Wanderlust is “a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.” It’s daydreaming about the Cai Be floating market of Vietnam while you’re packing your kids’ lunches, and imagining the hike up the Inca trail while you’re walking them to school. For now, I’ll have to settle for armchair travel choices in my summer reading- but when I’m immersed in a book I am transported to Papuan (New Guinea) jungle where I can feel the sticky humidity (oh wait, that’s just the Houston summer getting to me!).
I was asked by a reader to give some summer reading recommendations for globally-minded parents and teachers. While I have several favorites, I thought it would be great to ask my friends at Multicultural Kid Blogs, a very diverse group of parents from around the globe. The suggestions that came up are fabulous!!!! We have book recommendations from Nigeria to Papua New Guinea, France to the Netherlands, Argentina to Afghanistan- the settings alone will tickle your travel itch and the cultural references and background information opens your eyes to a myriad of perspectives. Cultural memoirs and novels, toolkits for raising multilingual kids, parenting and education guides from around the world for multicultural families, expat families, TCKs, nomad families, and more. Here are all of our recommendations- add your favorites in the comments!
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Cultural Memoirs and Novels Set Around the World
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (also speaker of “The Danger of a Single Story) was recommended by multiple friends. In this award-winning novel, a young couple face racism in the US, challenges in Nigeria, and misery in London. Filled with conversations on race, the style is somewhat different than her other books (namely Half of a Yellow Sun).
And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini (who also wrote the famed “The Kite Runner”) was mentioned by several friends. The gripping story tells of a family in Afghanistan who must give away their children in order to survive.
One reader claimed it was “the best Peace Corps memoir I have read,” Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village by Sarah Erdman tells the story of a Peace Corps volunteer living in a rural village in Côte d’Ivoire. Marie-Claude Leroux of Marie’s Pastiche says it was “well-written, engaging and illuminating.”
Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Familyby Melissa Dalton-Bradford was reviewed by Maria Babin of Busy as a Bee in Paris. The memoir covers 20 years of living as expats in 8 different countries with their four children. Maria says it “begs to be read both in quiet, meditative contemplation … But also in communal rapture (a book club, per se), where together readers might peel over each page, discovering layer by layer the bittersweet life that Melissa so eloquently describes and, in community, share incumbent tears – some from laughter, some from sorrow, some from joy.“
Another memoir of a world traveling family- this time of educators- is Here We Are & There We Go – Teaching and Traveling with Kids in Tow by Jill Dobbe. Amanda Blodgett of Miss Panda Chinese (a traveling teacher herself, now in Ecuador!) recommends this for anyone who is interested in traveling with kids, or for anyone who dreams about teaching abroad. Lots of cultural information about Guam, Singapore, Mexico, and Ghana.
Olga Mecking of the European Mama recommends Stuff Dutch People Like by Colleen Geske as a light and hilarious book on Dutch culture, written by a Canadian expat. How to Be Orange is another funny book, this time written by American expat (and comedian) Gregory Shapiro.
Another fascinating read is Child of the Jungle: The True Story of a Girl Caught Between Two Worlds, a memoir by Sabine Kuegler. The author, originally from Germany, grew up a child of linguist-missionary parents in the Papuan (New Guinea) jungle, living side-by-side with a hunter-gather tribe whose land and lifestyle was being threatened to extinction. Learning to survive in the jungle from her new friends, climbing trees to escape animals, and collecting a menagerie of insects and pets, Sabine’s story is one I will not forget.
Stephanie Meade, of InCulture Parent recommends The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah. This enthralling- and funny!- book is the memoir of an adventurous Afghani-Englishman and his family’s move to Casablanca, Morocco.
A Dream So Big: Our Unlikely Journey to End the Tears of Hunger by Steve Peifer, was recommended by Mari Tuten of Inspired by Familia. This gripping story of a corporate manager turned humanitarian in Kenya has readers laughing and crying- and inspired! The author has “established a rural food program in 2002 that provides lunches for 20,000 Kenyan schoolchildren a day. He has also built the first solar-powered computer-training center in Kenya, and is now developing twenty computer classroom labs for rural schools.”
