I stole these pictures and summaries from Amazon. I know, shame on me.
I am currently searching for memoirs on Third Culture Kids/ Global Nomads/ Cross Culture Kids/ or whatever label you prefer. I have found that there are quite a few Missionary Kids with books. I find them compelling but I can’t always identify with them.
When I first discovered who I was and had my ‘aha’ moment (see About), I tried to find anything I could to read on the subject of Third Culture Kids. At that time it was very limited. This was in the mid-90’s and I was living in Moscow. I didn’t have a library or a local English bookstore. I trolled the internet and I found these two books:
Hidden Immigrants: Legacies of Growing Up Abroad
Entering the foreign service in 1965 as a relatively new bride, the author accompanied her husband, Charles, on a 26 year odyssey that took her to Morocco, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Norway, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Both Bell daughters were born in Africa and brought up in different parts of the world. This book is a story of their growing up in foreign lands.
Letters Never Sent, a global nomad’s journey from hurt to healing
Ruth Ellen van Reken
Born and raised in Nigeria as the daughter of American missionaries, at age 39 Ruth needed to understand why, despite a life filled with rich experiences, a meaningful spiritual component, and family and friends who loved her, she often battled a secret depression. Through the journaling that became this book, she discovered that the very goodness of her life kept her from dealing with some of the challenges that also come with a global lifestyle – the realities of chronic cycles of separation and loss, reentry, and questions of identity. How could there be any struggles when she loved her childhood world so much? As a way of examining this ‘other side’ of her story, Ruth’s began to write many letters home such as the girl known as Miss Question Box might have written. This book contains her story from ages six to thirty-nine. Today, in her mid-sixties, renowned internationally for her compassion, knowledge and insight into what it means to be a child growing up among worlds, van Reken, looks back over her life and adds a fascinating and reflective epilogue to a memoir that has already sold 32,000 copies and has helped and inspired its readers.
Letters Never Sent has just been re-released and I am told has additional information and photos. They were both good books and I was happy to have found them. It was the beginning of my education.
Several years later I met Ruth Van Reken at a Global Nomad conference and she signed my Third Culture Kids book written by her and David C Pollock. Now that was a real eye opener! It is kind of like the bible of TCK’s.
Now that I am working on my own memoir, I am searching for books to read. Research! So here is a list of books I have read, am reading, and want to read.
Do you know of any good memoirs? I would love to know about them!!
BOOKS I HAVE READ
For The Souls and Soils of India
Helen C Maybury
Helen Maybury (ne Conser) was born in India in 1924 and attended two international schools in India, Kodaikanal and Woodstock, before coming to the United States for university studies in 1942. She has produced a heartwarming profile of her mother and father, two courageous individuals who were confirmed in their resolve to serve God and His people. In all, Helen’s parents spent 37 years in India, as well as 9 years in home missions in the United States after their retirement. Alongside the personal history, the letters tell the story of India during a time of tremendous upheaval and historical significance, as the country fought its way to independence. There are letters that tell of meetings with great leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and Vinoba Bhave, the author of the land-gift or “sarvodaya” movement. A non-violent revolutionary in the tradition of Gandhi, he collected millions of acres of land to distribute to the landless. Helen’s parents were an American couple who clearly cared deeply for equality, human dignity and social justice.
In the small world department… This woman lives in my apartment complex and I found out about this book though our monthly newsletter. When I told my parents about the book, they told me they know somebody in their apartment complex who went to school with Helen! –expat alien
Fly Away Home
‘Clean freak’ Maggie tries so hard to keep her life in order but is foiled at every turn. The descendent of second generation Norwegian immigrants to America, she grows up in New Jersey, spending her summer vacations on an idyllic island in Norway. Later, in the wake of an abusive marriage, she and her three young children leave America and return to the Nordic Island of her ancestors, where she rekindles a relationship with her childhood sweetheart. Pulled between two worlds, her life continues as she seeks meaning, identity and happiness. With her true love by her side and three more children to care for, Maggie discovers her traveling days are far from over. Life’s unexpected twists see her return to America before being catapulted to the Netherlands. At last she can begin to make sense of her experiences until, that is, she is on the move again. In the process she learns that life comes full circle, from the hopes and dreams of her forebears to the place where she can finally find peace and come to terms with her past. Follow this Jersey girl as she flies back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean looking for love and a place to call home.
