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Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (英語) ペーパーバック – 2009/5/1
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Whether through inter-cultural marriage, international adoption, or peripatetic lifestyles, modern families are increasingly multicultural. In this collection, 20 women around the world ponder the unique joys and challenges of raising children across two or more cultures. Contributors include Susannah Elisabeth Pabot, Saffia Farr, Violeta Garcia-Mendoza, Leza Lowitz, Katherine Barrett, Stacy M. Lewis, Anjali Enjeti-Sydow, Angela Turzynski-Azimi, Michele Corkery, Kathy Hamilton, Holly Thompson, Corey Heller, Dee Thompson, Kate MacVean, Juli Herman, Rose Kent, Devorah Lifshutz, Xujun Eberlein, Andrea Martins and Marie Lamba.
Suzanne Kamata's work has appeared in over 100 publications. She is the author of the novel, Losing Kei, and a picture book, Playing for Papa, both addressing bicultural families. She is also the editor of two previous anthologies - The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan and Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs. Born and raised in Michigan, and most recently from South Carolina, she now lives in Shikoku.
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I've had a hard time finding reading material (specifically personal stories) related to the area of raising children overseas/multiculturally. "Call Me Okaasan" not only fills a niche, but very entertainingly and movingly so.
Thank you Suzanne for putting this together and giving us all a little perspective. I've already given it as a present and probably will again.
Imagine my pleasure when I found Suzanne Kamata, the author of the Wakame Gatherers had put together a collection of thoughtful essays from various writing mothers about what it means to raise a child in a multicultural/multilingual context.
I picked up this book eager to read about how other mothers deal with issues like what home language to use, feeling like an outsider in both countries, dealing with kids who identify with different cultures, and who basically worried about the same kinds of issues I have raising daughters first in Japan and then the United States with a Japanese father and a Caucasian/American mother.
I was not disappointed. I think the greatest gift you can give your multicultural children is to show them they are not alone in their tricky role, and it dawned upon me reading Kamata's introduction where she describes the assumptions she had about raising children in Japan (that she would be called Mommy or that her children would give two shakes of a rat's tail about Thanksgiving) that I could also give the same gift to myself: I wasn't the only one with seemingly at once inconsequential and earth-shattering fears about how my children will create and form positive identities for themselves when they are so obviously formed from both Japan and the United States.
But it's not only bicultural mothers represented in this book; there are bicultural mothers themselves raising international children, a US mother who adopted from Korea, a US mother who has become Israeli, North Americans living abroad and non-US mothers dealing with encroaching US culture.
The stories that spoke most of me and my own particular set of worries were Anjali Enjeti-Sydow describing her daughters; one pale skinned and the other dark brown, and worrying about how the disparity in how society will treat them will affect their sisterhood. Also, Holly Thompsons' description of the bullying her children face in public school in Japan and how different choices for her two very different children had to be made. And finally, the Violeta Garcia-Mendoza's essay "Two Names for Every Beautiful Thing" that describes with heart-breaking (for me) familiarity the way she can only ever relax and be herself with other bilingual/bicultural people.
The most satisfying friendships of my life were with other US women married to Japanese men who had children around the same age as mine. They were the only people I didn't have to censor or rephrase or educate about some part of my life.
Truly this is a gift the Kamata has given. And not just for mothers with multicultural children. It explains so much that I haven't found the words to express myself.
This Book's Snack Rating: A plate loaded from an international buffet of soul food, where you can take a bit of pancit or karaage or gyoza or tamale and taste the mother's care that went into it.