Sunday, December 20, 2015

Twinja Book Reviews 3rd Annual Diversity Month Day Eighteen: Interview with @80booksblog @tqwanabrown @hahanella + month long #giveaway

It's the end of the week and we're ending it big with bloggers!

Our next guests are co-bloggers, and totally awesome! As avid followers of their blog, if you need a new blog to get diveres book recommendations, look no further!

What's really cool about these particular bloggers, is their experience in the publishing industry. They get to see first hand what the industry is looking for!

It's an honor to host them as our third week is rearing to an end!

Twinja Book Reviews Annual Diversity Month Event Day Eighteen:

Tqwana and Heather of 80 Book Blog

More co-bloggers! Gotta love it! Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves, since this is your first time to our blog!

TQ: I’m Tqwana, 1/2 of 80 Books Blog. I work in publishing in NYC and have been a book lover for as long as I can remember. I started blogging as part of a course when getting my masters in publishing.

Heather: I’m Heather, the other half of 80 Books Blog. I also work in Publishing in NYC and have a personal blog. I enjoy spending time on the internet, reading (obviously), and brunch.

What can you tell us about your journey being a blogger?

Both: We both graduated from the Pace University Publishing Program where we collaborated on a few projects based on starting a publishing business.

What created the initiative behind your blog?

Both: Our long-term plan is to publish e-first original fiction. When we were developing our editorial vision, starting as a book review blog seemed like a logical step.

What inspired your review policy?

Both: To be fair and honest and to bring attention to marginalized writers. We started our blog review policy based around our availability with full-time jobs in Publishing and our regular reading times. Some of our policy is influenced by past events of author's coming after reviewers for bad reviews. If we read the book, but don't feel that it would be 3 stars or higher (out of 5), we feel it's important to provide constructive feedback that will hopefully help authors in the future.

What has been your favorite post to date?

Heather: Our highest viewed post to-date!

What draws you into a book? What themes do you look for? What makes a book an amazing read?

Heather: Fast pacing, interesting characters, "strong female characters" (however you want to define it), sexy sex scenes, humor (if appropriate). A good book is always an emotional rollercoaster.

TQ: I really love books that bend the rules and don't fit into one genre or category. I love well-rounded heroines. If you want to call that a "strong-female" character, I guess that's what I mean. I'm really into romance novels, so I look for the cute, funny, sexy reads. Amazing reads are those that go beyond the happily ever after. We know we're going to get that, but what else can you do to move me. Can you give me a history lesson like Beverly Jenkins? Can you weave in some spiritual subtext like Tiffany Reisz? I want a book that has the typical tropes, but still digs deeper.

Obviously the way we grow up shapes the things we enjoy as adults. What can you tell us about what it was like growing up for you guys?

TQ: I grew up in Miami, which used to be a far more diverse city than it is now. In many ways, I took that for granted. Being around different cultures was all I knew. So, it kinda shocks me to see people whose friends all look just like them. Even in something as simple as the Barbies I owned, there was diversity. I had at least 2 of everyone doll, one black and one white. When Barbie started making dolls in other ethnicities, my mother bought those too, because she knew that's what the real world looked like and she wanted me to be aware of it.

Heather: Maybe it would be better to say that I grew up with a lack of diversity. I grew up in a bubble where everyone looked like me, a white person. I would see people of color or anyone different as "the other" instead of a person. It wasn't until I was older that I realized this is not how the world is in real life.

Do you feel well represented in books and/or media?

TQ: No. TV is going in the right direction. Books, not so much. Publishing just isn't willing enough to let go of antiquated ideas of who black women and black readers in general are. And movies not at all.

Heather: Yes and white people have always been represented. It wasn't until I moved to NYC and expanded my circle of friends that I saw lack of diversity as a problem.

What are creators not doing well when it comes to the conversation of diversity?

TQ: If we're talking about publishers, I think the problem lies in too much talk and not enough action. Change has to start with a most representative work force; that is the main issue in what's not being done. You can't have real representation of diversity in literature if you don't have a diverse work force. What I can easily recognize as a micro-aggression or a stereotype might be overlooked by someone who's never experienced it.

Heather: White creators are writing POC and not seeing how they are imposing on the diverse books movement. Publishers are only considering white authors who write diverse characters. It's a cycle of white people who think they need to save the day. There are POC voices that can tell POC stories. LGBT people who can tell LGBT stories.

