One of our Random Nomads in November, Aaron Ausland, had this to say about those of us who venture across borders:
Travel to a new place for three weeks and you can write a book, travel for three months and you can write an article, travel for three years and you’ll likely have nothing to say.
While that may be true, I’m afraid it hasn’t stopped many of us who’ve spent large chunks of our lives gallivanting around the globe trying out life in different countries, from taking up the pen.
As with any other group, some are born writers (and thrive on new surroundings), while others have become writers (attempting to make sense of their adventures), while still others have had writing thrust upon them (responding to invitations to share their experiences).
At the Displaced Nation, we revere people who publish books, fiction or non, that in some way assist those of us who are (or have been) engaged in overseas travel and residency. We feature — and do giveaways of — their works. And, for established writers with a global following, we’ve created a unique “category” called the Displaced Hall of Fame.
In this spirit — and in the December tradition of looking back at the past year’s highlights — I present the following (admittedly incomplete) list of books for, by, and about expats that were published in 2011, in these five sections (click on the title to go to each section):
- NOVELS ABOUT EXPATS
- NOVELS ABOUT “HOME”
- EXPAT MEMOIRS
- SELF-HELP, CROSS-CULTURAL & OTHER NONFICTION WORKS
- INSPIRATIONAL ANTHOLOGIES
A few more points to note:
- Books in each category are arranged from most to least recent.
- I’ve mixed indie books with those by conventional publishers (it suits our site’s somewhat irreverent tone).
- To qualify for the list, authors must have been expats for at least six months at some point.
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NOVELS ABOUT EXPATS
Three Questions: Because a quarter-life crisis needs answers (CreateSpace, October 2011)
Author: Meagan Adele Lopez
Genre: Women’s fiction
Synposis: A love story based loosely on the author’s own romance with a lad from Bristol, the action traverses continents through letters and features a quarter-life crisis, a road trip to Vegas, and two crazy BFFs.
Expat credentials: An American, Lopez lived as an expat in the UK for a while (she is now back in Chicago).
How we heard about it: Melissa of Smitten by Britain was a fan of Lopez’s blog (originally titled The Lady Who Lunches). The pair met her London in the summer of 2010, when Lopez was still living in England. Recently, Melissa has been supporting Lopez’s attempt to gain sponsorship for turning the novel into a screenplay.
Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul (Summertime, October 2011)
Author: Jo Parfitt
Genre: Women’s fiction
Synopsis: Six expat women from the UK, US, Thailand, Ireland, Norway and Holland converge in Dubai in 2008. The action centers on a Brit, who is on her first posting, and an American, who is on her 25th. The Brit learns the ropes and settles in, while the American woman’s world begins to crumble.
Expat credentials: A prolific author, publisher and pioneer in addressing the issues of accompanying spouses and aspiring expat writers worldwide, Parfitt has been an expat for nearly a quarter of a century. Born British, she now lives in the Hague.
How we heard about it: We noticed a couple of interviews with Parfitt — one by expat coach Meg Fitzgerald and another by Expat Women.
The Beautiful One Has Come: Stories (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, July 2011)
Author: Suzanne Kamata
Genre: Cross-cultural romance
Synopsis: Twelve short stories reveal the pains and the pleasures experienced by expat women, most of whom live in Japan.
Expat credentials: Kamata is an American who has lived in Japan for 20 years.
How we heard about it: Kamata and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in July of this year.
Hidden in Paris (Carpenter Hill Publishing, April 2011)
Author: Corine Gantz
Genre: Women’s fiction
Synopsis: Three strangers — all American women — have reached the point of terminal discomfort with their lives so run away to Paris to begin anew.
Expat credentials: Gantz is a French expat living near Los Angeles. She is getting her own back by writing about American expats in Paris.
How we heard about it: We are long-time fans of Gantz’s blog, Hidden in France — in fact, we promoted one of her posts (about falling into her swimming pool) with the launch of TDN in April. We also interviewed her about her first novel as part of our “gothic tales” theme this past May.
Exiled (Quartet Books, April 2011)
Author: Shireen Jilla
Genre: Psychological thriller
Synopsis: The wife of an ambitious British diplomat, whose first posting brings them to New York, looks forward to escaping from Kent and leading the high-profile life of a successful expat — only to find her world being threatened by dark psychological forces on a par with those depicted in Rosemary’s Baby.