Especially interesting after the World Cup fever, Jennifer Brunk of Spanish Playground recommends Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano. In addition to This book teaches us how soccer/football is embedded in culture, and offers a thorough history of the world’s most beloved sport from ancient China to modern-day Latin America.
Jennie Goutet’s memoir A Lady in France follows her journey from New York to Paris, to a classroom in Asia, a humanitarian effort in East Africa, and finally settling in France with her family. It is a love story of a missionary and expat and illustrates how her bravery and faith carry her through grief and depression.
Books on Raising Multilingual Kids
In our Multicultural Kid Bloggers (MKB) group, many of us are raising our children with more than one language. Here are three books written by our members that aim to help families encourage multilingualism, with tips and ideas on how to raise your children in a supportive language-rich environment:
Be Bilingual – Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families by MKB member Annika Bourgogne.
Bringing up a Bilingual Child by MKB member Rita Roseback.
Parenting Books: Multicultural, Differing Perspectives, Identity
Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon is recommended by Olga Mecking of the European Mama. The popular book examines the parenting question of nature vs nurture, and “to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves?”
Olga also recommends Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering edited by Suzanne Kamata is a compilation of diverse stories from around the world featuring: perspectives from international adoptive families, multi-ethnic families, peripatetic families, and more.
Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman, an American living in France with her British husband, was also mentioned by Olga. The stories on French child-rearing are fascinating, and show us a completely different perspective to raising well-behaved children.
Another book that looks at parenting practices around the world is How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood. After reading this excellent review by Mary Kinser from Sprout’s Bookshelf, I put this book at the top of my summer reading list:
Hopgood’s research is incredibly insightful, as she digs into why Mayan children participate (happily!) in household chores and how French moms and dads get their children (willingly!) eating veggies. In each case that Hopgood examines, we learn a little something about the particular cultural norms that are transmitted from parent to child, and how those norms support the larger values and beliefs of that cultural system.
Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us by Christine Gross-Loh, was recommended by Stephanie Meade of InCulture Parent. This fabulous researched-based book explores qualities of parenting in cultures around the world, and what their insights are of “good parenting.” So much to learn as we open our eyes to the differences!
What is the balance between accomplishment and self-esteem? Author Amy Chua offers her perspective as a Chinese mom in her provocative book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Even if you don’t agree with her strict and competitive parenting style, this book is an honest look into her life, raising her 2 daughters in the US.
Globally-Minded Parenting & Education Guides and Toolkits
If you haven’t heard of The Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners by yours truly! and Homa Tavangar, then you need to check it out! Packed with practical, easy, and cheap (free) ideas to enhance global learning, every school should have a copy if they are interested in teaching their kids about the world and preparing them for our interconnected planet!
Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World by Homa S. Tavangar of Growing Up Global is a must read for parents looking for practical tools to incorporate cultural awareness at home! Lots of fantastic resources that are easy to incorporate.
Family on the Loose: The Art of Traveling with Kids by Bill Richards and Ashley Steel is an awesome guide to traveling with kids. “Family travel is a great way to expand your cultural horizons and help cultivate our next generation of global citizens,” and this book is packed with ideas to help you make family travel a reality.
Sheila Sjolseth of Pennies of Time recommended Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. Kozol heavily researched schools across the US to illustrate the extreme differences between wealthy districts and schools in poverty-stricken areas. Sheila says:
His book took a small-town girl- me- out of my sheltered world and showed me elements of society that we all need to know about, need to be aware of, especially as we teach our children.
Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Revised Edition by David C Pollock came highly praised by Mary Anne from Mama Smiles. This classic handbook for TCK’s shares lessons learned and obstacles to overcome for kids who grow up in different lands and cultures.
Have you read any of these books!? Am I missing a great find? I would love to do a part 2- please leave your recommendations in the comments and I will compile them!!!