Fun Reading for Cross-Cultural Understanding

May 22, 2018 12:22:30 PM Sarah Rymer

While reading books on anthropology and history can give insights into cross-cultural living, it is much more fun to read novels that deal with these same issues. 

Books-1Here is a sampling of recent novels that give insight into living cross-culturally whether in the United States or elsewhere.  Included are books for children and teenagers.

 For under 12 Years Old (and for the young at heart)

  •  Khan, Hena. Amina’s Voice. A story written by a Pakistani American Muslim author about a young girl navigating her faith and her culture.  A Washington Post Best Children's Book of 2017.

  • Stone, Phoebe. The Romeo and Juliet Code A British girl evacuated to America during World War II deals with cultural differences, family secrets and a mystery.

  • Weeks, Sarah. Save Me a Seat.  Alternating viewpoints between a boy newly arrived from India and a special needs boy with APD (Auditory Processing Disorder). A delightful book for showing the immigrant and Third Culture Kid experience.

Over Age 12 (Young Adult and Adult)

  • Morais, Richard C. The Hundred Foot Journey. An enjoyable, multicultural novel that is the  story about how the hundred-foot distance between a new Indian restaurant and a traditional French in a French village and the how the different cultures collide and then comes to term with each other.  The movie of the book, while very different from the book, is fun to watch.

  • Matlwa, Kopano. Coconut. Set in South Africa, Coconut is a dual point-of-view novel following two black girls: Ofilwe, who has grown up wealthy and feels she has lost her culture, and Fiks, who is hoping to drown her tragic past in the bright lights of Johannesburg.

  • Hart, Elsa. Jade Dragon Mountain and The White Mirror. Set in China in the early 1700s, these books are mysteries set in an intriguing historical setting. The history, culture and mystery are fascinating.

  •  Boyle, T. C. The Tortilla Curtain. Homeless and starving in Topanga Canyon, Mexican illegal immigrants Candido and America Rincon’s pursuit of the American dream is quickly unraveling. When they unexpectedly cross paths with Los Angeles couple Delaney and Kyra, their lives intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

  •  Caldwell, Bo. City of Tranquil Light. This is a lyrical novel based partly on the author's maternal grandparents' work as missionaries in China in the early Twentieth Century. It vividly brings to life what it was like to live in a small farming town on the North China plain whose way of life was slowly moving into the modern world amidst disease, famine and war.

  •  Fallon, Siobhan. The Confusion of Languages The story of two wives of American embassy workers in Amman, Jordan during the Arab Spring. Excellent descriptions of daily life in Jordan

  • Perkins, Mitali, ed. Open Mic: Riffs on Life between Cultures in Ten Voices.  Short stories by various authors address the TCK (third culture kid) experience in various settings. Some stories are funny; some are poignant.

  • Perkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near. This elegant young adult novel captures the immigrant experience for one Indian-American family with humor and heart. Told in alternating teen voices across three generations, the author weaves together the threads of a family growing into an American identity. Helpful for TCKs, for immigrants, and their children and their grandchildren.


About the Author: Scott is the IDEAS Asia Project Director. He and his wife raised two children overseas. Read Scott's other blog post: Becoming a Trusted Traveler





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