized in children's literature. I worked and volunteered with children in crisis, in Africa, Europe and here, and I witnessed first hand what a powerful healing tool storytelling is
That is one of the reasons I'm passionate about kid lit and multicultural books in particular, because they really do make a difference in a child's life.

The reason behind the languages I speak? Cameroon, like Canada, has French and English as official languages. I lived in the French part of the country, so as I child I first learned French and Bulu, my native tongue. Then in elementary school English was one of the required subjects. In middle school, Latin was mandatory and I studied it for four years. And I picked German--end of middle school, Cameroon, and this is public education--and studied it for seven years (because my big sister chose to learn Spanish. Go figure.)

I did my high school in France, and I later worked in Germany.

There is growing Chinese community in Africa, and I am now learning Mandarin (it's pretty challenging)

I have written several picture books--multicultural and non-MC, and I am currently working on a YA novel about an American teenager who travels to Africa. It is a coming of age and magical realism story. I am not published yet, but hopefully will be one day
5) If you could have dinner with two POC characters from any book who would it be and why?
Oh! I'll dine with Arnold Spirit from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and Asha, from the Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins I think it will make for a deep and sometimes funny conversation about identity and fitting in today's society.
Finally any advice to those who want to read POC? And to those who are just starting to blog?

My advice to those who want to read POC:
-Go to your local bookstore and ask to see what they have. It will show the booksellers that there is a demand for POC, and they will be more than happy to place orders, and maybe this will lead to seeing more POC on bookshelves.
-Talk to your librarian for recommendations. Librarians are fabulous!
-Check online. There are more and more resources about Native Indian, Latino, African American, Arabic, etc... literature thanks to blogs like yours, the Brown Bookshelf, The Happy Nappy Bookseller and more. Cynthia Leitich Smith also has an amazing page full of book recommendations, broken down by cultures.
Once you get started, do not stop there. Writers generally have a website, so if you liked their book, take time to send an email and thank them. Most readers have no idea the fight and sweat it takes for a writer to get published :)

To those who are just starting a blog:
-Be clear about your goals--what you want to focus on, who you are blogging for,
-Ask yourself how much time you are ready to invest--how many times a week will you blog?

-Read a variety of blogs every day, 2 to 5 depending on your availability, and comment. Blogging is about sharing information. :)
Once your blog is up and running, have fun doing it; it shouldn't be a chore :)

Thank you so much for this insightful interview Nathalie! Her advice is spot-on and I really encourage everyone to head over to Multiculturalism Rocks! Nathalie's blog is unique especially her spotlights of foreign books in addition to American books. I'm confident that she will be published one day.
If you want to be featured in the Blogger Spotlight email me.


  1. Great interview!

    Nathalie, we'll have to feature you at Color Online as well.

  2. Wow. I totally feel like a slacker now. xD Nice to hear more about a fellow blueboarder, though. Thanks!

  3. Wonderful interview. I will have to place those books on my must read list.

  4. @Color Online: wow!

    @Dia: I've added your website on the multicultural blog roll. :) Can't believe I missed you! (Am sure there are many others) :$

    @ smozer: you'll love them! :)

  5. Great interview--I have to add Nathalie's blog to my blogroll!

  6. Thank you, Nathalie and Ari! The blog advice really helps, and the "House of the Scorpion" mention reminded me of how much I loved that book. Thanks for the day-brightener!

  7. Asha Gupta accepts your invitation and looks forward with delight to dining with you and Arnold.

  8. Ari, thank you so much for the spotlight *the light is a bit bright up there* :D More seriously, it is an honor, and I look forward to the bloggers you will continue to introduce us to. I don't know how you find the time to do everything. :)

    Thank you Zetta and Thestonebow! And Asha, I can't wait! :)

    Wishing you all a great week.

  9. Natalie- You are always the voice of reason (and knowledge). I loved reading this interview. You have so much depth. Can't wait to have your book on my shelf!

  10. Great interview! Multiculturalism Rocks is an awesome site, and essential resource. Great book list, too -- I loved Girls for Breakfast. Nathalie, thank you so much for the kind words! *I* can't wait to read that YA of yours!

  11. Nathalie,
    I bet I visited your hometown in Cameroon! What city? I spent 6 weeks there in 1999!


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