Expat credentials: A Third Culture Kid (she is half English, half Persian, and grew up in Germany, Holland and England), Jilla has also been an expat in Paris, Rome, and New York.
How we heard about it: TDN writer ML Awanohara read a review of Jilla’s novel by Kate Saunders in the Sunday Times. She approached Jilla in May about having an exchange with our readers about the gothic themes in her novel, in line with our site’s own delvings into the gothic aspects of expat life. Our readers loved her!
NOVELS ABOUT “HOME”
Lady Luck (Colorado Mountain Series)
Author: Kristen Ashley
Synopsis: Ex-con hero, wrongly imprisoned, gets mixed up with unlucky heroine, who will stop at nothing to help him get revenge.
Expat credentials: Born in Gary, Indiana, Ashley grew up in Brownburg and then moved to Denver, where she lived for 12 years. She now lives with her husband in a small seaside town in Britain’s West Country, where she has produced more than twenty books featuring rock-chick, Rocky Mountain, and other all-American heroines.
How we heard about it: Ashley is the friend of an old schoolfriend of TDN writer Kate Allison, who invited her to do a guest post for us on Britain’s (lack of) Royal Wedding preparations for our Royal Wedding coverage.
Queen by Right: A Novel (Touchstone, May 2011)
Author: Anne Easter Smith
Genre: Historical romance
Synopsis: This is the fictional story of Cecily of York, mother of two kings and said to be one of the most intelligent and courageous women in English history.
Expat credentials: The daughter of an English army colonel, Easter Smith spent her childhood in England, Germany and Egypt. She came to New York City at age 24, and as she puts it:
Many years, two marriages, two children and five cross-country moves later I’m very definitely a permanent resident of the U.S. — but my love for English history remains.
(She now lives in Plattsburgh, New York.)
How we heard about it: Easter Smith and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in October.
Dance Lessons (Syracuse University Press, March 2011)
Author: Áine Greaney
Genre: Irish Studies, Women’s Fiction
Synopsis: The action centers on a woman of French-Canadian background who marries an Irish emigrant who is working illegally in a bar in Boston. After his death by drowning, she visits Ireland for the first time and finds out what a shattered man he actually was.
Expat credentials: She may be a resident of Boston’s North Shore, but Greaney continues to identify herself as an Irish writer (County Mayo).
How we heard about it: Greaney and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in October.
Pentecost: A Thriller (The Creative Penn, January 2011)
Author: Joanna Penn
Synopsis: The Keepers of the stones from Jesus’s tomb — which enabled the Apostles to perform miracles — are being murdered. The stones have been stolen by those who would use them for evil in a world. An Oxford University psychologist spearheads a search for them in a race against time…
Expat credentials: English by birth, Penn grew up as a third-culture-kid and at the time of producing her first novel, was living in Australia.
How we heard about it: We are avid followers of Penn’s blog, The Creative Penn. Several months ago, TDN writer ML Awanohara deconstructed Penn’s post about what “home” means for writers for what it might teach expats and others who struggle with this issue as well. For Penn, home means some sort of spiritual kinship, which she has with two places: Oxford, where she went to university and near where her father now lives, and Jerusalem, which she’s visited at least ten times because she loves it there so much. Not surprisingly, she chose to set much of the action for her debut novel in these two cities.
Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam move to Turkey (Summertime Publishing, December 2011)
Author: Jack Scott
Synopsis: Dissatisfied with suburban life and middle management, Scott and his civil partner, Liam, abandon the sanctuary of liberal London for an uncertain future in Bodrum, Turkey. The book is based on Scott’s irreverent blog of the same name, which after its launch in 2010, quickly became one of the most popular English language blogs in Turkey.
