Sarah P’s comments: Well, I did it. I finally published my new book: Far Off-Girl. Thanks to all who have supported me in one way or another. And, as always, comments, edits, reviews, and the sharing of your stories are appreciated…
Ethel is ecstatic when her father offers her an escape from a long, cold, dark, Maine winter. But the journey turns out to be a maze of country-hopping, desert-crossing, shisha-smoking, friend-making, skinny-dipping, island-kissing, revolution-escaping, boy-betraying, white-knuckled, hairpin turns. Growing up at home is perplexing, growing up overseas is mind-altering.
P.S. Her father is a librarian…
EVERYONE IS MULTICULTURAL
All those who incorporate ideas and beliefs of people
from many different countries and cultural backgrounds.
‘Multicultural’ became a publishing buzz word in the late 80’s and a genre by the 90’s. As an international librarian I happily embraced this trend, excited to see stories which represented at least some of more of my students’ cultural heritages. In each of my positions I sought out books with global themes, and especially those which represented where I was currently located. At first there were only a smattering but eventually there grew to be a list which I would faithfully order for each new library.
Another welcome trend which emerged were novels about kids from other cultures trying to fit into mainstream American life. I added these to my list as they encouraged discussion and understanding of what it means to try and live in another culture. At the same time some books began to be published about American teens venturing overseas. These books were popular as well and thus I figured it was only a matter of time before stories appeared which would delve deeper into the final frontier: the experience of American teenagers living overseas.
But, to date, nothing has yet appeared which I find surprising because, at last count, there are at least 275,000 global nomads, or TCK’s (third-culture kids), kids who consider America (or another country) their home, but spend most of their lives growing up overseas and attending international schools as they follow their parents’ international careers. These are the students I taught and hung out with in my fourteen years of international living and, to me, they truly are ‘multicultural’ in that their definition of themselves is not based on where they live but how they live, and they are living proof that ‘multicultural’ is something you can become rather than something you must be born as.
Ethel’s story grew out of this understanding and my goal was to find an entertaining way to honestly share some of her experiences and to answer real-life questions such as: What’s it really like to wear a veil? Should I date a guy from a different faith? How do I deal with someone who hates Americans?
And, finally, there is another message woven into this story. It is for all teens who feel stuck, and it is that being multicultural is about acceptance. That if you travel beyond your borders, be it through a book, a plane, or Instagram, you are reaching out. And that, by seeking to understand others, you will find people anywhere and everywhere, who are like you in some way. Travel, as Ethel comes to realize, will not solve all your problems, but what it can bring is perspective, insight, understanding, and hope.
(Thanks also to Cricket Magazine who published an early version of Travel Post #1 as a short story.)