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Between Worlds, essays on culture and belonging

between worldsIn Between Worlds, Marilyn Gardner shares her own stories of growing up in Pakistan, raising children in Egypt, and transitioning to the United States as an Adult Third Culture Kid. Her experiences are specific – the vivid scents and sounds of her childhood – but the essence of her stories ring true for expatriates and TCKs all over the world. In these essays, she gently draws out the hidden pieces of the soul, of history, and names the beauty and pain, the losses and the treasures of living between worlds.

One of my favorite things about this book, and there are many, is that it feels like the beginning of a conversation. Marilyn doesn’t provide prescriptive directions for how to lead a ‘successful’ life as an expatriate or a TCK. Instead, she raises topics that need to be addressed and often aren’t: homecoming, grief, boarding school experiences, culture shock, saying goodbye. And she raises them with open-handed grace which allows readers to transfer the story into our own lives, to start discussions about how to address these topics in our families and situations, and from there, to bring us through places of brokenness to healing and hope.

I am raising three children outside our passport country but am not a Third Culture Kid myself. I devour books and articles and blogs about TCKs, gleaning wisdom and advice from every possible venue. Between Worlds is an excellent resource, opening up a window into the heart of a TCK and into the heart of a parent. Before I finished reading the book, I wanted to sit down with my older two children and ask them about the things they grieve in their TCK lives, the things they adore in their TCK lives, about what they would change or never change. But I couldn’t because my kids were at boarding school when I read the book. And, through tears, I recognized Marilyn’s words as a gift. Here was a woman who understood what my kids feel and who was giving me a glimpse into their world. Here was a book that gave me words and ideas for pressing into meaningful conversations with them when they came home on break.

Between Worlds isn’t a book just for expats and TCKs though, as Cathy Romeo says below, all of us have lived between worlds at some point in our lives and Marilyn provides a lens of faith and hope through which to see and give words to our joys and griefs.

It is a joy to recommend Between Worlds and I do so with the hope that many others will be encouraged and challenged by Marilyn’s story.

Here’s what I said about Between Worlds:

Between Worlds is a kaleidoscope of memory and family, grief and celebration. Marilyn explores the experience of both being and raising Third Culture Kids and raises topics that will serve as valuable conversation starters among expatriate families and organizations. Especially for TCKs, this book will read like a homecoming and offers the gift of multiple me, too, moments. For anyone living ‘between worlds,’ this is a treasure trove of wisdom and perspective from a talented writer.

Here are what others are saying about it:

“To read this remarkable collection of essays is to journey with Marilyn Gardner between the worlds of East and West, home and not-feeling-like-home, touching with her the boundaries of culture, the inspirations of faith, and the comforts of loved ones. Her stories are compelling and unforgettable. And while her essays will instantly resonate with those, like Marilyn, who have lived between worlds, they speak volumes to those like me who have not. Every one of us has been at some point between two worlds, be they faith and loss of faith, joy and sorrow, birth and death. Between Worlds is a luminous guide for connecting – and healing – worlds.~Cathy Romeo, co-author,Ended Beginnings: Healing Childbearing Losses

And still more:

“Drawn from her honest, penetrating blog writings, Marilyn Gardner’s Between Worlds invites us into her memories with loving hospitality, connecting the various and vivid threads of her fascinating life without over-sentimentalization. She is a wise raconteur, knowing that memories are living, formative things. Her richly evocative descriptions of the places that have formed her engage every sense (and will likely leave one a bit thirsty for chai), and the book is delightfully adorned with her daughter’s pen drawings. Throughout her essays, Marilyn presses in on the questions with which every human soul wrestles, particularly our God-given desire to belong, and to live securely and coherently with oneself and others.

In a world that has grown ever more globally connected, her recollections engage us all to think through how “God uses place” — and, at times, acute feelings of displacement — to make us into the people we are. Adult third culture kids will find in Marilyn a compassionate, empathetic friend, and anyone who has lived “between worlds” will appreciate her gentle approach to the more disorienting facets of a globally nomadic lifestyle.” Laura Merzig Fabrycky, The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture

Between Worlds by Marilyn Gardner was published in July, 2014. Marilyn blogs at Communicating Across Boundaries and contributes to A Life Overseas.

Click here to purchase Between Worlds at Amazon.