How can we make the conversation about diversity where it needs to be?

TQ: I think as long as we keep the conversation going, we're making strides, but there has to be a point where we stop talking and start doing. That's what we're hoping to do in the future, moving from just book reviews to publishing fiction.

Heather: To make any real change, we have to see larger outlets also involving themselves in the conversation. Publishing industry is EXTREMELY slow to change. The conversation is worth having and I hope the push for diverse narratives moves publishing in a more inclusive direction.

What types of books did you like consuming growing up?

Heather: Nancy Drew, any book written in epistolary format (Dear America series), Harry Potter

TQ: Aging myself with this, but I was definitely into Jem and the Holograms growing up. Beverly Hills Teen Club, Swans Crossing. I was a huge fan of the Sweet Valley High Books, less so with the TV show. With the exception of Shana from Jem, representation was non existent, sadly.

Are there any books(or form of media) that you thinks gets representation right?

TQ: The content is out there in books, but you have to practically be a treasure hunter to find it. If we're depending on just traditional publishing and the Big 5 to show us representation, then the answer is no. What they're giving us is mostly one-dimensional, stereotypical portrayals. TV is doing a much better job of getting it right. If you just look at Abbie Mills and Olivia Pope and Annalise Keating, and Mary Jane Paul, you have 4 WoC who are vastly different. And neither are the "sassy black best friend." And neither are perfect, but they are real.

Heather: YA publishers are pushing the boundaries of diverse narratives more so than adult publishers, but there's still room for improvement. See: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio, Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche. In terms of SFF, launched e-novellas which feature diverse authors, including BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor, and Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson.

What is the book(or books) that have the biggest impact on you and why?

TQ: Right now, all of Beverly Jenkins' historical romances. They are an education into black history that some people will never know about because textbook creators somehow don't think this information is relevant or necessary.

Heather: I feel like Harry Potter is a cop-out, soooo anything that can help me escape reality wins this award.

What would you tell your teenage self that you wish you knew now about your growth?

TQ: Self, as much as you love music and playing instruments, don't sacrifice your love for reading in the process. In the end, reading wins out.

Heather: It's okay to unabashedly love a book, tv show, movie series, etc., no need to apologize for what you like.

Which fictional world would you want to live in?

Heather: Harry Potter! (Where's my Hogwarts letter??)

TQ: As much as I love the escapism of the books I read, I'm pretty good right where am I in the real world. Though, I wouldn't mind visiting the gym in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Fit trilogy...

Who is your favorite Book Bae and why?

Heather: Jamie Fraser from Outlander for being tall and Scottish.

TQ: Don't laugh, but I have a soft spot for Harry Potter. And I love Jamie Fraser and Jericho Barrons, and Dixon Wildhorse and Reese Anthony, and every male character Maureen Smith has ever created, especially the Wolf Pack.

If you can have any superpower or supernatural ability, what would it be?

TQ: Why choose one when you can be magical and have several?

Heather: Invisibility, I feel like that can get me pretty far.

What type of advice can you give to those starting out?

Both: Just go for it and learn along the way, find a model blog (or whatnot) and emulate that with your own spin! Don't be afraid to redefine yourself along the way. Your blog can evolve. Hopefully you'll never feel like it's a chore to blog or create.

What sites would you recommend for those trying to educate themselves better on the conversation about diversity in books and media?

TQ : Follow authors on Twitter who are speaking the truth - Daniel José Older, Rebekah Weatherspoon, K.M. Jackson

Also WNDB, Jen Baker who does social media for WNDB.  

Finally, where can folks go for updates, and to learn more about your projects going on?

Our Website:
On Twitter: @80booksblog
On Facebook:
On Tumblr:

Follow Tqwana @tqwanabrown or hit up her website
You can also follow Heather @hahanella and hit up her website

We're two bibliophiles who read, review, and write about books, publishing, and other literary topics. One of our main missions is bringing attention to diverse books and giving diverse authors a platform. We tend to read genre books: sci-fi, fantasy, romance, erotica, etc, though we don't limit ourselves to them! We read voraciously!


  1. Nice to meet you Tqwana and Heather. I look forward to reading your book reviews on your blog.


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