Marilyn Gardner

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Worlds Apart, a Book Review

Worlds Apart, by Marilyn Gardner

This is the revised version of Passages Through Pakistan and I had the incredible honor of writing the forward. Marilyn has been an online shepherd for me for over five years now. Though we haven’t met (yet) in person, she knows and holds, with gentle wisdom, the deep waters of my heart. When I’ve agonized over boarding school woes or needed someone to pull me together after writerly rejections, Marilyn always has a word of hope and perspective.

Just because I love her, doesn’t mean you will. But. I’m sure you will, after you read her words. Don’t take my word for it, delve into her wisdom on your own. If you haven’t found her website yet, check out Communicating Across Boundaries. If you wonder about her thoughts on being a Third Culture Kid, read Between Worlds. And if you want to know what made her into the generous, creative, thoughtful, joyful person she is today, here is Worlds Apart.

Through trauma and laughter, boarding school in Pakistan to transitioning to the United States, Marilyn opens up her experiences so we can benefit from her perspective and example.

One scene, among many, that pricked my heart is of Marilyn’s mother attempting to plant a garden in Pakistan. She longs for the vibrant colors of the place she left behind but the earth is unrelenting and nothing will grow. Finally, she gives up and plants fake flowers, for the splash of brightness. From a distance, at least, it is beautiful. And then, it is stolen. Marilyn remembers thinking, as a child, “I thought we were loved.” Why would someone steal flowers from someone they loved?

The story captures the hard work, creativity, delight, devastation, and recovery inherent in so many experiences of living abroad.

The last chapter is especially pertinent to me personally, as I’m about to launch my twins back to the US for university. She offers practical tips and deeper, heart-level suggestions on how Third Culture Kids can process and grow in their unique lives.

If you are a Third Culture Kids, or know or love one, if haven’t lived abroad but you’d like to glimpse the realities of someone who has, if want to see beauty in crossing cultures, you will love this book.

Passages Through Pakistan

Marilyn Gardner, author of Between Worlds, published her second book this week. Passages Through Pakistan: an American Girl’s Journey of Faith is a beautifully rendered story of growing up between worlds.

One scene, among many, that pricked my heart is of Marilyn’s mother attempting to plant a garden in Pakistan. She longs for the vibrant colors of the place she left behind but the earth is unrelenting and nothing will grow. Finally she gives up and plants fake flowers, for the splash of brightness. From a distance, at least, it is beautiful. And then, it is stolen. Marilyn remembers thinking, as a child, “I thought we were loved.” Why would someone steal flowers from someone they loved?

The story captures the hard work, creativity, delight, devastation, and recovery inherent in so many experienced of living abroad.

Marilyn writes about going to boarding school. Oh, the complicated, loaded topic of boarding school. Marilyn handles this with so much vulnerability and grace. She refuses to shy away from the pain or to sink into defending her parents’ choice. She lays it out bare, the sorrow and the joy, hand in hand, that have made her into the incredibly wise, empathetic, and openhearted woman she is today.

This is the woman who oozes out through the words of this book – compassionate toward herself, her parents, toward God, and of course toward Pakistan. I don’t want to write spoilers, but at a moment of horrific tragedy and facing the question, “How can I live with this?” Marilyn remembers her mother saying, “You will live with this because of forgiveness and because of grace.” Again, she captures truth through sharing vulnerable stories.

Passages Through Pakistan is a book for Third Culture Kids and their parents, for churches, for people who live internationally and for the people who send them out, who love them, who pray for them. It isn’t always an easy read because Marilyn doesn’t gloss over the hard parts of her childhood but it is a hopeful read, because she finds joy and God in those hard parts.

When I finished reading, I had one overwhelming urge: to buy this book for my teenagers. This  is the perfect graduation gift for TCKs. Parents out there, with kids at the boarding school my kids attend (I’m talking especially to you guys) – I’m serious.

