I’m excruciatingly excited for this blogger feature, because I’ve finally tapped into the wealth of book reviewers on BookTube! I first came across Joce on Twitter, where I realized just how brilliant she is. Check out the feature below, and take a moment to peruse some of her fantastic YouTube videos on her channel, SquibblesReads.
Introduce us to your BookTube page! Do you have any specific genre focus for your page?
Hey! I’m Joce (pronounced Joss), and my channel is called squibblesreads, which is where I do most of my talking! I read everything but my favorite genres are literary fiction that discusses social issues, psychological thrillers, and fabulist fiction. You can find me on: Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads
I am a Chinese-American woman, and I’m making my way through my final year of graduate school. Growing up, I didn’t become aware of the marginalization of my ethnic identity until, one day in high school, I was walking downtown and a group of Caucasian boys pulled outwards and upwards at the corners of their eyes, yelling “Konichiwa! Sushi! Chop Suey!” and ran by, raucously laughing at me. Over the next years, I became starkly aware of how difficult, if not nearly impossible, it was to find a book with a protagonist that was a Chinese girl my age. When I did find a character that looked like me, she was often one dimensional, tokenized, and usually played the piano or was good at math. I was left feeling frustrated, unimportant, and silenced.
- Which character has resonated with you the most? What was it about that character that made you gravitate toward them?
I thought about this question for a long time! I can’t think of any one character but I loved the way Celeste Ng portrayed the Chinese family in Everything I Never Told You. Every character struggled with issues of privilege, and everyone was flawed and genuine. Everyone was impacted by systemic racism which translated into internalized fears, projections, and privileges. They were privileges I’ve experienced before, whether it was things I’ve thought or words that have been spoken to me.
- You’re an advocate for #OwnVoices books. What does that term mean to you?
#OwnVoices is a hashtag started by Corinne Duyvis. To me, it means that the author identifies as a diverse or marginalized group and their protagonist also identifies with that group. It gets tricky when speaking about, for example, a Korean author writing a African-American protagonist, because while they are both not of the dominant discourse, their interactions in society and with each other are ultimately different. I think as long as the author constantly embodies and lives with some significant part of the protagonist’s identity, I consider it #OwnVoices. More info from Duyvis and her definition can be found here!
To me, it means saying “what I’m writing about has happened to me”, instead of a game of telephone, relaying information through interviews, which, don’t get me wrong, are entirely necessary, but inevitably filtered through multiple people’s brains and hearts. What I mean is that there are thousands of years of tradition, immigration, values, and interactions with other groups that constitute the lens of my worldview. For someone of the majority to tell my story would be doing me two disservices: 1) they would be interpreting and repurposing my story, just by the fact that it is their words and not mine, and 2) taking away the opportunity for me to tell my own story, therefore further silencing already silenced groups.
This is an extremely poignant article – with statistics about the publishing industry! – about #OwnVoices books published compared to books with protagonists from marginalized groups written by dominant discourse authors.
- Say someone wants to add some #OwnVoices reads to their shelves. Which relatively recent releases would you toss their way?
I would recommend Shelter by Jung Yun, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (BB> review here), We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Some YA recommendations are Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.
- What interested you in YouTube as a medium for book reviewing?
When I started, I was debating between a blog and a Youtube channel. I ultimately decided on Youtube because my program at school requires me to write as many as 4 papers a week, and the thought of coming home and doing some more writing was not as appealing as spilling my guts to a camera. Plus, it’s kinda like doing a confessional on The Bachelorette 😉
I did some blogging in undergrad for a website my class made and I was SO BAD at the html stuff. Like REALLY BAD! It was mostly frustrating and not enjoyable for me. As a result, I’m really grateful and in awe of bloggers who can do it so beautifully and love reading blogs. As a creator, I find editing videos soothing and fun, so I stuck to it, and I still love it. An unexpected plus is that I find that I’m more confident when I’m presenting in class!
- How do you BookTube? Are there tips, software, etc that you recommend for people who want to start out?
