Co-author of Slurping Soup and Other Confusions, Maryam Afnan Ahmad, talks to Culturs Magazine about being a mother to third culture kids (#TCK) and how her book aims to help children cope with the challenges of living internationally.
A review of Misunderstood: The impact of growing up overseas in the 21st century
A fascinating book that demonstrates, with considerable authority, that the well-documented issues of Third Culture Kids are as relevant today as they ever were. This despite (or maybe because of) faster and more flexible travel options and huge advances in technology. You might, for example, think that the internet would have more or less solved the issue of how to stay connected to friends and loved ones. Or that regular and affordable flights back ‘home’ would have significantly eased any feelings of loss and isolation. But as Tanya Crossman convincingly demonstrates, this is far from being the case; new solutions may offer new freedoms but they can also present new problems. Hundreds of TCK contributors (more than 700 were surveyed and 270 interviewed for this book) add unequivocal authority to this conclusion, and their persuasive anecdotes pepper Misunderstood incisively.
But this is more than a book presenting valuable research material. Throughout, we get a real sense that the author wants us to understand what TCKs experience, what they feel. We get raw emotions here:
“My life feels like a series of learning how to stack stones on the wall around my heart.”
And if ever you were in doubt about the disabling effect of cultural confusion and loss, there is this:
“Every time I felt sad, I let myself feel it. Some of those days, I laid down in bed for a while, and let myself be tired out by the grieving process.”
Of course, this is a complex and ever-changing subject and no one book could ever attempt to cover the individual circumstances of tens of thousands of TCKs. Each of them, after all, faces a unique set of personalised issues. But Misunderstood leads us through the maze with considerable assuredness, bringing together the common themes in a well-structured and logical flow. Particularly resonant for me was the discussion about the ‘traditional nuclear family’ – and how this can impact on anyone who is part of a different ‘arrangement’. As one half of a gay couple in Turkey, I encountered some extraordinarily odd and challenging behaviour from some of the well-established members of the expat community. Not to mention the guilt of leaving family members back home. And that, I suppose, demonstrates how Tanya Crossman’s book may well resonate with an audience outside the TCK community itself: many of the issues the author skilfully catalogues, apply not just to TCKs, and not just to adults who were once TCKs, but to anyone who has thrown themselves to the expat lions. An absorbing and thought-provoking book.
Expat and Repat
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