Books

Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed anything (probably shows how much I’ve read lately!), but this book was so compelling I wanted to document my thoughts on it…

My husband and I have had on-going conversations over the course of our parenting about the impact of American cultural realities like the Disney princesses, Hannah Montana, and the ever-present marketing monster of materialism.  At first, I didn’t fully follow his thinking on why these entities might not be the best role models for our impressionable daughter.  He felt that they painted a weak picture of women, encouraged women to form their identity around a man, and sucked innocent children into the never-ceasing macine of American consumption.  Because I’d grown up with Disney, I hadn’t put much thought into its underlying message before, but his opinions made sense, and I could support his point.  Over the years, though, I’d occasionally wonder if he was really right.  I mean, don’t all little girls like princesses?  What’s so wrong with wanting to dress cute and act like a rock star?  Are beauty pageants really that bad or are they just harmless fun for little girls?   Is pink really the only color my little girl can wear?

In her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein addresses my questions in detail, giving specific examples about how beloved mainstream media female characters like Hannah, Cinderella, and yes, even my beloved Dora send very mixed messages to our daughters.  She cites studies, analyzes cultural trends, and digs into marketing tactics regarding the messages being sent to our girls through popular mainstream characters and cultural trends like pink and sparkly girl-oriented toys, pop-star role models turned pole dancers, and failed Disney princesses.

And while I never really disagreed with him, I now have the details to back up what my husband’s intuitive sense was.  Throughout the book, Peggy repeatedly examines a few ideas:

  • What messages do our daughters receive about who they should be from what they see on TV?
  • What do positive role models look like for girls?
  • How aware are parents of the impact culture has on what our children believe about themselves and the world?

While I don’t fully agree with all of her conclusions, I wholeheartedly concur with her basic premise that we shouldn’t thoughtlessly allow our daughters to form their female identity on characters whose deepest aspiration is to catch a man or wear a cute outfit.  I also deeply appreciate her conclusion that, in the end, our highest priority is to teach our daughters to “see themselves from the inside out rather than the outside in”.

Books, Families, Children & Marriage

GUEST BOOK REVIEW: Bringing up Brits

I’d like to introduce a new book that looks like it would be appealing to many readers here.  Rachel Dines is guest posting a review of her book.

Being a parent is challenging enough, but for those raising their children in a country that is foreign to them, a whole new level of difficulty is introduced.  I have spent time living in the USA, as a parent of a pre-school age child, but it was only ever a temporary situation and that time constraint saved an awful lot of thoughts, worries and longer-term complexities. Continue reading “GUEST BOOK REVIEW: Bringing up Brits”

Books, Families, Children & Marriage

BOOK REVIEW: Working Familes

Working Families: Navigating the demands and delights of marriage, parenting, and career by Joy Jordan-Lake

Call me crazy, but I’m currently chewing on the idea of pursuing a PhD after my husband finishes his.  It’s a bit of a tough call, but I’ve discovered that I really do love academia, and that nobody listens to me (if I really do know what I’m talking about) without those little letters after my name.  One of the main road blocks I face in this area is figuring out how to balance family and career, so I’m taking the year to spend some time pondering the implications of such a choice.

As part of this process, I’m revisiting this book – one of my favorites on the topic.  I loved it the first time I read it a few years ago, and am enjoying it even more this time.  Joy Jordan-Lakes takes an honest, challenging look at faithfulness in calling and passion in all areas of our lives, including career and motherhood.  With candor, humor and wisdom, she grapples with how to work out a marriage with two careers, others’ opinions, and the chaos that sometimes comes with the multi-layered life of a working mom.  She advocates working as faithfulness to a calling and your family – not just a paycheck.

Also quite helpful is her chapter on ‘tools for survival’ where she doesn’t just offer simple how-to’s on making the nitty gritty work, but rather reflections on how to make overall life function well (think: making a weekly grocery list vs. establishing a rhythm of prayer…)  To top it off, I frequently laughed out loud at her observations.  It all hit so close to home that I even cried a few times as well!

