Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Benefits Of Reading As A Third Culture Kid

This week, I'm delighted to introduce you to a woman who reads so many books, that I log into GoodReads every single day just to see how many she's gone through in the last 24 hours.  I've referred to myself as "a voracious reader" but today's guest blogger redefines that phrase.  Without further ado, please meet Rowena.

The Benefits Of Reading As A Third Culture Kid

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that books have played a large role in making me the person I am today. Books have been especially important to me as a Third Culture Kid (TCK). In brief, a TCK, also known as a cultural chameleon, is a person who has spent a large part of their formative years outside their home culture.  The term “third” refers to the fact that the individual does not relate to the parents culture (first culture) or the host culture (second culture), and instead feels the need to create a third culture. There are of course many advantages associated with being a TCK but it’s not always easy to be one. We as a group definitely have special needs that are, unfortunately not commonly recognized. Identity development is one of the issues that TCKs face; feeling like we have no roots and without any clear sense of belonging means that cultivating an identity is very difficult. On top of that, there is always a transitional interruption when moving between places, which results in stress and also social marginalization.
I made the rare move of being from the Third World, growing up in the First World and returning to the Third World as a pre-teen. Talk about extreme culture shock, and at such a pivotal point in my development too! It was not a move I made happily. Luckily I was able to take home most of my books. Books definitely had a very stabilizing effect on my life and I shudder to think of how I would have coped without them.
Quite a few people I’ve talked to about my love of literature have been surprised by how important I think fiction is. Perhaps they feel that I’m exaggerating because many of them don’t see the benefits in reading fiction in particular. They prefer non-fiction because they want to focus on reading things that enrich their lives, advance them in the job market and so on. To me it’s quite a tragedy that some people really don’t see the benefit of reading fiction. I can think of lots, especially from my experiences as a TCK.
Books helped me learn more about my culture and my surroundings. I was supposed to know all about a culture I had never lived in, but I didn’t. Reading African novels and short stories really helped me fill in some of the gaps. Suddenly I was reading books where characters were named Zione and Dalitso instead of Scott and Debbie. Towns and cities in the books changed from London and Cardiff to Zomba and Chichiri. The flowers went from daisies and honeysuckle to frangipani and jacaranda.  It was definitely a big change and an exciting one for me.
Books comforted me when I was homesick.  The UK was my first home, the only home I really knew, and the place where I had had my first memories. Reading books that were set in the UK helped me to maintain my connection to that place while I felt I still needed to (until I had become more or less socialized into my home culture). Books written by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Robert Louis Stevenson and Jill Murphy were special favourites. Historical fiction based on my favourite Scottish heroes Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce made me feel less ashamed of not knowing any African history. And as long as I received one of the British comic annuals that came out every Christmas (Oor Wullie, Dandy, Beano etc.), I was happy.
Books were about revelation. Realizing the unfortunate fact that despite being a black African I was quite the outsider due to my British mentality, and feeling embarrassed that my European and North American high school teachers knew more about my culture than I did, I felt the desire to change that fact. For the first time, I was reading African books and I was fascinated.  The three books that stood out to me where Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Mariama Ba’s So Long A Journey, and Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom . Finally I was learning more about my continent.
Books encouraged confidence. TCKs are often thought of as being a bit weird, and they may overwhelm people around them at times with their worldliness and their ways of thinking and being. For young people it’s so easy to just conform and suppress one’s true self in order to allow others to feel comfortable around you. Reading books about other unique people who stayed true to their selves is another thing I got out of my reading. My heroines were definitely Pippi Longstocking and Anne of Green Gables.
I think that being a TCK attracted me to science fiction and fantasy novels. I suspect this is because TCKs feel the need to create a third culture, an alien culture. I felt very comfortable amidst the goings-on in Narnia (Lewis), the Foundation world (Asimov) and Middle Earth (Tolkien), and in the lands up the Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton). It made me feel, as Anna Quindlen remarked in her book, How Reading Changed My Life, “I am not alone. I am surrounded by words that tell me who I am, why I feel what I feel.”
So here I am years after I made that first big move and years after I made that second move to Canada. I still stand by the opinion that fiction-reading is rewarding and has helped me to understand myself and the world around me.

Rowena is a soon-to-be grad school student who is curious about the world and those in it. Her passions include multiculturalism and diversity issues, social activism, literature, music and travel.  Rowena can be found at her blog, on Twitter and on GoodReads.

I'm grateful to Rowena for guest posting and, thus, allowing me to spend more time writing Magic Within, Book II of the Magic All Around series (Due out November 17th!)

May you have a joyful day! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Do I Believe In Magic?

