(for expat+HAREM’s hybrid life reading list available at Amazon click here)
By ANASTASIA ASHMAN
Expatriate literature may often be stocked in the travel section, but does it deserve a shelf of its own?
Living for extended periods in foreign locales, expatriates and global citizens struggle to reestablish themselves and find meaningful access to their new home. Travelers passing through often have the luxury to avoid the very issues of assimilation and identity that dominate the expat psyche.
Over the course of three days 40 readers, writers, travelers, expats, Third Culture Kids and emigrees tweeted about the unique depths of the expat lit combination: outsider-view-from-the-inside and journey of self-realization.
Below are highlights. Unattributed comments are my own.
WHAT’S EXPAT LIT?
The interpretation of another culture by someone of our own. — M. Dominique Benoit
An expat writer draws on a collective cultural consciousness to talk about a different locale. An outsider’s view from the inside: when it’s good, it’s the best of both worlds.
A thoughtful expat will question and analyze his own cultural biases. The reader can do this vicariously. — Deborah Davidson
EXPAT LIT COMES OF AGE
So many globetrotters, so many identity issues when home keeps changing. — Jennifer Eaton Gokmen
EXPAT LIT VS. TRAVELOGUE
Travel may open your eyes but does not change your identity. Expatriation sure does! — Emmanuelle Archer
Expat lit is not travel literature since writing about life from outside a homeland does not mean writing from a state of travel. We’re coping with extended life in a foreign culture, navigating subtleties, adapting to find harmony. Personal assimilation/identity issues dominate expat writing, and filter their world. If travel writing is a chance to travel vicariously, expat lit is a chance to live abroad vicariously.
FEMALE VS. MALE PERSPECTIVE
Female expat writers do more with identity and assimilation, I find. — Nassim Assefi
EMIGREE/IMMIGRANT VS. EXPAT
If the subject is primarily your homeland and you live abroad as an emigree, that’s emigree lit. If you’re living outside your home culture writing about where you are, and even the rest of the world, that’s expat lit.
THIRD CULTURE KID VS. EXPAT
Third Culture Kid lit has more multi-faceted identity issues versus the writer who becomes an expat as an adult. The adult expat writer already has an established identity that gets challenged as adult. TCK has been challenged with identity all his life. — J. Gokmen
TCK often means not knowing where home is. Citizenship or nationality become irrelevant. TCK lit can be the epitome of expat lit, a “twice-removed” look at the culture. — E. Archer
Does expat lit deserve its own genre? Which writers and titles do you consider expat lit, or why not? As a global citizen and intentional traveler, what are you looking for in a read and where do you best find it?
TITLES + AUTHORS REFERENCED IN THE CHAT (travel, expat, TCK, emigree literature, historical and contemporary)
Adam Gopnik – Paris to the Moon//Anthony Burgess – Malay Trilogy//Bill Bryson//Carla Grissman – Dinner of Herbs//Chris Stewart – Driving Over Lemons//Christopher Isherwood//David Sedaris – Nuit of the Living Dead//Ernest Hemingway – Death in the Afternoon//Firoozeh Dumas – Funny in Farsi//Freya Stark//Gertrude Stein and the Lost Generation//Henry Miller//Isabella Bird//Jamie Zeppa – Beyond the Sky and Earth: A Journey into Bhutan//Karen Blixen//Lawrence Durrell – Alexandria Quartet//A. J. Leibling – Between Meals: An Appetite For Paris//Malcolm Lowry//Marlena De Blasi – A Thousand Days in Tuscany//Mary Blume – A French Affair//Mary Lee Settle – Turkish Reflections//Milan Kundera//Peter Mayles – French Lessons//Pico Iyer//Sarah McDonald – Holy Cow//Sarah Turnbull – Almost French//Somerset Maugham – Far Eastern Tales//Stanley Karnow – Paris in the Fifties//Tahir Shah – The Caliph’s House//Tales from the Expat Harem//Three Cups of Tea//Vladimir Nabokov//William Dalrymple
Other sources on expat lit:
figuring out the French//Morocco’s literary transgressor//a literary review for writers abroad//a course in American expatriate literature//expat lit from Japan//expat lit vs. national lit//Paul Auster on the art of exile and return//Pico Iyer on Somerset Maugham//mysteries and memoirs//expat vs. immigrant//blogging and expatriate identity by Lauren Elkin//World Radio Switzerland’s bonding with expat tales//cultural wisdom pooling at intersection of women and travel//The Accidental Anthologist
Question for the expat+HAREM community: who are your favorite hybrid life writers, and how do you see the divisions between travel writing and the work of people who have left home — perhaps forever?