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Book review: Home Keeps Moving – A Glimpse into the Extraordinary Life of a Third Culture Kid

Updated 19 Oct 2010

Growing up is never easy – and there’s no shortage of literature aimed at analysing the finer points of teenage angst or determining what makes children tick and tock during those pivotal years of early development. But about when these challenges are compounded by the pressures of moving and living overseas?

The phenomenon of so-called Third Culture Kids (TCKs) is increasingly common in our globalised world, yet little writing hones in on the specific concerns of the nomadic tribes of children that have been uprooted and moved abroad, often multiple times and to multiple destinations, by their parents during their formative years of development.

Heidi Sand-Hart looks to give these Third Culture Kids a tool that they can use to relate and empathize with in her book 'Home Keeps Moving'. Sand-Hart is a TCK herself, and her autobiographical account invites others to validate their experiences and understand their own muddled emotions.

As the child of missionaries, a Norwegian father and a Finnish mother, she uses her many moves from England to India – with a touch of Norway in between – as an elongated illustration of the unique characteristics, TCKs often develop and the frustrations they struggle to keep at bay.

In simple language she maps out her own journey across the big bad world, allowing her audience to stop at signposts and take note of the direction that she believes TCKs are often unknowingly wandering in this way for difficulty in dealing with the abstraction of “home”, that way toward the complexities of calculating “loss”, and straight on ‘til morning toward the slow, creeping sense of grief that many battle to overcome.

Interlaced throughout the work are excerpts contributed by other Third Culture Kids who, using their hard-won hindsight, shed some light on the many skirmishes they fought with having such a mobile lifestyle during childhood, and what happened when it was time to make their own decisions about the future.

Sand-Hart doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, and she certainly isn’t an author that force-feeds her audience opinions they’d be hard-pressed to swallow. Rather, she’s incredibly open and honest about her own emotions, and in being so, from time to time the book takes on a self-reflective and confessional quality. This is particularly evident in the reactions she had to a life that was specific to missionary children, an element that seems to have inspired a great moral dilemma and a delayed period of “rebellion”.

Some TCKs may not be able to identify with these particular issues, but otherwise, she paints her own picture in the soft but helpful light of subjectivity and helps others to take up a brush of their own.

'Home Keeps Moving' has moments where Sand-Hart’s passion for travel becomes so infectious that it nearly becomes difficult to sit still and stay put. The accounts, retold through an adult mind, but seen with a child’s eyes are at once endearing and endlessly charming.

At other times, exploration of incredibly complex issues, like the modern concept of “home” and how society uses it to create connections, or the phenomenon of education and what markers are made to make the measure of a man, can leave the reader hungry for more.

But this seems to hardly act as a limitation, rather it makes space for other TCKs to create their own commentary and to further investigate how these ideas are changing and what role it plays in shaping their own visual fields and perspectives.

Sand-Hart not only succeeds in a carving out some leg-room for this small community to stretch out and flex in a very crowded sphere of children’s development issues, but she also encourages those that aren’t TCKs to examine their own lives and gain some insight into the intrinsic human need to belong and the endless quest for validation.

Perhaps, as the title suggests, home is a place that keeps moving throughout our lives, and remaining connected to our selves and unique experiences is the most important way to keep our feet on the ground. 

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