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.