I’m buying copies for both my kids, even though I received an advance copy for the purpose of reviewing. I want them to have a hard copy to hold between their hands. Even if your kids hate to read, urge them to read the final chapter. Give the gift of wisdom and perspective as they head out into the wide, wild world.

You can read Marilyn’s blog Communicating Across Cultures here and you can buy Between Worlds and of course, Passages Through Pakistan here.

 

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The Bookshelf: Djibouti Jones Contributors

This week the Bookshelf features writers who have written for Djibouti Jones. I’m really excited to share their extended works.

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by Daniel D. Maurer. Daniel wrote On Writing: 7 Easy Tips to Find Your Niche and quite possibly the only fiction piece on Djibouti Jones. We met at The Loft writing center in Minneapolis a few years ago and Dan has since gone on to publish two excellent, powerful, and unique books. A graphic novel about recovery and a co-authored memoir about teenage male sex trafficking.

by Marilyn Gardner. Marilyn wrote Red Hot Rage, A Third Culture Kids Talks about Raising Third Culture Kids, and Let’s Talk about Hijab: Rethinking the Veil. She is the author of the book Between Worlds, a beautiful series of essays about growing up in Pakistan.

by Heather Caliri. Heather wrote Living With the Empty Spaces and The Hospitality of Greetings. She is the author of Unquiet Time: A Devotional for the Rest of Us and The Word Made Art: 52 projects for a spiritual encounter. The Word Made Art is available via her blog.

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by Ruth Van Reken. Ruth wrote the opening essay in the series on Third Culture Kids, Who Are Third Culture Kids? She is the c0-author of the seminal book Third Culture Kids and Letters Never Sent, a moving memoir of her boarding school kid experiences.

by Rhett Burns. Rhett wrote Time is Relational in Turkey and is the author of a book with the fantastic subtitle: how American football explains Turkey.

D.L. Mayfield has a book in the works as do a number of other contributors. I’m sure I have missed some of you. If so, please leave a comment and I’ll add your books to the list or do another post in the future to promote them.

What I’m reading this week

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
by Erik Larson. Yup, still reading this. Love it. Need to finish so I can move on to his new one and to Thunderstruck, which I haven’t read yet. Larson was the guest on the Longform podcast this week too so if you are a longform fan or an Erik Larson fan or if you’d like to become one, I highly recommend the podcast. It is what motivates me to get u pat 5:30 a.m. and pound out 13 miles in dusty, muggy Djibouti. I think that about says it all.

 

 

Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking
by Daniel D. Maurer and R.K. Kline. Yup, this is the one I mentioned above. Dan is a Djibouti Jones contributor. You can read my review on Amazon. I read this in two quick night-time reading bursts and the second night should have gotten to bed earlier because I had that darn 5:30 a.m. wake up call but couldn’t sleep until I finished it.

 

 

 

The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel
by Tea Obrecht. I know. I mentioned this one before and my slow progress has little to do with the quality of the book. Its a great book and I wish I loved fiction more. I think reading more fiction would help my mind think more creatively. But…I struggle to get into fiction. Convince me otherwise! Recommend some great fiction.

 

 

 

What are you reading this week? What fiction do I need to read? Which Djibouti Jones contributors have I missed?

 *this post includes amazon affiliate links

Dear Parents of Third Culture Kids

I needed this letter and if you are raising Third Culture Kids, you need it too. Written by a TCK who is now raising TCKs, written by a woman full of grace, wisdom, experience, depth, and joy, written from a place of wrestling and humility and courage, this letter is something I plan on returning to over the years.

write a letter to you

Marilyn Gardner of Communicating Across Boundaries published To the Parents of Third Culture Kids today on A Life Overseas.

She says things like guilt will get you nowhere and faith can get complicated. And then she expands on these ideas, plus more.

No words of my own today, hers are more than sufficient.

Click here to read To the Parents of Third Culture Kids.