How it came to our attention: Scott was featured as one of our Random Nomads in May of this year and since then, has done us the favor of commenting on and liking several of our posts. **Kate Allison will be reviewing his book for our site on Wednesday.**
Ramblings of a Deluded Soul (CreateSpace, September 2011)
Author: Jake Barton
Synopsis: In his inimitable style, the British-born Barton strings together snippets from new novels and try-outs with reminiscences and, for the first time, insight into his own remarkable experiences as a traveler and expat in Europe (he once owned a small French vineyard and had another job he’s not supposed to talk about). NOTE: Barton’s first novel, Burn, Baby, Burn, burned its way into the Top Ten of the Amazon All Books list.
How it came to our attention: Barton is an online acquaintance of TDN writer Kate Allison. We celebrated him in the early days of our blog for his insights on foreign-language learning in Spain.
A Tight Wide-open Space: Finding Love in a Muslim Land (Delridge Press, August 2011)
Author: Matt Krause
Synopsis: A Californian who is now a Seattle-ite recounts how he became an Istanbullu, all for the love of a beautiful Turkish woman he met on a airplane. The year is 2003, and he can still hear the echoes of 9/11 as well as being acutely conscious of America’s engagement in two wars in Muslim countries. Eventually, he comes to love his new home more deeply than he might have expected.
How we heard about it: Linda Janssen, who writes the blog Adventures in Expatland, interviewed Krause about his book in October.
Planting Dandelions: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life (Penguin, April 2011)
Author: Kyran Pittman
Synopsis: A native of Newfoundland (her father was a well-known Newfoundler poet), Pittman writes about co-parenting with her charming Southern U.S. hubbie (they have three rambunctious boys); keeping the fiscal wolf from the door of their home in Little Rock, Arkansas; and honoring her marriage vows despite her refusal to give up her party-girl persona.
How we heard about it: Pittman came to our notice when she was a guest on Kelly Ryan Keegan‘s Bibliochat in late September.
Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing (Harper, March 2011)
Author: Alan Paul
Synopsis: Paul tells the story of trailing his journalist-wife to China and unwittingly becoming a rock star. His Chinese American blues rock band, called Woodie Alan, even earned the title of Beijing’s best band.
How we heard about it: We were early fans of Alan Paul’s back in the days of his Wall Street Journal online column, “The Expat Life.” Also, Paul and his book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday this past April.
The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf, February 2011)
Author: Susan Conley
Synopsis: Conley, her husband, and their two young sons say good-bye to their friends, family, and house in Maine for a two-year stint in a high-rise apartment in Beijing. All goes well until Conley learns she has cancer. She goes home to Boston for treatment and then returns to Beijing, again as a foreigner — to her own body as well.
How we heard about it: Conley and her book were featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s Writerhead Wednesday in early October.
SELF-HELP, CROSS-CULTURAL AND OTHER NONFICTION WORKS
The Globalisation of Love (Summertime, November 2011)
Author: Wendy Williams
Genre: Relationships, self-help, humor
Synopsis: Williams interviews multicultural, interfaith and biracial partners from all over the world on what it feels like to “marry out” of one’s culture, religion and/or race. She also talks to experts on the topic and coins a term for it: “GloLo.”
Expat credentials: From a British-Ukrainian-Canadian family, Williams has been married to an Austrian for 13 years and lives in Vienna.
How we heard about it: TDN writer ML Awanohara listened to Jo Parfitt’s interview with Williams on her Writers Abroad show (Women’s International Network) and was attracted to the ideas of a book that treats this topic with humor. **TDN writer Anthony Windram will review the book for our site tomorrow (Tuesday).**
Modern Arab Women — The New Generation of the United Arab Emirates (Molden Verlag, November 2011)
Author: Judith Hornok
Genre: Women’s studies
Synopsis: The book consists of 20 chapters, each a stand-alone interview with an Emirati woman from disciplines as varied as business, film, medicine and politics. The women talk to Hornok about their careers, philosophies of life and plans for the future. The book, which is published in German and English, aims to dispel some of the Western myths surrounding Arab women.
Expat credentials: While not quite an expat, Hornok has been moving between the UAE and her home in Vienna, Austria, for eight years.
How we heard about it: TDN writer ML Awanohara read an article on the book in The National (UAE English-language publication) and became intrigued.
