Growing up in another culture other than one's own is not new. The world has a long history of diasporas and migrations of all kinds, and along with these goes many a told or untold story of the experience of the children who were taken along as members of the family. But within the time frame of the two World Wars in the Twentieth Century, and especially on the heels of WWII, a new awareness of such experiences as a wide-spread phenomenon with patterns all its own began to emerge. Expressions of what seemed to be unique and isolated experiences appeared, but without a conscious effort to label what they were writing about as a collective global experience. It acquired attention as an identifiable phenomenon slowly. Perhaps around 1990, one or more terms began to surface as a conscious attempt to label this experience: TCK (Third Culture Kids), GN (Global Nomads), as well as others were suggested. Much later, in 2008 or so, Gene H. Bell-Villada and Nina Sichel, two people who had lived and written about the experience , met and exchanged thoughts. Out of this meeting the idea of a focused attempt to learn more about it grew into a panel at a Modern Language Association (MLA) annual conference. It eventually produced this anthology.
The book is over 400 pp. long, and includes writers who know their trade. Essays on the foundation of the phenomenon, sociological studies, artful and sensitive reflections, memoirs, and more fill these pages. Definitions and analogies are not only extensively drawn up, but also personal narratives help to fill in the personal meaning of the experience.
There are repeated patterns that elaborate the essential experiences: home base of the beginning of the journey, the wonder of a new culture, often undergoing frequent change of locale and culture, language acquisition, sorting out of language and cultural meanings, educational encounters, expansion of horizons, conflicts, and eventually the inevitable return to one's own home culture. The outbound journey is expansive and usually exhilarating. The education is usually superb. Family and friends are extremely important and supportive. Some experience isolation and loneliness.
In the meantime one's base culture has begun to elude them. It has changed and/or managed to exclude them because "they have changed" and are no longer part of their native culture. They are neither of the culture they adopted nor of the culture they left. What does one do now? The moment of this awareness usually comes suddenly as the home country is visited again, or the child (now nearly adult) enters boarding school or college. Suddenly there is a starkly real existential crisis of "Who am I?" Fitting into one's former friends, attending high school or college after preparing for it in another country, attaining new friends, looking for a future career, marriage, and identification are all a new challenge.
This is what the book is about: identification of the phenomenon along with definitions; personal expressions of many variations of the experience, educational efforts to deal with the TCK student, memoirs, and reflections, as well as hard, statistical studies.
This is a new, emerging phenomena which is attracting more and more attention as the world turns international in almost every city in the world. The book is a seminal study of what globalization means.
It belongs in every university library as well as large public libraries. Yet, it isn't just an intellectual sociological collection. The essays are personal and well-written, full of personal, unique episodes that make it impossible to put a box around. It is an academic publication that is not just for libraries. It is recommended for personal research by those millions who have lived the third culture themselves.