Misunderstood by Tanya Crossman

Back on the blogosphere after a year of grad school, I’m pleased to publish a review of a Misunderstood by Tanya Crossman. The book was recently published by Summertime Publishing and can be purchased on Amazon. I’m pleased to offer my take on the book below:

Despite being a relatively new genre, authors of Third Culture Kid (TCK) literature must meet demanding standards. These authors perform a dual task: first, define a population with whom many readers may be unfamiliar; simultaneously, they draw broad enough boundaries around these definitions so self-identified TCK readers don’t feel boxed in and categorized.

Being a TCK myself, and having read literature that rigidly categorizes and labels TCKs, I approached Tanya Crossman’s Misunderstood with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I was pleased to find that at the end of nearly 400 pages of interwoven vignettes, anecdotes, personal quotes, context information, and definitions, Tanya has presented a balanced perspective of what it means to live as a TCK. Tanya extends past the quantifiable measures of countries lived in and number of moves to the feelings and thoughts a TCK carries with him or her.

A Diverse Sampling

Tanya’s book lends value to TCK literature through its geographic diversity of narratives. Instead of rehashing foundational TCK concepts, Tanya broadens the conversation by including quotes and vignettes from individuals who traditionally fell outside the original definitions of a TCK geographically. In my own experience, much of the TCK discussion has focused on Western-based TCKs in other parts of the world. Tanya expands her pool of narratives to include TCKs who claim passports from China, Cambodia, New Zealand, Australia, and many more. This diversity adds to richness to our understanding of the collective TCK identity.

Pushing the Boundaries

Not only does Tanya broaden the geographic narrative, but she also focuses on new groups of TCKs. These groups may fit better within Ruth van Reken’s recently developed Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK) framework. Regardless of definition, Tanya’s addressing of these groups—such as children of educators or unaffiliated families—accurately parallels the way our understanding must shift along with global trends. This leaves room for change and adapting and allows us to apply old understandings in new ways.

Who’s It For?

At the beginning of her book, Tanya identifies the intended audience as TCKs, families of TCKs, or caregivers of TCKs. I am confident Tanya has included something in her book for everyone, whether or not they identify with one of those categories. Boundaries continue to blur in globalization, and elements of the TCK identity are becoming more and more relevant. Whether you are a TCK or may interact with a TCK in the future, Misunderstood provides an excellent framework to begin understanding.


Book Review: B at Home

Amidst the research being published on Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and the impact of global mobility on education, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the voices of the people we are researching and writing about—the kids themselves.

Valerie Besanceney has created a wonderful short chapter book that begins to provide words for a TCK experiences when he or she moves. The book follows the story of 10-year-old Emma through her international move from one home to another due to her father’s work relocation. It is written from the perspective of both Emma and interspersed with the thoughts of her stuffed bear, affectionately named “B.”

Through telling the story through both the eyes of Emma and B, Besanceney has been able to capture all angles of the moving experience—the impact of past moves, the uncertainty of a future move, and how Emma processes the entire situation. Besanceney skillfully brings up questions of rituals, friendships, changing schools, and creating a home, all of which are bound to run through the mind of any child who moves.

This book would be an excellent book for a parent and child to read together to help process an international move. Reading about Emma’s experience going through a similar transition will likely provide words for a TCK to begin processing a moving experience, opening up a conversation with parents. At the same time, it will remind the child that he or she is not alone in feeling this way. Parents may also glean ideas for how to make the transition easier by reading this book, whether it’s establishing a new ritual or creating a Moving Booklet similar to the one Emma receives in the story.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with children and who is making an international move. Feel free to check it out on Amazon.

Book Review: Safe Passage

In a previous post (Visible Learning), I referenced Doug Ota’s book Safe Passage. His phenomenal book merits a little bit more of a review than simply the nod that I gave him in that blog post.

When I first received Doug’s book, I was admittedly intimidated by it–such a well-researched and carefully structured book surely represented a challenging read. I’ve never been more pleasantly surprised about the content of a  book than I was when I finally opened the front cover.

Doug Ota’s book Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it not only presents well-researched information on how mobility impacts a child’s educational well-being, but does so in easily digestible pieces. Readers feel like they’re in a conversation with Doug as he shares insights and models about transition experiences, brought to life by metaphors.

What I enjoyed most about the book–besides the nautical themes intertwined throughout–was the emphasis that Doug placed on an individual’s story. By emphasizing a child’s story, Doug affirm the value of a child’s history. Moreover, Doug refused to stop at the surface-level implications of transition, but takes the reader deeper into the psychological impact of transition on belonging and community.

Doug’s book is a must-read. It holds wisdom not only for international schools, but for all organizations that assist families with international transitions. Doug’s well-balanced advice and structured guidelines are applicable across countries. I would recommend this book to anyone involved in education or counseling of globally-mobile families, or anyone with children impacted by mobility.