Some of my favorite quotes:

Combining family and professional life is about treating three callings as always connected, never allowing one part to shift without understanding how that will swing the whole ship.

There can be something very lovely, you know, about untidy lives.

Harsh but True Reality of the Adult World #452:  sometimes two good goals are not achievable at the same time.  Which means this may be a season for being creative or for compromising.  Or for preparing for the next season.  For making some tough choices.

Books, Culture & Race, Families, Children & Marriage

Integrating the world into nitty gritty family life

Several years ago, I did a presentation on how we integrate the world into our daily family life for our local mom’s group.  Thought I’d share the presntation here as well: Integrating the World into family…  Some of the toys/TV shows are a few years dated (I’m sure there are now new ones of which I’m not aware…), but I think you can get the picture.

Books, Culture & Race

BOOK REVIEW: The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community

by Mary Pipher

I spent part of my summer teaching English to Burmese refugees at a local robot-uniform factor (yes, I did say “robot-uniform”!  Who knew the intense need for such textiles?!?)  They were a delightful bunch, and I loved every minute I spent with them – gleaning from their perseverance while imagining the sorrows they carry.  This experience spurred me to read Mary Pipher’s book The Middle of Everywhere: Helping refugees enter the American community. 

What I most loved about this book was Pipher’s premise for writing it.  She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, where immigration is a fairly new thing, and the city is still adjusting to its newly acquired diversity, or what she deems “cultural collision on the great plains”.  She speaks of how identity can occur only in context, and suggests that as our world globalizes, we will all have identity issues like many of the displaced refugees with whom she has worked.

“Who are we when we don’t have a hometown when we don’t know our neighbors or our kin?  Who are we when we don’t know the history of our land or the names of common plants or birds in our area? Or when our stories come from television sets instead of grandparents or village storytellers?  Who are we in a world where the universal language is, to quote Pico Iyer, ‘french fries’?

“We think the world apart,” said Parker Palmer. “What would it be like to think the world together?”

It is with this foundation that she embarks upon the stories of the many refugee families with whom she has been friends.  She writes especially about refugee stories of young people as well as looks at how generational differences affect families in cultural transition.  Their stories are poignant, realistic, and raw.  Pipher is skilled at giving refugees human faces – turning stigma into stories and facts into faces. She points to the need for ‘cultural brokers’ who will serve as refugees guides in a system that may be apt to exploit them because of their vulnerability.

I’d highly recommend The Middle of Everywhere for anyone living near refugee communities who wants a deeper understanding of their new neighbors.

Belief, Books, Culture & Race

BOOK REVIEW: God behaving badly: Is the God of the Old Testament angry, sexist and racist?

While I’m deeply grateful to have had spiritual influences in my life who encouraged me to wrestle with tough questions of faith, I’ve still encountered plenty of voices along the way who have preferred to silence them.  Avoiding difficult questions about the Bible seems to be a sad reality of evangelical Christianity these days, and I’m often drawn to those willing to walk this path (see sidebars).  So clearly, when I saw David Lamb’s new book, God behaving badly: Is the God of the Old Testament angry, sexist, and racist?, I was intrigued.

The book’s chapters cover the following topics:

  • Angry or loving?
  • Sexist or affirming?
  • Racist or hospitable?
  • Violent or peaceful?
  • Legalistic or gracious?
  • Rigid or flexible?
  • Distant or near?

With clarity, candidness, and humor, Old Testament (OT) theologian David Lamb makes his case that while Yahweh’s actions often sound angry, sexist, or violent to modern day ears, we must first consider the context of Yahweh’s actions and the overarching narrative of the OT before assuming we know His true motives. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: God behaving badly: Is the God of the Old Testament angry, sexist and racist?”

