Well, for my entire life I had known I was American and I’d considered myself an American. I was born in North Carolina, and lived with my paternal grandmother in New Jersey up until I was about four and my dad had finished up his final tour with the US Army and retired. From four to around twelve/thirteen, I lived with my family in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi, UAE. And due to troubles at home, I moved back to the US a few years ago (by myself) to eventually live with my paternal aunt.
- Home/Family life/Friendships
I forgot to mention before that I’m also an African-American. I bring this up now because while living in the Middle East, this wasn’t shoved down my throat.A few weeks ago, a white classmate of mine was literally surprised that I(an African-American person) had not heard of slavery until the fifth grade while living in the Middle East, when our teacher had read a story about Harriet Tubman. I remember a lot of my friends-and a lot of my classmates-saying that they hated George Bush, asking for my opinion, and me finding myself with nothing I could say. I was proud to be American, and we’d always considered ourselves Americans, without question, so that’s how people would perceive me and my family-as Americans. I wasn’t the only military brat at my school-I had friends from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Germany, Poland, England, Quatar, England, and so and so on-and this was never seen as strange. My friends would ask me about my family and what America was like-but that was it. In short, I felt like an equal amongst my peers in a way that I can never really find in the US outside of being in a community with other people of color.
My stepmother is Eritrean, being born in Eritrea, which is a country in Asmara, which is a country in Africa. She speaks English, Tigrinia, Armaric, and Arabic, so there was always at least three languages around the house, and I have a good grasp of Tigrinia and Amaric, even if I can’t speak it like used to when I was younger. I can read and write and Arabic(we had to learn in school) and I can remember helping my stepmother out with her English writing and syntax whenever she had to write something down.
I communicated with my most of my dad’s side of the family in English. I’d spoken to a friend recently(she is an Muslim Arab-American), and we talked about issues that only we, as “third-culture kids” could relate to(feeling that birth-country isn’t necessarily “home”, having five countries on your passport, fear of losing a language if you don’t speak it enough, ect) It was fun and wonderful.
I love my skin, to be honest, always have-it’s this weird light-to-mid brown shade and really, it wasn’t all that different from any of the other kids at school, or from my family for that matter. My father was this big, burly dark-skinned guy, and my stepmother was this bronze/high yellow lady and two of my sisters have the bronze skin tone, and one my sisters has the dark skin that my father has. And one of the greatest thing-we were always told we were beautiful. My skin made me feel this great connection between myself and my family.My skin was never the problem, but apparently my weight was.
My stepmother made it a point for me to keep up with my own weight, would point out that I was fat/getting fat from eating bread, drinking milk, still eating after a certain time, ect-even though, in retrospect, I was probably at a pretty healthy weight for an average twelve-year-old girl, and was no more that three pounds above my BMI. There was this one summer that we spent with my step-relatives in Eritrea, and my sisters and I had all lost a lot of weight due to the fact that we had to ration out food(and the fact that I really didn’t like peanut butter sandwiches).
After getting back home, I was glad to have the steady flow of food again, but my stepmother said that my ribs showing a little through my belly “looked good” and that was losing the figure I’d gotten from all the running around and the lack of food I’d gotten from Eritrea. I was nine. I’ve been battling with body issues a lot over the years, and while I’m generally OK with my body now, I can help but pinch at the thin layer of fat that I can find on my sides and on top my belly and secretly wish it was tighter.
My height and my chest have also been a source of embarrassment for me-especially growing up. I attended private school from 1-6 grade, and my first private school had swim classes. I can remember crying everyday before changing into my swim suit because, yeah, my chest had developed and this was embarrassing when girls were to busy scorning me and/or ogling enviously at my boobs."YOU’RE SOOOOOO LUCKY" they would croon as I held my boobs tight, holding back tears, getting upset once I get home because I’d have to wear bras that were way too small for me.
As for my height-by the time I was fifth grade, I was taller than my teacher. It came to point where my dad had to snap at me to stop slouching. “I see to many tall people-especially girls-who keep tryna make themselves look smaller-STAND UP.” I didn’t meet anyone my height in the Middle East until sixth grade. It felt nice not to be the odd one out for once.
- Things I’d like to see more of
- I’d like to see more people of color in fiction, and especially fantasy and scifi because I’m tired of people saying that in stories that involved magic and robot brown people are “unrealistic”.
- I’d like to see more women of color in fiction, especially in fantasy and sci-fi because it would be great to have a protagonist that looked like me show up more in the books I read.
- I wish people would stop portraying the Middle East as countries that just filled with Bedouins and deserts.
- I’d like to have people stop portraying Muslims/Arabs/Arabic as a “weird potential terrorist language/potential terrorists”
- I’d like to see more YA with women of color who are uncomfortable with their growing bodies-and not just of their skin tone.
- Stories with third-culture kids that grew up in the “foreign” country they live and aren’t fish out of water.
- THIRD CULTURE KID STORIES PERIOD.
- Any suggestions for sources/books that, you know, have any of these elements would be much appreciated.