Book Review: Letters Never Sent

At the beginning of March, I had the privilege of meeting Ruth van Reken at the FIGT conference. As a TCK, hers was a name I had heard frequently, but until the conference I don’t think I actually believed that she was a real person. She’s one of the realist, most authentic people I have ever met. Her honesty, sincerity, and assessment of the world were refreshing.

It’s still a little weird for me to meet the authors of books that I read. I read Ruth’s Letters Never Sent about a month after the conference. If you’re a global nomad, this book must go on your must-read list. I never knew that a person could take the feelings that so many TCKs experience and put them into words on a piece of paper. Yes, Ruth is an expert in the TCK field due to the research she has conducted, but this book reaches beyond the research and into the heart of the TCK. I started the book on a flight to Haiti and finished it on the return flight.

Ruth writes with an incredible amount of honesty about the impact that various aspects of her TCK experience had on her. The book itself compiles journal entries about experiences she had throughout her life. Some letters are addressed to her parents respectively, some to God. She captures all aspects of life—marriage, faith, community, career—and somehow puts words to act of processing each of these through the lens of being a global nomad. The fact that the book is well-written is beside the point–above all, Ruth is real about the experience and the impact that it had on her, and that in itself is powerful in a world where TCKs often feel misunderstood.

I would strongly recommend TCKs, parents of TCKs, and those who work with TCKs to read this book. While this book by no means offers a “how to” recipe for raising a TCK (because there is no recipe), it does give a glimpse into a long-term impacts that such a transient lifestyle can have on an individual. That insight can be invaluable for understanding such a person.

So if you haven’t already, please pop over to Amazon and order it—either for yourself, a friend, or another TCK you know.

Book Review: Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between

My few days off at Christmas allowed time for extended reading.  Here’s a next book review:

Arrivals, Departures, and the Adventures In-Between
By Chris O’Shaughnessy
Summertime Publishing, 2014
157 Pages

Chris O’Shaughnessy’s book Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between reflects his life: a non-stop adventure. O’Shaughnessy draws on his own experiences as a TCK and living between American and British worlds to illustrate key themes of the TCK identity, all of which lead to a hilarious and entertaining read. Readers are sure to laugh out loud at retellings of cross-cultural miscommunications and cringe with embarrassment at childhood cultural faux pas (and everything in between).

O’Shaughnessy has taken the undeniably complex identity of the TCK and written an incredibly understandable text that serves to both inform readers about the life of a TCK and verbalize what so many TCKs feel as they seek to discover who they are through transitions. This in itself is impressive. The focus on personal narrative combined with humor will probably make it most enjoyable for a teenage TCK to read, but the memoir-mixed handbook holds something for everyone. This book especially benefits TCKs who are just discovering that there is a term associated with their identity.

The most distinctive feature of O’Shaughnessy’s book is that it updates the TCK identity and frames it within the 21st century. Whereas original research into TCKs emerged before the era of Facebook, Twitter, and social media, this book addresses previous research and connects it to the present technological era, making the content even more applicable. Though the book updates the previous information, however, there is limited presentation of new information about TCKs. Regardless, I would recommend the book to both TCKs and non-TCKs.

Book Review: The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition

As mentioned in my previous post, my blog will refocus a little bit over the next couple of months on expats, books, and other thoughts on culture. So here’s a first book review to get us going.

The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition
By Tina Quick
Summertime Publishing, 2010
300 pages

Herself a Third Culture Kid (TCK) and the mother of three TCKs, Tina Quick’s personal experiences add both depth and relevance to her book The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition. In this well-structured and informative text, Quick provides repatriating TCKs with the information necessary to understand and navigate the double transition into both a new culture and a college/university setting. Though it would be virtually impossible to write a step-by-step, one size fits all list of “how-to” steps for this transition, Quick comes close to doing so by combining previous research on TCKs and transition with universally practical tips for the college environment.

Quick’s combination of practical information and narratives from TCKs adds to the readability and relatability of the book. Her writing style transports the reader from their couch at home into what feels like a personal conversation. The book begins by exploring the broad stages of transition and identity development, then specifically addresses the biggest struggles and challenges that a TCK will face while transitioning to university life. By providing advice on general topics in which TCKs can establish personal guidelines, Quick has made the book useful to practically everyone making a cross-cultural transition to university (and possibly also to those who have never left their passport culture).

This book will benefit any teenager transitioning out of one culture and into another for university, as well as parents looking for advice on how to help their children enter this new phase of their life. Though there is no way to completely eliminate the challenges that a TCK will face, having this knowledge beforehand and keeping Quick’s useful suggestions in mind will undoubtedly make the transition easier.

If you’re interested in reading the entire book, it can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.com/Global-Nomads-Guide-University-Transition/dp/1904881211/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1419716324&sr=1-1