Following a stint of abandoned books, I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few phenomenal ones that have really broadened my horizons. What a relief! It made me think of sharing a few titles with you that have delicious cross-cultural flair. They are all, in my opinion, well worth your time! Without further ado, here are five great books, ideal for lounging around on these warm, relaxing Spring evenings.
1. Gone by Min Kym,
Adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) author, work of non-fiction
I just picked this book up last weekend at the airport and oh my, I couldn’t put it down. In fact, I have gone into a bit of a craze around violin music since I finished this memoir. No, seriously! I’ve begun researching everything around these prestigious Stradivarius violins. I feel like I have entered a new world of maple and spruce string instruments and I can’t stop listening to violin solos. I won’t spoil it for you, but picture the author, an undeniable Third Culture Kid (Korean/UK) child prodigy violinist, navigating her loyalties and cultural roots and the pressures surrounding her musical gifting. Add to that a turn of events where her Stradivarius worth 1.2 million GB pounds is stolen by a petty thief in a London eatery. What you get is Min-Jin’s powerful story of devastating grief, of longing and a journey in finding her own voice, without her precious violin to hide behind. Min Kym photocred: AllMusic
2. Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson
Inter-racial spouse, work of fiction
I absolutely adored this gem of a novel, because it’s culturally so rich – nurtured by the British author’s own cross-cultural marriage with a Nigerian pediatrician. Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away is made irresistible by twelve year old narrator Blessing, telling a complex story in a simple yet credible way. Through a twist of circumstances, Blessing finds herself training to be a midwife in rural villages with her wise grandma. I love how she wrestles with her midwife grandma as if it were her own mother – with topics like female genital mutilation and the Kill and Go mobile police. Tiny Sunbirds Far Away offers an insightful foray into healthcare and education access in West Africa, not to mention the fear locals live in daily as the fight for oil goes on. It’s a story that will make you reflect long after you’ve finished it. Impossibly, it features a slew of topics like heartache and love, wealth and poverty, political, religious and racial tension, with characters as lovable as they are (at times) comical. You won’t want to leave their world and their interactions as you turn to the last page. I can’t believe this gorgeous book is Watson’s debut novel. Wow!
3. A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
Internationally adopted author, non-fiction
I had heard about the film Lion (2016) for a while. Friends kept urging me to see it. Unable to go to the cinema (#motherhood), I borrowed this e-book. It was a page-turner; a gripping story of heartache, resilience and triumph. The power of this boy’s story truly won me over. Hard to imagine all that Seru went through at age five – particularly as a mother to a child of that age. My heart skipped a beat when I read how he only found out in adulthood how he had been mispronouncing his own name. I read each line as if I was going through his cross-cultural kid’s identity questions alongside him. Ultimately, I felt as if Saroo did a fantastic job of processing his journey, and a decent job writing his life story down in book form. A “Long Way Home” makes a refreshingly good case for international adoption, after plenty of anti-adoption lit. published over the past years. Can’t wait to watch the movie and compare notes.
4. On Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis
Expat family, non-fiction
Susan’s account of her first years in Louviers, Normandy reads like a relaxed walk in the park, stopping to look at a recipe book. It feels to me a little less novel of a travel memoir due to the fact that her every day is our every day. It’s just our daily life in France. I had expected more of a dramatic storyline, but it was still an enjoyable read. I can imagine this book being really unique for people living outside the country! Her astute observations of the land and the culture are another reminder of how wonderful our mundane, normal life is in this magnificent country. Some books are like that – they make you realize how much you are living the dream.
5. Home, James by Emily Steele Jackson
Author: a Third Culture Kids mama, fiction
Brilliant and relatable novel about James, who “returns home” to Missoula, Montana, USA after growing up in Nanning, China. I just loved how the story is written in both a witty and tender way – absolutely on point with a number of Third Culture transition issues. You won’t be able to put it down. Emily did an excellent job of writing with a young adult audience in mind, but if you’re a parent of a transitioning cross-cultural kid, do yourself a favor and snatch this book up immediately and read it today. Be warned though, you’ll laugh and you might just cry too. I recently had the privilege to ask the author a few questions I was dying to ask about Home, James in an exclusive interview. You can stalk that conversation over here.
Bonus – If you’ve read all of these fantastic titles, why not pick up Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I reviewed it a while ago here. Another delicious novel with layers of Third Culture themes!
Have you read any of these books? Or do you have any other great cross-cultural books to share with me? If so, I’d love to hear from you!
Happy reading, friends!
photocred: Libert Schmidt