I have so far only read the Introduction and Chapter 1: Be a Friend, so I can truly limit myself to commenting on only these two.
I’m enjoying the book so far, but I do have to point out that this book is very much aimed at an American audience (as in USA, not American continent). I’ve been reading the Kindle Edition bought from the US Amazon site, so I’m not sure if the UK version has any differences. There are many references to the United States and how cultural differences are perceived there (such as references to the way Muslims are viewed post 9/11) and some of the resources presented are specifically for the US. This book was clearly meant for an American audience with a more or less ethnically and linguistically homogeneous background. This seems natural considering the author is American and this book is very much based on her experience and aimed at those who can not easily travel overseas to have first hand contact with other cultures.
That said, most of the information and tips can be interpreted and applied elsewhere as well.
The introduction tells us what brought the author to want to write this book (you can find out more about that on the book’s website as well, here: Growing up Global), basically to help parents raise children with a global perspective, whether or not they can travel overseas.
The book is structured like a recipe to make a friend – a global friend – and that’s clear in the Chapter’s names. It is also strongly based on the Golden Rule – one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself – which exists in most world religions in one form or another. (I will not argue here any quibbles I may have with the Golden Rule, but let me just say, I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to assume others would like to be treated the way we would like to be treated. But that would be a philosophical question, and I do think as a general principle the Golden Rule does have it’s merits and is simple enough for a child to understand.)
In the first Chapter there is a list of “10 things to do now”, which you can also find on the book’s website here, which I find is very useful. Many of these tips I already have incorporated into our daily life already, such as having a World Map over Sprout 1’s bed (we chose the Peters World Map because the representation of the size of countries is more accurate than the more widely used Mercator Map).
We also have some of her recommended books (that’s a surprise, huh!) such as Children Just Like Me, a Unicef publication by Anabel Kindersley, Barnabas Kindersley and, Sue Copsey.
The part about exposing children to other languages and cultures is almost a given for expats. However, it has made be thought quite a bit. While my children have constant contact with many different languages and cultures, do to the very international community they are living in here in Brussels, I do find they don’t have enough (in my opinion) contact with the national culture.
I find we don’t have many Belgian friends. Acquaintances yes, but friends – not so much. While I do find language to be one of the barriers (my French is fluent, but nothing compared with a native speaker and sadly I have yet to learn Flemish), I do find cultural differences to be the biggest obstacle. It seems to me people are a bit weary of making “international” friendships. I don’t really blame them; it does seem people are coming and going constantly, which leads to inevitable good byes, so investment in a friendship may feel high risk. Or maybe it’s just me and I have to find a way to better integrate into Belgian culture. I would love to know how others have been handling this, especially if you’re here for the long run like we are.
Homa Sabet Tavangar, an Iranian growing up in the US herself, shares her own stories of hidden prejudice towards others, as well as prejudice from others, which I personally found I could relate to. As much as we don’t want to be prejudiced, it sometimes does seep in without us even being aware, or wanting to acknowledge!
I’m really looking forward to the rest of the book, especially the hands-on suggestions promised in the next chapters.
The next installation of our read-along will be on Wednesday, 17 April. Get reading!