See my blog about this at A Good Read –expat alien
Expat Life Slice by Slice
by Apple Gidley
From marauding monkeys to strange men in her bedroom, from Africa to Australasia to America, with stops in Melanesia, the Caribbean and Europe along the way, Apple Gidley vividly sketches her itinerant global life. The challenges of expatriation, whether finding a home, a job, or a school are faced mostly with equanimity. Touched with humour and pathos, places come alive with stories of people met and cultures learned, with a few foreign faux pas added to the mix.
This has some good insight and lessons learned –expat alien
Home Keeps Moving
Home Keeps Moving follows Heidi and her missionary family on their many moves through the eyes of a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and the unique phenomena of having four very different home countries to relate to. It tells the true story of being catapulted from continent to continent constantly: leaving friends and starting all over again, her unquenchable search for a home and sense of belonging in this world, her desire for a life-partner with the odds all but against her due to constantly relocating (even into adulthood). You will laugh and cry along with Heidi as she recounts hilarious and heart-breaking tales from her childhood as West blends with East.
That is the true beauty of Heidi s upbringing, it crossed borders and defied logic but she lacked for nothing.
This is a very short MK book that touches on some important points. It also incorporates other people’s experiences so gives more than one perspective. —expat alien
Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global
Faith Eidse, Nina Sichel
A fusion of voices and deeply personal experiences from every corner of the globe, Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global presents a cultural mosaic of today’s citizens of the world. Twenty stirring memoirs of childhoods spent packing, written by both world-famous and first-time authors, make the story of growing up displaced feel universal. Best-selling fiction and non-fiction authors Isabel Allende, Carlos Fuentes, Pat Conroy, Pico Iyer and Ariel Dorfman contribute powerful and deeply personal accounts of mobile childhoods and the cultural experiences they engender. The memoirs touch on the opportunities and difficulties of growing up in the ever-changing landscape of expatriate communities.
Potato In A Rice Bowl
In the memoir Potato in a Rice Bowl, Peggy Keener shares her wacky misadventures as a sincere-though misguided-Minnesota housewife struggling to create normalcy for her family while living in Japan during the 1960s. Through charming vignettes, Peggy takes a look back at her bewildering foray into the Japanese culture after her husband accepts a military assignment in a country thousands of miles away from the small prairie town of Austin, Minnesota, where she was born and raised. The mother of three boys, Peggy chronicles how she managed to settle her disoriented family and flounce headfirst into the thorny, baffling culture while her husband was miles away on military missions. As she bungles through her boys’ Japanese school, grapples with the eccentricities of her home and neighbors, and reconstructs the language to her liking, she somehow ends up as a personality on Japanese national television-all with the earnest hope of melding with her new country. In this humorous, irreverent, and even soul-searching collection of anecdotes, Peggy provides an entertaining glimpse into the enigmatic Land of the Rising Sun.
Voluntary Nomads: A Mother’s Memories of Foreign Service Family Life
Nancy Pogue LaTurner
Nancy LaTurner’s engaging memoir begins in 1974 as her young family struggles without a livelihood in rural New Mexico. When a welcome stroke of luck lands her husband Fred a job with the State Department, Nancy eagerly packs their few belongings and bundles up their 20-month-old son and 12-month-old daughter for the journey from Los Lunas, New Mexico to Washington, DC and onward to any of the 200 U.S. Embassies around the world.
Empowered by Nancy’s enthusiasm and Fred’s optimism, the naive little family embraces their first assignment in Tehran during the final days of the Shah’s regime. Dropped straight into a different culture and language in a country suffering the turmoil of revolutionary unrest, the LaTurners learn how important adaptability is to their new way of life.
Throughout Voluntary Nomads, Nancy’s recollection of raising two children in extraordinary conditions demonstrates that the triumphs and heartaches of family life go on, no matter how exotic the locations or unique the experiences. Nancy’s stories of Foreign Service family adventures in Iran, Cameroon, New Zealand, Somalia, Dominican Republic, Austria, and Bolivia, told with warmth, insight and candor, celebrate the resilience and resourcefulness of a spirited American family.