Someone asked me, at my first book signing last month, whether I believe in magic.  I was awkward and stumbled for words and felt like a complete doofus.  It’s a question I should have been prepared for because I wrote a book entitled Magic All Around.  But I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t have quick words to explain what I do or do not believe.  You wouldn’t think it would be such a complex issue, but it is.  As a purveyor of words and a proponant of integrity, it’s a question that I feel compelled to answer honestly. 
To answer honestly, I must start by telling you that I am an atheist and was raised as an atheist.  (FYI: This is NOT an invitation to proselytize and I am NOT open to attempts at conversion so just DON’T DO IT!  Thank you.)  I’ve had a few agnostic moments, but the notion of a creator isn’t something that makes sense to me.  It’s not a concept that resonates or calls to me.  I am a skeptic.  Not just regarding religion, but about everything.  When I read the results of research, I question the data collection methods, the sample and the conclusions.  I actively reject significant portions of the culture I live in and when I talk to people, it’s not unusual for me to question their semantics, their motives or their memory!  I know it’s annoying sometimes, (not to mention distracting) but it’s not malicious.  This is just how I’m built, how I’m wired, how I think.  I was not raised to question authority, I was raised to question and challenge everything.  Including my own skepticism.  Yes, that does get me chasing my own tail round and round!
In addition to being a skeptic, I am an avid observer and lover of life.  I’ve observed that life is filled with stuff that I can’t explain.  I am tremendously skeptical about some of the foundational beliefs of chiropractic practice, but for many people (including me) chiropractic adjustments can alleviate pain.  I am skeptical about the existence of spirits and ghosts, yet I’ve been moved to goose-bumps and tears by places and inanimate objects like the Lincoln Memorial and Betsy Ross’s hand stitched flag.  I am deeply skeptical about the phenomenon of synchronicity and am well-versed in the ways that our minds filter, sift and sort information to create stories and patterns.  Yet, I am still filled with wonder when a new word, idea or author seems to appear in my life as though to answer a question I didn’t know I needed to ask.
So, do I believe in magic?
Well, I certainly don’t expect to be able to teleport and I don’t plan on meeting any tiny winged humanoids, but I do believe that life is filled with wonder, with potential and with that which we cannot explain.  I do believe that the wild storms of Southeast Alaska, when the rain blows sideways and the ocean turns the color of pewter, fill me with energy and a zest for life.  I do believe that the glittering slime of a slug fills me with delight that all living things have beauty and I do believe that each of us is capable of far more than we realize.  I believe that a single act of kindness can change a life, I believe that a good nap can transform a problem into a solution and I believe that a whiff of chocolate has the power to alter our brain chemistry.
But, do I believe in magic?
I believe in life.  I believe in death.  I believe in wonder, awe and bewilderment.  I believe in things that we cannot explain.  I believe in things that we can explain but that still fill us with amazement.  I believe all of it, all the wonder, horror, beauty, hope, despair, pain, joy…all of it, is magic.  This life.  This existence.  I cannot explain it.  I don’t subscribe to a religious explanation and even some of the scientific explanations leave me skeptical.  But it fills me with wonder and a sense of the majestic, the magnificent and the magical.   I do believe in magic.


Magic All Around is available in digital and paperback formats from Amazon and can be special ordered for purchase at most brick and mortar bookstores.

May your week be filled with wonder and magic!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Save The Date

Happily Selling Magic All Around

So, I’ve three book signings under my belt and Hearthside Books and the Juneau Arts & CultureCenter (JACC) now carry paperback copies of Magic All Around.  I’m ever so grateful for their help getting word out to the community about my novel, Magic All Around!
I’ve also begun learning a bit about selling my book in person.  Here are my four major discoveries thus far:
1.     I LOVE selling/signing my books in person!  I’m an introvert so this took me by surprise but it’s a blast!  I’m exhausted and need a lot of solitary time afterwards but I have so much fun with this part that the exhaustion is more than worth it.  Upon consideration, my love of public speaking and unabashed passion for microphones (yeah, I’m silly but I do really, really, really like speaking into a microphone) should have been a hint that I would enjoy hand-selling my book.
2.     I’m selling a lot more books in person than I am on-line.  Perhaps I’m better at selling in person?  My take-away from this revelation is that I’m missing something with my on-line marketing AND that I need to capitalize on my strengths.  I haven’t figured out what I’m missing on-line, though the wise and witty @SuSmithJosephy (a.k.a. Susan Smith-Jospehy) has suggested a Twitter elevator pitch.  I’ll be working on that this week! 
3.     There’s a knack to knowing which potential customers to engage.  So far, I’ve figured out that people who rubber-neck books are potential buyers/readers.  I get a huge kick out of seeing folks rubber-neck my book and I’ve noticed that it’s usually these folks who will stop walking and chat with me if I make the first move.  I’ve been making the first move A LOT, by the way.  My advice to anyone out there trying to sell your book is to grin and greet.  That’s my new mantra.  
4.     Before my first signing at Hearthside, I read that having one or more give-away items is important.  I took heed and wrote a short story that is not part of the Magic All Around storyline, but reflects much of the style in that it is set in Juneau at Sandy Beach, there’s a dog and there’s magic.  This has proven to be a very good move and I’ve had several people purchase the paperback based on their appreciation of the short story.
Where am I headed after considering all these bits of information?  Well, first, I know that I need to do a better job of posting on this blog at least once a week.  I’ll be striving to do that while juggling other projects.  In order to lighten my blog post load and to share this platform with some of my terrific friends, I am seeking guest bloggers!  I am specifically seeking guest posts that relate to one or more of the following topics
·        Staying positive and seeking happiness
·        Dogs
·        Magical stories
·        Alaska/Love of place
If you have an idea for a guest post, please send me an e-mail or a message through Twitter, Facebook or G+.

I’ve also decided that I need a deadline.  I will be releasing Magic Within, Book II of my Magic All Around series on Sunday, November 17th!  The digital and paperback formats will become available simultaneously (or nearly so) just in time for the upcoming holiday season! 
To top off my public proclamation of a deadline and book release date, I’ve reserved a booth (in the JACC or annex) for Juneau’s annual Public Market- Christmas Gift Expo!  Gulp.  I’ll be there signing and selling Magic All Around and Magic Within and will be delighted to inscribe gift copies for you!

By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out my book trailer for Magic All Around.  I’m delighted with it and hope it’ll enchant you.

Magic All Around is available in digital and paperback formats from Amazon and can be special ordered for purchase at most brick and mortar bookstores.

May your day and week be joyful!