About TCK Books….
When I was growing up and even into my college years there was one book written for TCKs – Letters Never Sent by Ruth Van Reken. Contrast that to today where the body of TCK literature and recognition of TCKs and Cross-Cultural Kids are constantly expanding. It is wonderful to be a witness as well as a part of the growing body of literature for TCKs and their parents and caregivers.
In this list I’ve included new releases, books for children, books for adult or teen TCKs, and books for parents and member care organizations.
It is difficult to keep track of all the new books and resources, so if you see something that isn’t here that should be, please send me a message and I will update the list. It’s also important to note that I’ve included cross cultural kids in this list, and some authors that people may know of but don’t realize they are TCKs.
Books for Teen and Adult TCKs – New Releases!
Belonging Beyond Borders: How Adult Third Culture Kids Can Cultivate a Sense of Belonging by Megan C. Norton. This book was released early 2023 and I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy and this is what I said: “Who am I? What has shaped me and formed my identity? Where do I fit? Where do I belong? All these questions speak to the human need for connection, for belonging. And though they are not unique to Third Culture Kids, TCKs do come to these questions early and often in life. Megan Norton knows this at her core. She has lived a life of transition and movement, of frequent hellos and more frequent goodbyes.
Megan’s book is a result of her hard-earned truth. She comes to the topic of belonging with a metaphor that is both ancient and relevant – a garden. This book will help you explore, plant, and cultivate your own place of belonging in a world that more often asks you to fit in instead of inviting you to belong.”
Stop Saying I’m Fine: Finding Stillness When Anxiety Screams by Taylor Murray was released in November 2022. I met Taylor when she was in high school at my first Families in Global Transition conference. Watching her emerge as a young adult and a leader is a gift. “Stop Saying I’m Fine is a generational call to honesty, healing, and a spiritual hunger that defies superficial Christianity. We’ll dig beneath the bedrock of our anxiety into the pain of our experiences, and together we’ll learn how to connect to the stillness that exists beneath the chaos, finding that the wholeness and healing we long for isn’t as distant as it may seem.”
Books for Parents and Member Care Organizations
Third Culture Kids 3rd Edition: Growing up among worlds by Ruth Van Reken, David Pollock, and this 3rd Edition brings Michael Pollock into the mix. Often called the TCK “bible” this 3rd edition of the ground-breaking, global classic, is updated and addresses the modern TCK and the impact of technology, cultural complexity, diversity & inclusion and transitions. Includes new advice for parents and others for how to support TCKs as they navigate work, relationships, social settings and their own personal development.
Misunderstood: The impact of growing up overseas in the 21st century by Tanya Crossman, Whether you grew up overseas, are raising children overseas, or know a family living abroad, Misunderstood will equip you with insights into the international experience, along with practical suggestions for how to offer meaningful care and support.
The Third Culture Teen: In Between Cultures, In Between Life Stages by Jiwon Lee. From Amazon: The question “Where are you from?” isn’t normally a source of stress, unless you’re a Third Culture Kid. It’s hard out there for a TCK, but it’s even harder for a TCT (a Third Culture Teen) — not only stuck between different cultures but stuck between childhood and adulthood. The author shares her struggles with identity; lacking the confidence to call herself a true Korean. She describes how she has felt like a mish-mash of all the cultures within her, which enhanced her insecurities about her “unfinished,” “incomplete” self.
Raising Global Teens: A Practical Handbook for Parenting in the 21st Century by Anisha Abraham. In this easy-to-read handbook, Dr. Anisha combines real-world examples with practical solutions, drawing on the latest research, her own experience and that of the many cross-cultural teens she has worked with over the last 25 years. Raising Global Teens enables busy families, health providers, and educators apply powerful tools to help today’s adolescents thrive.