Books

Building a strong intercultural relationship

From Joel Crohn’s Mixed Matches (1995), another great book on intercultural marriage:

Mixed matches are more complicated relationships than those between people from similar backgrounds.  As much as we would like to believe that “people are just people” or that “love conquers all,” every layer of difference introduced into a relationship adds more complexity and new challenges.  Differences in cultural and family styles may be fascinating, but they are also alien.  Those traits that initially seem so attractive can ultimately lie at the roots of the most difficult problems… These … don’t mean that mixed matches are doomed to unhappiness.  Millions of families around the world can testify to the possibility of finding satisfying answers to the questions raised by cross-cultural relationships.  But as in all complex and worthwhile enterprises, the most successful people tend to be those who are willing to face the issues at hand and work on them.  Couples who develop the skills to deal with the personal, interpersonal, and social issues that are part of being in a mixed match are the most likely to find ways to use their differences to build strong and rewarding relationships.

I think this statement hits home because, in spite of the strength of our own cross-cultural skills, it is our willingness to “deal with the personal, interpersonal, and social issues” that we face that has been most valuable in our relationship.  The fact that we’re both communicators and processors helps us to build bridges to each other when we feel far apart.

What about you?  What speaks to you in these words? 

Books, Families, Children & Marriage

Get a free intercultural children’s e-book

My eyes are always peeled for good intercultural children’s books.  After we returned from Sri Lanka one year, I wrote a book for my kids called “Your Other Home” about being bicultural to better help them understand where they come from.  I’d love to share it with others looking for such books, so for subscribing (see link on the right column) to Between Worlds, you can download it for free! (if you’re already a subscriber and would like access, contact me and I’ll make sure you get the info!) I promise I will not do distribute your email addresses or spam you or any other nasty internet scheme.

Books, Families, Children & Marriage

The best book on Intercultural Marriage

Some day, I hope to write a book on the deeper side of intercultural marriage, but I still feel like I don’t really know enough to even know where to begin.  Hence my search for deeper understanding of the complex beauty of intercultural relationships.  I’ve read lots of books on intercultural marriage, but just came across one that’s the most helpful I’ve seen so far.

In love but worlds apart: insights, questions, and tips for the intercultural couple, written by Grete Shelling and Janet Fraser-Smith.  Both are in intercultural marriages of sorts and have years of working with other couples in intercultural marriages.  The book is written in a half-teaching/half-workbook style, with commentary, explanations, and examples followed by lists and lists of questions for intercultural couples to discuss.  It pretty much skips over the typical ‘cultural fascination’ dimensions (the visible layer of the iceberg concept of culture) and gets straight to the heart of intercultural relationship by helping the reader examine if they can truly live out the rest of their life in an intimate relationship with someone from another culture.

The book starts by examining the question What kind of partner am I looking for? by exploring questions like these: Continue reading “The best book on Intercultural Marriage”

Books, Families, Children & Marriage

Free e-books for cross-cultural transitions

Missionary care resources is offering free e-book downloads on their website including titles like:

  • Raising Resilient MKs: Resources for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers
  • We’re Going Home: Reentry for Elementary Children
  • I Don’t Want to Go Home: Parent’s Guide for Reentry for Elementary Children
  • Third Culture Kids and AdolescenceCultural Creations
  • Missionary marriage issues

Books, Families, Children & Marriage

Books on Intercultural Marriage

Just starting out?

Mixed Matches by Joel Croehn. A very detailed and well-researched book that examines interracial, interethnic and interfaith marriages, Mixed Matches helped me start to sort out what qualities were most important to me in a ‘mixed’ marriage. Continue reading “Books on Intercultural Marriage”

Books

commUNITY

For everything in this world tries to pull us away from community, pushes us to choose ourselves over others, to choose independence over interdependence, to choose great things over small things, to choose going fast alone over going far together. Shane Claiborne

While I am deeply pulled toward the idea of community, the reality that I am much more comfortable living independently tears at me.  Skye Jethani sums up my sentiment perfectly in his [highly recommended] book The Divine Commodity, “But the idea of community always appears more beautiful than the reality.  Real people are difficult, and real arguments erupt.  This is the dilemma of community – we desire it, we need it, but we seem ill equipped to create it.”