Ride the Wings of Morning
A conventional English girl arrived in South Africa, to help a friend run horseback safaris on a game reserve in the Northern Transvaal.
It was 1992. There were yellow road signs declaring “Dit is die Volkstaat”.
Sophie had heard of “biltong” but knew nothing of Afrikaans culture. She was aware of poachers, but not of the danger of sausage trees. Nor how to cook a gemsquash on the campfire without causing an explosion. She understood there were rhino on the reserve, but not that she would end up working as the safari guide. In the dark. On a stallion. Lost. With completely innocent tourists on other horses.
This upbeat true story, the sequel to her book ‘Funnily Enough’, is told through correspondence sent back and forth between Sophie Neville and her family in England.
ON MY LIST
Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics
by Gene H. Bell-Villada
Born in 1941 of a Hawaiian mother and a white father, Gene H. Bell-Villada, grew up an overseas American citizen. An outsider wherever he landed, he never had a ready answer to the innocuous question “Where are you from?”
By the time Bell-Villada was a teenager, he had lived in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba. Though English was his first language, his claim on U.S. citizenship was a hollow one. All he knew of his purported “homeland” was gleaned from imported comic books and movies. He spoke Spanish fluently, but he never fully fit into the culture of the Latin American countries where he grew up.
In childhood, he attended an American Catholic school for Puerto Ricans in San Juan, longing all the while to convert from Episcopalianism so that he could better fit in. Later at a Cuban military school during the height of the Batista dictatorship, he witnessed fervent political debates among the cadets about Fidel Castro’s nascent revolution and U.S. foreign policy. His times at the American School in Caracas, Venezuela, are tinged with reminiscences of oil booms and fights between U.S. and Venezuelan teen gangs.
At Home Abroad: An American Girl in Africa
At Home Abroad is a stunning autobiography of Nancy Henderson-James’s youth in Africa. Heart-wrenching is her uprooting at age 15 when the war for independence began, from Angola, whose natural world, people, customs, languages she so loved. Nancy bravely and articulately recounts a true saga of personal loss and bereavement. But out of the crucible of conflicts between herself and her parents, the Africa she loved and the America from which she felt estranged, comes crystalline strength, confidence, humor, and self-knowledge. Her journey to wholeness, with its exquisite analysis and detail, enlightens us, so that we, too, see our own lives with new understanding and compassion and recognize better our place in the 21st century as citizens of the world.
Judy Hogan, Founding Editor of Carolina Wren Press, 1976-91.
What a lot of interesting books. Thanks for sharing them with us. I’m always curious about other expat experiences. Also, to learn how others came to terms with not belonging anywhere and/or finding a place they can call home. Another memoir, though not specifically about the expat experience, is “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight,”
Thanks for stopping by. I will check our your recommendation!
What is your story?
Duh, sorry, you already told me your story!
Reminds me of the poem
Do you love me or do you not?
You told me once but I forgot.
Thanks very much for sharing this list of books. As a mom who grew up only in the US, but who is in the middle of raising two TCKs (one of whom feels very strongly that she is English-Chinese) I’m very interested in understanding more about the expat experience from a child’s perspective.
Hi expatlingo, nice to see you!
Yes, it is kind of unfortunate that there are so few memoirs of children growing up as tcks because I think they are interesting (obviously). But the internet is helping people connect and I am finding more and more people who “get it”.
What a great reading list, especially when I feel out of touch with being neither here nor there. Thank you!
Enjoy! Let me know if you find any others.
That was a great reading list and I’m so honored to be among them!
I’ve read several of themalready and learned of a few new ones, I will now have to read 🙂
Thanks for this nice long list. Have you heard of “Jungle Child” by Sabine Kuegler? In Dutch and German there are more books written by her. She grew up in the jungle of West Papua among the Fayu.
I’ve read some of these books. I have read the book Penelope suggested “Don’t let’s go to the dogs tonight” by Alexandra Fuller. The funny thing is she grew up in Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, the same countries I grew up in. Her story is so different to mine. Each story is unique and worth telling!