This Messy Mobile Life: How a Mola Can Help Globally Mobile Families Create a Life by Design by Mariam Ottimofiore Born in Pakistan, Mariam is a writer who has lived in over nine countries and is raising children literally on every continent. She is also a dear friend of mine. She has written a book that will resonate with expat families, adult TCKs, and those who work with them. I’ve included a description from Amazon: “Do your family dinners happen in more than one language? Do you celebrate Christmas and Eid? Do you and your family feel at home in more than one country? If so, then you may be a MOLA Family and yes, this multicultural, multilingual, mobile life can get a little ‘messy.’ In South America, a mola is a shirt made from intricately stitched layers of patterns and cloth. Worn with pride, it represents who you are – inside and out. Mariam Ottimofiore presents a mola as the perfect metaphor for globally mobile families living between cultures, countries, languages, nationalities, identities and homes, who find their story hard to articulate. She has created the MOLA tool to help global families design and show their stories to the world. This is your ‘life by design.’”
Raising up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids by Lauren Wells. I had the privilege of reading and reviewing this book in March. Here is my review: “If we could ensure that our TCKs would grow up healthy and resilient, we would do it in a heartbeat. In Raising up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids, Lauren Wells has gifted us with a gentle guide and a preventive health primer, unique in the field of third culture kid literature. This book is a goldmine of wisdom, organized in a practical and readable format. While we cannot know all our TCKs will go through, we can take a giant step forward by learning how to multiply the benefits of a global life and conversely pay attention to the challenges that can become stumbling blocks to healthy development. If you are working with, raising, or love third culture kids from any part of the globe, this book will give you practical ways to be proactive about the way you raise up third culture kids.”
Belonging Everywhere and Nowhere: Insights into Counseling the Globally Mobile by Lois Bushong. Lois explores how to effectively counsel those raised outside their passport countries. She is an adult TCK and brings compassion and understanding into the journey.
Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family by Julia Simens. Julia is a counselor who has navigated many relocations. This book is a workbook to work through as a family and helps children and adults develop their personal narrative.
Safe Passage, How mobility affects people & what international schools should do about it by Douglas W. Ota. The author knows what it is to live between worlds and experience grief. Firmly grounded in psychological theory and cutting-edge neuroscience, Safe Passage maps the challenges and charts a course for individuals, schools, and accrediting bodies to navigate them. Although primarily focusing on international schools, the hopeful message within this book reaches into any school, university, or organization where human beings come and go.” from Amazon.
Global Mom: Eight Countries, Sixteen Addresses, Five Languages, One Family by Melissa Dalton-Bradford (Familius, 2013) Melissa Bradford shares a journey of global motherhood that includes adventure and profound loss. This book addresses parenting, moving, and grief intertwined in a global journey.
The Art of Coming Home by Craig Storti (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2001) This book dives into the reentry process for those coming back from overseas postings. Not TCK specific but has some excellent advice.
Books for Teens and Adult TCKs
Unstacking Your Grief Tower: A Guide to Processing Grief as an Adult Third Culture Kid by Lauren Wells. Her is a description from Amazon “When we tell people that we lived abroad during our developmental years, we’re often met with awe and envy. What they don’t see are the number of losses we experienced with each move, the amount of “goodbyes” we said, or the hardships that we endured. Each of these stack up like blocks on a tower, each block influencing how we deal with the next hardship we face. This hope-filled book offers you the invitation to uncover and process the blocks on your Grief Tower. Through her own experience, Lauren Wells walks you compassionately and practically through unstacking your Grief Tower in light of your Third Culture Kid experiences.”
Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu. Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. This NY Times best seller has so many great quotes about living between that I gave up trying to highlight them. From Amazon: Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss. In this set of essays Eula Biss addresses race, identity, and belonging through looking at her own family and through history. This book is full of insight and wisdom on what it means to belong, to be home, to have privilege, and to live in a diverse country.
A Map is Only One Story:Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home edited by Nicole Chung and Mensah Demery. This was one of my favorite reads of 2020. The title comes from an essay by Jamila Osman’s “A Map of Lost Things”: Jamila is the Canadian-born daughter of Somali immigrants. “A map is only one story, It is not the most important story. The most important story is the one a people tell about themselves.” I loved her essay when I read it a few years ago and found the book to hold many other stories that resonated with my TCK heart.