Yup, that’s me.

I’m discovering this through something that, [sadly] for me, is an unusual circumstance – a prayer group, actually two (!) of them.  Continue reading “commUNITY”

Books

BOOK REVIEW: Just don’t marry one: interracial dating, marriage, and parenting

After reading a recent book on intercultural marriage, I found myself longing for ‘deeper mentors’ who weren’t just addressing introductory issues to an interracial or intercultural marriage, but the long term questions of life together.  I read the first section of the book, “Foundations for Christian Leaders” years ago, and while I found examinations of biblical foundations, counseling tips, racial misconceptions, and historical examinations of interracial marriages helpful, it only spoke to my mind, not my soul, so I put it down and just picked it up again last week.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that section 2 “Support for interracial couples and multiracial families” addressed much of what I’d been looking for.

In this section, a variety of well-seasoned veterans speak to issues multiracial individuals and interracial couples face.  With wisdom, graciousness, and honesty, they openly discuss biracial children, family issues, combining cultures, and racial reconciliation.  The authors in this section all do an excellent job of examining the many questions that arise with interracial and inter-cultural relationships.  While the book focuses primarily on interracial relationships, I interchange this term with inter-cultural b/c it also address this dynamic as well.  Clearly, the most thorough experience covered is black-white marriage, but I found much that translated to our experience even though we’re not a black-white couple.

An appendix includes a thorough list of websites, books, support groups, organizations, and research articles for multiracial individuals and families.

Books

BOOK REVIEW: Teaching in a distant classroom

(For those of you in education, you’ll understand the 3 month hiatus = end of the Spring semester + recovering from the year = resurface mid-June!)

I was quite excited when I saw Michael Romanowski and Teri McCarthy’s new book Teaching in a Distant Classroom: Crossing Borders for Global Transformation (Intervarsity).  I supervise international TESOL practicums during the summer and have been looking for a book like this for quite sometime.  I had high enough hopes that it would be suitable for my students to read that I assigned it to them before I had actually read it.  I’ve now finished, and am delighted to report that it’s even better than I’d hoped!

One of the most frequent misunderstandings I encounter with people hoping to teach overseas is that they don’t really take the actual task of teaching very seriously.  Some assume they can  use “teaching English” 1) as a mask to do “real ministry”, 2) a way to travel and see the world, or 3) an easy way to get a visa into a closed country.  Romanowski and McCarthy quickly and clearly dispel these myths on page 1 of chapter 1:

Often when Christians decide to go outside their homeland to teach…friends and family ask, “If you can’t talk about Jesus in the classroom over there, how on earth are you going to be a missionary?”  For the missions-minded North American evangelical, it’s a legitimate question.  But the question is not what is troubling.  What is more disturbing is the common response, “Oh I’m going as a teacher to get into the country so that I can do my real job of evangelism.”

So begins their case for competent, well-trained, serious professionals – especially among Christians.  They assert that “teaching should flow out of a Christians’ sense of calling” – not “merely moonlighting.”  They provide a variety of charts (one of my favorite parts of a book!) such as:

  • motives for teaching overseas (non-religious and Christian)
  • worldview influences and teaching
  • various educational models/methods
  • my favorite chart goes quite in depth comparing culturally responsive teachers with Jesus’ teaching.

Other interesting components of the book include a plethora of personal perspectives from people who have taught abroad, helpful websites, movie recommendations and a variety reflective questions for the reader.  On top of this, the entire book repeatedly explores how committed faith and excellence in teaching integrate.

For the Christian overseas teacher, Teaching in a distant classroom is a thorough, honest, and challenging introduction to teaching abroad.  I’m completely thrilled for my students to read this as they complete their practicums as it synthesizes so much of what they have studied in their coursework.  I’m excited to hear their responses.  I’ll be highly recommending the book to every TESOL practicum supervisor I know, plus to the many others who contact me regarding teaching abroad.  It is a realistic, practical, and wise guide for those heading down the path of teaching in a distant classroom.