*image source

Let’s Talk about Hijab: Rethinking the Veil

Today’s post in the Let’s Talk about Hijab series is by Marilyn Gardner. While I’m thrilled about the fantastic posts in this series, the best part of it personally has been connecting with and meeting such unbelievably incredible women from all over the planet. I have only known Marilyn via email, Twitter, and blogs, and only for short time but she has challenged me to write better, think deeper, and love wider. Enjoy her post, Rethinking the Veil.

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In May of last year Dr. Leila Ahmed, a well-known professor at the Harvard Divinity School published a book A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America. The idea for the book was born one evening in the late 1990’s when Dr. Ahmed was walking with a friend in her Cambridge neighborhood. As they passed by a park, they noticed a group of women, all in hijab.

Dr. Ahmed was raised in Egypt during the fifties and sixties. At this time in Egypt, the veil was rarely seen – not only in Egypt, but also in other Muslim-majority countries. That particular evening, she was shocked and disturbed to see the hijab, symbolic to her of patriarchy and oppression, fully alive; revived and walking in her neighborhood. More shocking was to see the hijab worn in a country that allowed freedom of expression in both speech and dress.

As a Muslim feminist she set out to study this phenomenon and the result is a thick volume published by Yale University Press.

Her findings should be a lesson for all of us, particularly those with little understanding of the hijab– those who tend to box and stereotype the Muslim world in general and Muslim women in particular.

The interviews showed a variety of reasons why women choose to wear hijab. From “raising consciousness about sexist messages in our (American) society” to national pride to rejecting negative stereotypes, the reasons were well thought out and articulated.

The hijab was worn with both knowledge and pride.

photo by Pari Ali

photo by Pari Ali

Along with that, her research revealed some of the characteristics of a “living” religion like Islam – namely that they are ever-changing, never static, not easily put into a box. The hijab is just one example of this dynamic.

In Pakistan I grew up with Muslim women surrounding me and friendships were formed at early ages, some that continue to this day. I well remember when my childhood friends entered puberty and with that rite of passage, put on the burqa. Because of this history, I’ve often been put in a posture of defending those who wear hijab, or burqa, or other head coverings. And my defense rightly comes from knowing so many women who have chosen to wear the veil – not because they are forced or coerced, but for many of the reasons that Dr. Ahmed cites.

I am also humbly aware that my words and thoughts are inadequate to the complexity of the role these women play on the local and world stage.

But there is one thing I can say with surety: Muslim women are not monolithic. Just looking at the vocabulary that surrounds the veil is proof of the diversity present in the Muslim world. The image often conjured up of a fully veiled woman walking behind her husband is only occasionally correct.

As a non-Muslim, I hesitate to speak with too much authority. It seems arrogant to speak for women who have chosen to wear (or not wear) hijab. But too often those in the west criticize the veil without having met a Muslim, without ever interacting on a personal level and that I can speak to.

In the course of her research, Dr. Ahmed confronts her own assumptions and beliefs as a “progressive” Muslim. She says in an article from the Financial Times published in 2011 “My own assumptions and the very ground they stood on have been fundamentally challenged” This serves as a lesson for me, and I hope for those reading. Being willing to have our assumptions challenged is not easy, but it is critical, particularly in a world too often driven by stereotypes promoted by those with the loudest and most insistent voices.

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Marilyn Gardner grew up in Pakistan and as an adult lived in Pakistan and Egypt for 10 years. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, fifteen minutes from the International Terminal at Logan Airport.  She loves God, her family, and her passport in that order. She met Dr. Ahmed while she was awaiting the release of her book. Find her blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries and on Twitter @marilyngard

Other posts in this series:

Let’s Talk about  Hijab

Why Doesn’t Your Wife Wear Hijab? by Anita Dualeh

Hijab: Definitions

Hijab: the Universal Struggle by Pari Ali

Asking the Right Questions by Afia R. Fitriati

Through the Eyes of Children by J.R. Goodeau