Expat Women: Confessions — 50 Answers to Your Real-life Questions about Living Abroad (Expat Women Enterprises Pty Ltd ATF Expat Women Trust, May 2011)
Authors: Andrea Martins and Victoria Hepworth (foreword by Robin Pascoe)
Genre: Women’s self-help, family, relationships
Synopsis: Experienced expats share wisdom and tips on topics that most expat women face, such as the trauma of leaving family back home, the challenges of transitioning quickly, intercultural relationships, parenting bilingual children and work-life balance. They also tackle more difficult issues such as expat infidelity, divorce, alcoholism and reverse culture shock. The book is based on the “confessions” page of Expat Women, the largest global Web site helping women living overseas.
Expat credentials: Andrea Martins is the director and co-founder of Expat Women. An Australian who has spent many years abroad, she began dreaming of connecting expat women worldwide when an expat in Mexico City. Victoria Hepworth is a New Zealander who has lived in Japan, China, Russia, Sweden, India and is currently living in Dubai, UAE. She is a trained psychologist who specializes in expat issues.
How we heard about it: Andrea Martins announced the publication of the book to much fanfare on Twitter and in other social media venues. It has been widely reviewed on expat blogs.
Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband (CultureWave Press, April 2011)
Author: Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Genre: Relationships, self-help
Synopsis: Tokunaga conducts a series of candid conversations with 14 Western women about the challenges in making cross-cultural marriages work both inside and outside Japan. She quizzes them about the frustrations, as well as the joys, of adapting to a different culture within married life.
Expat credentials: Born in San Francisco, Tokunaga has spent numerous years studying, living, working and playing in Japan. She is the author of two Japan-related novels, published by St. Martins Griffin. Oh, and did we mention her Japanese “surfer-dude” husband?
How we heard about it: Sometimes one tweet is all it takes! (We follow Wendy Tokunaga on Twitter.)
A Modern Fairytale: William, Kate and Three Generations of Royal Love (Hyperion/ABC Video Book, April 2011)
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Romance, royalty
Synopsis: In this video book for ABC News, produced just in time for the Royal Wedding in March, best-selling chick-lit novelist Jane Green follows the stories of three generations of royal love from their meeting up to and after their respective wedding days. She concludes that Kate and William have a much better chance than William’s parents of enjoying a relationship on their own terms.
Expat credentials: Born in London, Green worked as a feature writer for The Daily Express before trying her hand at writing novels. She now lives in Westport, Connecticut, with her second husband and their blended family.
How we heard about it: One of us noticed that Jane Green had been tapped to provide coverage of the Royal Wedding for ABC News. We then invited her to talk about her e-book and engage with our readers in a debate on whether women should still aspire to be “princesses” in the 21st century — a post that received a record number of comments.
Turning Points: 25 inspiring stories from women entrepreneurs who have turned their careers and their lives around (Summertime Publishing, November 2011)
Editor: Kate Cobb
Synopsis: In this collection of stories from women all over the world, the focus is on the moments, or short passages of time, when a woman was facing something challenging and came out the other side smiling.
Expat credentials: Cobb is a British woman living in France, and about a third of the contributors — including Jo Parfitt and Linda Janssen — are expats who now run their own businesses.
How we heard about it: Linda Janssen promoted the book on her blog, Adventures in Expatland.
Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories (Still Waters Publishing, October 2011)
Compiler: Cheryl Shireman
Synopsis: 25 indie novelists share personal stories in hopes of inspiring other women to live the life they were meant to live. (All proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.)
Expat credentials: Close to half of these indie authors are expats or have done significant overseas travel. To take a few examples: After living in Portland, Oregon, for most of her life, Shéa MacLeod now makes her home in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone’s throw from the local cemetery. Linda Welch was born in a country cottage in England, but then married a dashing young American airman, left her homeland, raised a family, and now lives in the mountains of Utah. Julia Crane is from the United States but recently moved to Dubai with her huband and family (her personal story concerns the adjustment process).
How we heard about it: Again, sometimes all it takes it a tweet (we picked up one of Linda Welch’s).
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Questions: Have you read any of the above works and if so, what did you think of them? And can you suggest other works to add to the list? My colleagues and I look forward to reading your comments below!
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, a review of The Globalisation of Love, by Wendy Williams, and for Wednesday’s post, a review of Perking the Pansies, by Jack Scott.
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