Basically, I sit down in front of a camera and cross my fingers that the neighbors don’t hear me, haha! But really, being methodical really helps me. It doesn’t necessarily help other Booktubers, everyone has a different way of generating ideas for videos, so this is not a formula or anything!
My process starts out with an idea, whether that be a review of a book I’ve read recently, or if there is some discussion percolating in the community and I want to form a response. I’ll let that idea stew a little and then start jotting down notes. When I feel like I’ve fleshed out all that I want to say, I sit down and film. Then comes the editing, then uploading. And there we have it! I’ve been on Booktube for about 8 months and I still don’t have very complicated software or equipment, so definitely don’t feel like you need to have it all when you start. I currently use a camcorder from Canon that cost me less than $100 (in the Vixia line), a basic tripod (around $15), a 32GB memory card, and iMovie, which came with my computer which I bought for school.
My main tip for people starting out is to do what your heart wants and speak from passion. When I first started, I was very sucked into the hype and felt pressured to read those books. There are some days where I still do, but I have a better grasp of how my brain and heart respond to books, regardless of whether they’re hyped or not.
- The diversity problem among book bloggers and reviewers in general is getting better (slowly but surely). Do you see a similar problem with BookTube?
Marines from mynameismarines actually made a video about this that is extremely congruent with my own views of the community, called “Why is Booktube so White?” I think her voice is so important on this topic, so I will let her speak about it.
- Who are some other great diverse book reviewers on YouTube?
- Adriana // perpetualpages | In this video, she reviews If I Was Your Girl, The Wrath and the Dawn, and More Happy than Not from a socially critical, but also empathetic, perspective. I grow and learn every time I watch her videos.
- Vivian // lampsunnies | In this video, she reviews Everything I Never Told You and discusses the important issues of diversity, how the characters speak about them, and how Ng manages to do so much with so few pages.
- David // ThePoptimist | David’s style of reviewing is smooth, wise, eloquent, and specific. He does so much in so little time. He includes hilarious gifs in his videos so they are both informative and entertaining. Here’s his review of Shelter!
- Mel // BooksWithWings | Mel is an Argentinian Booktuber (her videos are in English) and she actually made a video about #OwnVoices herself!
- Put your best foot forward! What has been your best work on Squibblesreads?
This is such a hard question! I think what makes my channel unique is two of my ongoing series:
- Thrillers and More Thursdays, where I discuss books in the crime, mystery and thriller genres
- Hidden Gem Books, where I introduce lesser known (at the time) books
One favorite videos that I’ve made are my March Wrap-Up. I reviewed Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne from an intersectional perspective, and touch on colorblindness in Ready Player One, and a lot of other books.
My favorite discussion I’ve done is about why I read about difficult topics and little talk about trigger warnings.
- Anything else you want to say? Let it out!
Reading #ownvoices lit starts from a genuine desire to understand and empathize. It doesn’t come from wanting to check off boxes or wanting a pat on the back. In the end, I am benefiting myself and my knowledge base. It continues with actively seeking out books with diverse protagonists. While I wish there were more, there definitely are some; we just have to actively, and not half-heartedly, seek them out. I would also encourage reading books about systemic racism and how social structure and norms were brought about. Some recommendations are Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (BB> review here), and The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
I believe a lot of resistance to reading books with protagonists identifying with marginalized groups comes from a fear to acknowledge one’s own privilege, “privilege” being when one group has access to something (not necessarily material) over others just based on their identity with that group. Privilege is not a bad thing. We can use it to promote #OwnVoices and learn more about ourselves and others. I acknowledge that I am privileged in some ways but not in others. For one, I own a camcorder and a computer, and can post on Youtube, and I can go to school. I am also able-bodied. It saddened me to look at my own reading preferences and see that I was reading less narratives of disabled and homeless or lower socioeconomic status protagonists. These are areas that I wish to learn and grow, so if anyone has any recommendations (preferably #OwnVoices), please let me know!
Alright, that’s it for another #DiverseBookBloggers feature! If you want to get in contact with Joce, hit her up on Twitter (@squibblereads), or in the comment section of her videos! And don’t forget to hit that ‘Subscribe’ button!