Some Far and Distant Place by Jonathan Addleton. This is one of my favorite books of all time and I have read it countless times. Jonathan is the one that inspired me to begin writing. I’ve included a description from Amazon here: Born in Pakistan to Baptist missionaries from rural Georgia, Jonathan S. Addleton crossed the borders of race, culture, class, and religion from an early age. Some Far and Distant Place combines family history, social observation, current events, and deeply personal commentary to tell an unusual coming-of-age story that has as much to do with the intersection of cultures as it does with one man’s life. Whether sharing ice cream with a young Benazir Bhutto or selling gospel tracts at the tomb of a Sufi saint, Addleton provides insightful and sometimes hilarious glimpses into the Muslim-Christian encounter through the eyes of a young child. His narrative is rooted in many unlikely sources, including a southern storytelling tradition, Urdu ghazal, revivalist hymnology, and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The natural beauty of the Himalayas also leaves a strong and lasting mark, providing solidity in a confusing world that on occasion seems about to tilt out of control. This clear-eyed, insightful memoir describes an experience that will become increasingly more common as cultures that once seemed remote and distant are no longer confined within the bounds of a single nation-state.
Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World edited by Rachel Pieh Jones. This wonderful collection of essays addresses several aspects of being raised in a culture outside one’s “home” culture, raising children abroad, the difficulties of re-entering the home or passport culture, and transitioning into adulthood. (Review by Jenni Legate)
Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging is my book. These essays explore the rootlessness and grief as well as the unexpected moments of humor and joy that are a part of living between two worlds. Between Worlds charts a journey between the cultures of East and West, the comfort of being surrounded by loved ones and familiar places, and the loneliness of not belonging. “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
Worlds Apart: A Third Culture Kid’s Journey – this is my memoir published in March 2018. “Memories of joy and pain, close friendships and loneliness interweave in this compelling portrait of an extraordinary childhood. In Passages Through Pakistan, Marilyn Gardner traces a journey of growing faith and emerging identity in a small missionary community. From the close quarters of boarding school, to the strangeness of furloughs in her parents’ native Massachusetts, this honest portrayal of a young girl’s struggles with faith, friendship, and belonging will resonate deeply with a wide range of readers.” From Amazon.
Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing up Global edited by Faith Eidse and Nina Sichel (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2003). – A series of essays from both well known and not so well known third culture kids including Pico Iyer and Isabel Allende. I love this book for it’s complexity, variety, and truth.
Writing Out of Limbo: International Childhoods, Global Nomads and Third Culture Kids by Gene H. Bell-Villada, Nina Sichel, Faith Eidse, and Elaine Neil Orr (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011) – this is more like a text book but a great resource to have in an organization’s library to offer to parents and kids.
Letters Never Sent, a global nomad’s journey from hurt to healing – By Ruth Van Reken. This book is Ruth’s personal story from six to thirty-nine. “Fully updated and revised, with additional 30 pages of photographs and epilogue. Ruth van Reken describes herself as ‘a person in process’ – someone whose life is made up of the continuous interplay between her inner and outer journey. For more than twenty-five years, Ruth has traveled to over 45 countries sharing what she has learned while ‘listening to life’ about the often paradoxical nature of growing up globally. What she has learned resonates with expatriate children and adults from all sectors – corporate, diplomatic, military, missionary, immigrant and refugees.” From Amazon.
Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between by Christopher O’Shaugnessy. Christopher is an amazing story-teller and uses that gift well in this book. “Once, down a dark alleyway, a struggling TCK bumped into a mysterious Zen master, a grinning comedian, and an author of thrillers. That alleyway and those personas reside at O’Shaughnessy’s center. Get ready to grab your seat to steady your heart and to avoid falling over with laughter.” – Douglas W. Ota, Author, Safe Passage: What Mobility Does to People & What International Schools Should Do About It
The Global Nomad’s Guide to University Transition by Tina L. Quick (Summertime, 2010). For years I’ve heard about Tina, but this September I had the privilege of meeting her. She is absolutely lovely. Her book is a treasure for university students and their parents. This resource is “a guide book to help these students understand what takes place in re-entry and/or transition and gives them the tools and strategies they need to not only survive but to thrive in the adjustment. This is the first book written to and for students who have been living outside their “passport” countries but are either returning “home” or transitioning on to another host country for college/university.” from Amazon
Novels about TCKs for Teens and Adults
The Means That Make us Strangers by Christine Kindberg. This is a debut YA novel for Christine, released in July of this past year. It is a beautiful story of identity, home, and living between. “The Means That Make Us Strangers is a beautifully written coming-of-age story that will satisfy experienced readers as well as younger ones. Christine Kindberg treats all of these characters graciously and with deep generosity. The result is a gorgeous meditation on growing up, experiencing love, and finding home.” —Pinckney Benedict, three-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, author of Dogs of God and Miracle Boy and Other Stories
My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay Praised by Publishers Weekly as “fast-paced,” “thought-provoking,” and one of the “best novels of the year,” My Hands Came Away Red will take you deep into the jungle with Cori as she desperately searches for answers and a safe way home. This novel centers around a mission trip to Indonesia and Cori, an 18-year-old who ends up facing civil war, violence, and tragedy. The novel chronicles Cori and her teammates as they face challenges they never expected.
Books for Younger TCKs
B at Home: Emma Moves Again by Valerie Besanceney. A delightful children’s book about a 10 year old girl who is moving. “Emma is only ten years old, but has already moved twice. Now, her parents are telling her the family is moving again. She’s furious, sad, nervous, and a little excited, all at the same time. Unsure of how to tackle these conflicting emotions, she turns to B, her faithful teddy bear. While trying to come to terms with the challenges of another move, what Emma really wants is just to ‘be at home’.”
Home James by debut author Emily Steele Jackson, Home, James is an entertaining and heartwarming story about finding yourself in a place you never thought you’d call home. Everyone else in thirteen-year-old James’ family is thrilled to be moving back to the USA, but James doesn’t see why their wonderful life in China needs to end. Even though his passport says he’s American, James feels like he’s arrived in a foreign country. He’s sure eighth grade in this new place will be a disaster. With mysteries like cheese knives, drama llamas, and the Pledge of Allegiance, will Missoula, Montana ever feel like home?
The Anika Scott Series by Karen Rispin. These are five novels for middle-schoolers and teens: Anika Scott is 12 years old and lives with her family in Kenya. It’s not easy to be 12 and it’s not easy to navigate a life between worlds. The reader joins Annika on her adventures and journey in Kenya as she learns more about herself, God, and the world she lives in.
Slurping Soup and Other Confusions – by Tonges et al. This book is a collection of 23 real-life stories from TCKs followed by activities to go along with the stories. An excellent resource for parents and kids in transition.
Cat Tales by Pauline Brown – When the Brown family adopted a kitten to keep out uninvited guests like mice and rats, they had no idea how many adventures that Old Black Cat would get herself and her family into. From camping in the foothills of the Himalayas, to holding up a train in the busy city of Lahore, OBC and her family find themselves in many hilarious and tricky situations. These delightful, true tales follow their travels through Pakistan as they learn to trust God more with every adventure.
So Where’s Home? – a short vimeo film that looks at the complexity of the question of home.
The Road Home – an academy award listed short film. Watch the trailer below:
5 thoughts on “Books & Movies”
Great list! I appreciate your time put into putting this together!
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As someone who has lived and loved on three continents, I so get this. Thank you for these beautiful resources.
Hi Marilyn! I am a TCK too and love seeing your resources. Where can I watch the full “The Road Home” movie? When I search for it I find a different movie with the same name. Thank you!
So fun to hear from you Julie! Thank you for coming by. Here is a link to watch it for free. http://labs.topspin.net/daphne/confirm.php?fb=3&sessionid=9f17dc057d6e21b83ffa27bae675ddf9
And I know The Road Home film you probably found, which is actually also a good TCK film! It’s a Chinese film – very poignant of a son recalling the life of his mom and dad. Thanks so much for coming by!
Thanks a bunch!! Want to watch it tonight :)