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Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad [Paperback]

Christina Henry de Tessan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 20 2002 Adventura Books
For generations, literary figures from Ernest Hemingway to Frances Mayes have fueled our fantasies about the romance of expatriate life. But it's one thing to dream about living abroad and quite another to actually do it. In Expat a diverse group of women explores in vivid detail how the reality of life abroad matches up to the fantasy. Tonya Ward Singer craves a roasted chicken in China and must buy it alive and kicking. Karen Rosenberg reevaluates both her family's Judaism andher own when invited to a Passover seder in a remote Japanese village. Mandy Dowd tries to teach the French about Thanksgiving. Emily Miller admits that in Italy she craves the Hollywood entertainment she generally deplores when on U.S. soil. Tall and fair, Meg Wirth tries hard to blend in, in Borneo—to no avail. Expat taps into the bewilderment, joys, and surprises of life overseas, where challenges often take unexpected forms and overcoming obstacles (finding Drano in Ukraine, shrimp paste in Prague) feels all the more triumphant. Featuring an astonishing range of perspectives, destinations, and circumstances, Expat offers a beautiful portrait of life abroad.

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From Library Journal

Tourists merely visit, but expatriates get to live in another culture. Some of the women represented in this collection of 22 "tales" have lived abroad as students, teachers, or aid workers, while others either pursued career opportunities or fulfilled a romantic fascination with a particular country or culture. Motivation aside, almost all have chosen to relate experiences of vulnerability and unease and a nostalgia for the culturally familiar. An expat living in appliance-deprived China recounts her craving for and courageous attempt at roasting a chicken, while another in Prague relates the challenge of finding fresh produce in order to cook a chicken stir-fry. Yet another, in the south of France, homesick for Thanksgiving turkey, describes the troubles she had concocting such a dinner for acquaintances. Others are disheartened to discover that not all Australians have an abiding love for Yanks, that not everyone in Greece, Borneo, or Japan speaks English, and that most cultures have distinctive cues or codes that the foreigner will inevitably misinterpret. Most of the reporting is of disillusionment and cultural dissonance-cautionary tales for all who believe the global village is America. Recommended for public libraries.
Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

