Book Review: Writing Out of Limbo
Recently, my friend Anna asked me to review an anthology which included an essay of hers. It is important to note that I take book reviewing seriously, especially when I'm allowed more than 140 characters in which to share my opinion. Remember that I am part of this book's target audience as a current expat, but I remain in all other ways as unbiased as possible. I hope those of you who are also current expats or are planning to move to another country soon will find my review especially useful. Make no mistake, this is a textbook-style tome and not a quick read, but it is an important book for those who appreciate the globally nomadic lifestyle.
Below is a copy of what appears in the Amazon customer reviews section for the essay collection titled Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids.
To steal an artful phrase by Anna Maria Moore, one author in this remarkable essay collection, the volume itself is "a collection of... passports...filled with stamps blurred by hands thumbing through them in customs offices" around the globe.
Here, the editors have successfully combined personal essays and scholarly articles from Adult Third Culture Kids (ATCKs) and other Global Nomads to form a guidebook of sorts. This guidebook teaches and explains life lived in a globally-mobile sense: multiple cultures, multiple languages, frequent departures and separations. To live this way presents a complex set of challenges, and one byproduct is often a sense of alienation. The collection helps answer the questions: Where is home when your country isn't your country? Who are your people when no one around you has lived as you have lived?
It also helps explain the tax and toll struggling with this question can take on the psyche. For example, in my favorite scholarly essay in the collection, Memory, Language, and Identity: The Search for Self, Liliana Meneses explains that memories imprint based on the language associated with them; communicating in a language other than his mother tongue, a multilingual person might be unable to recall or recount early life events. The admirable adaptability of Third Culture Kids as adults is a direct result of this challenging upbringing. As Moore explains it, after four decades and five continents, she has become "a wild strawberry plant."
This is the most beautiful accomplishment of this collection: the essays weave together to tell the stories of multiple people who took on the struggles in a way that made them grow and change. In Continental Shifts, Moore shares how, as a 10-year-old in Holland, her initial confusion over the question Where am I from? resulted in excitement when she realized her TCK status meant she could choose! In The Religious Lives of Adult Missionary Kids, author Nancy Henderson-James parses the results of a survey which reveal how later-life faith is impacted by the faith and station of that person's missionary parents. And in Lemonade for the Gringa: Advice For and From Teenaged Global Nomads, Patricia Linderman reflects on how country-to-country moves change the relationship between teen Global Nomads and their families; the increased sense of dependence such moves instigate can strengthen the family bond upon each new arrival.
This collection is a must-read for anyone who has lived in a country other than their own, or anyone who can't claim a single country as their own, or anyone who delights in the idea of living somewhere else for a while. If you've contemplated raising your children in a culture other than your own, this is an important resource. And if you've ever felt like an Outsider in a culture where you think you should have a firmer stance on the ground, reading these testimonials and theses may just assuage your doubts and fears. Even when you are alone, you're not alone; there are dozens, hundreds, even thousands of like-living souls all around the world.
Writing Out of Limbo was edited by Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel with Faith Eidse and Elaine Neil Orr.