More than romantic adventure, living abroad means that 24-hour supermarkets, reliable fuel sources, and even blankets can't be taken for granted, as the 22 contributors to Expat attest. Many of their stories focus on food. Tonya Ward Singer craves golden roasted chicken while in China, so she must purchase a newly killed bird and dress and cook it in a Chinese kitchen that is little more than a toaster oven and a slop bucket. Other contributors crave American pop culture. Emily Wise Miller finds herself eagerly anticipating lowbrow action-adventure flicks she wouldn't deign to watch on TV in the States. Still others show the expat (short for expatriate) imparting American values while learning to appreciate new friends' perspectives on life. For instance, in Egypt and among parents whom Westerners would think negligent, Laura Fokkena sees child rearing anew, as a matter of enjoying one's family rather than heroically trying to mold children into predictable products. The collection engages us because these expats are humbled and transformed by their contacts with cultures different from their own. June Pulliam
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
January 1997. My husband, Dave, and I were deliriously happy-giddy with the reality that we were officially unemployed, homeless and about to blow our life savings by boarding Taesa flight 572 (Oakland-Zacatecas-Morelia) with one-way tickets, one two-year-old, three suitcases, a bag of books, a laptop, a pink teddy bear, a diaper bag and three saxophones. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent compilation. July 12 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad is a refreshing mix of points of view - motherhood, lesbianism, academia, the working world, religion.
It is also a wonderful patchwork of unique and pleasing writing styles, diverse cultural experiences, and even varied outcomes. Some women stayed and fully embraced the countries they lived in. Some returned to the United States with a broadened vision of the world she thought she knew. But each woman continued on her life-path filled with new sight - a renewed acceptance of her spiritual or cultural identity, perhaps...or an enlightened recognition of her role as mother, partner, student, teacher, or daughter.
As a traveler, a woman, a mother, and a former expat, I found myself nodding in agreement with so much of what I read in this book. When she finally sat back and watched her daughter flourish in Cairo, Laura Fokkena discovered a comfortable extended-family mothering atmosphere - somehow attentive yet intentionally disconnected at the same time - a far cry from the eagle-eyed, over-protective, Click-It-Or-Ticket parenting drilled into busy American families. This Egyptian philosophy I have vowed to make my own.
Other contributors, too, wrote from places in their lives that felt familiar: Karen Rosenberg, who comes "from a family of reluctant Jews," followed a path from Amagi, Japan, back to her spiritual roots. Stephanie Loleng found her own Asian identity in Prague, where the food of home would have to be prepared herself. And Emmeline Chang, raised in the United States by Taiwanese parents, struggles to belong on either continent.
And perhaps most recognizable, each woman in Expat expresses her frustration at linguistic difficulties.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Never Never leave home with out this book June 19 2002
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book, unassuming though it may appear, is a powerhouse of writing, emotion, adventure and literature. The women writers are strong voiced, sure of their actions and their words and they range across our globe in nimble sentences...looking for blankets, looking for chicken, looking for the quintessential puzzle pieces that make it all fit--the pat and ex-pat selves-- together in one... On the way they write of finding new identities, loosing old identities, and becoming who they really are. It is American travel writing at its beat best--On The Road, Travels With Charlie, Dharma Bums.... It's modern travel writing at its best, too--Bryson can't write as well as some of the writers in this anthology could--especially as these women are ex-pats, not merely tourists. My favourites were "First The Blanket" (Kate Baldus), "Never Never" (Juleigh Howard-Hobson) and "Before and After Mexico" (Gina Hyams) All in all, after reading these essays, you felt as if you, too, had just gotten back from where they were....ninety thumbs up, womyn!
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Format:Paperback
Compiled and edited by Christian Henry de Tessan, Expat: Women's True Tales Of Life Abroad is an engaging and impressive collection of true stories about women who have lived in diverse nations around the world, and learned firsthand the delicate balance between keeping true to oneself while accommodating the ways of a different culture. Life in Mexico, Borneo, Japan, Egypt, England, Croatian, the Mediterranean, and more is brought to life from unforgettable perspectives in this original, fascinating, very highly recommended anthology.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent compilation. July 12 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Expat: Women's True Tales of Life Abroad is a refreshing mix of points of view - motherhood, lesbianism, academia, the working world, religion.
It is also a wonderful patchwork of unique and pleasing writing styles, diverse cultural experiences, and even varied outcomes. Some women stayed and fully embraced the countries they lived in. Some returned to the United States with a broadened vision of the world she thought she knew. But each woman continued on her life-path filled with new sight - a renewed acceptance of her spiritual or cultural identity, perhaps...or an enlightened recognition of her role as mother, partner, student, teacher, or daughter.
As a traveler, a woman, a mother, and a former expat, I found myself nodding in agreement with so much of what I read in this book. When she finally sat back and watched her daughter flourish in Cairo, Laura Fokkena discovered a comfortable extended-family mothering atmosphere - somehow attentive yet intentionally disconnected at the same time - a far cry from the eagle-eyed, over-protective, Click-It-Or-Ticket parenting drilled into busy American families. This Egyptian philosophy I have vowed to make my own.
Other contributors, too, wrote from places in their lives that felt familiar: Karen Rosenberg, who comes "from a family of reluctant Jews," followed a path from Amagi, Japan, back to her spiritual roots. Stephanie Loleng found her own Asian identity in Prague, where the food of home would have to be prepared herself. And Emmeline Chang, raised in the United States by Taiwanese parents, struggles to belong on either continent.
And perhaps most recognizable, each woman in Expat expresses her frustration at linguistic difficulties. Each woman is a writer, after all, someone who depends on language - perhaps more than on people or money or timing - to make things run smoothly. And, certainly, as a foreigner, that taken-for-granted skill is slippery at best, even for bilingual expats. Editor Christina Henry de Tessan folds this phenomenon easily into her introduction: "...accustomed to being efficient, competent, articulate, and able to navigate the various logistics of American life," these women found themselves at sixes and sevens with everything around them.
But armed with determination, great tolerance, a readiness for change, and often dozens of books, they learn to color outside of the lines they used to know, to create themselves anew.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A First-time Expat's Best Friend Feb. 14 2005
By Margaret E. Sondey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Headed abroad on your first expat experience? Wondering what expat. life is REALLY like? Curious whether the expat. lifestyle is for your family? Christina Henry de Tessan's collection of over twenty superbly written "true tales" about expat. life reveal the jagged mountain ranges and desert plateaus of the emotional geography known as the "expat experience." Six months into my own family's first expat. experience, I wish I had had this book to read and reflect upon prior to stepping onto that jet to Mexico. Especially for those undertaking an international move for the first time without adequate or knowledgeable corporate support, the no-holds-barred accounts of these women's experiences will help you consider your own emotional,physical, spiritual, and intellectual needs as you plan your move. A must read.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and impressive collection of true stories Nov. 7 2002
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Compiled and edited by Christian Henry de Tessan, Expat: Women's True Tales Of Life Abroad is an engaging and impressive collection of true stories about women who have lived in diverse nations around the world, and learned firsthand the delicate balance between keeping true to oneself while accommodating the ways of a different culture. Life in Mexico, Borneo, Japan, Egypt, England, Croatian, the Mediterranean, and more is brought to life from unforgettable perspectives in this original, fascinating, very highly recommended anthology.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book is great. March 25 2013
By CM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love the book- I had already read it, and purchased it as a gift for a friend. It's a great collection of stories from women living all over the world, and inspired me to do more world traveling myself.

In addition, the book did quite a bit of traveling of its own before it got to me- the postal service sent it all over the country a couple times before it got to my local post office, and after a month and a half the package arrived in less than peak condition. However, the seller wrapped the book well, and thanks that, it arrived in great condition. If I could take off points for the USPS's poor service, I would, but I don't think it would be fair to rate the book or the seller based on that.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Variety Of Expat Experiences July 16 2012
By Someone Else - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I usually end up giving multi-author collections three stars because some are great and some are so-so. However, I think this collection merits four stars. The pieces are very well chosen and give an excellent overall view of what it might mean to try to be an expatriated American.

There are twenty-two stories here, all by different female American authors who lived in places such as China, Borneo, Ukraine, England, Mexico, Denmark, Japan, and many other countries. Some of them don't really qualify as "expats," since they only stayed a few months, but most of them stayed several years.

If you have any glamorous, romantic ideas about moving to another country, this book will give you a more realistic view of what it can be like to be the outsider by virtue of culture and language barriers. Even with all the difficulties, most of these authors ended up staying much longer than they had intended, so there's hope after a period of adjustment.
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