To be a good writer, you have to read.
Or at least that’s what everyone tells me.
Somewhere in college, between the assigned essays and dreary textbooks, I forgot how to read for fun. I didn’t have time to read. I had so many other things I had to do. Only after starting this blog, after pouring over the blogs of other travellers, have I remembered how to enjoy reading again.
It’s not often that I write book reviews, but it’s also not often that a friend writes a book. Jocelyn, from Speaking of China, was one of the featured authors in How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit
Of course, I wanted to read the book right away.
Reading through this anthology, I was shocked by how many people were “just like me.”
An Indian woman living in Thailand, an American mother in Malaysia, a Chinese-American woman in China, an American in Taiwan – all completely different than me, with different background living in different countries – and yet we shared so many things in common.
It was surprising to see the things I have felt for so long, personified by someone else and eloquently weaved into a story. This book talks about a lot of things.
It talks about the complicated body image issues that arise from moving from a country like America to China. What was once skinny is now seen as “fat.” I talked about that internal battle- comparing yourself to other women and hating yourself for not looking just like them last week, and I found the exact same thing in one of the stories in this anthology.
It explains the joys and the hardships of living abroad. In some instances, living in Asia is physically much safer for these women than in their own countries. In other cases, it’s more scary – trying to navigate complicated legal procedures after a break-in or incident. Or figuring out how to deliver a baby abroad.
It shows how living abroad creates a confusing personal identity for these women. Families are altered, broken up, and altered. There is no blueprint for how to act abroad. Things change and break apart, and there is nothing you can do about it but hold on and hope for the best. And sometimes you just have to bring along you new father-in-law on your honeymoon.
It shows how living abroad is a chance for a new beginning. It is a chance to learn something new, to become a part of something unknown and “larger” than you could have ever imagined. It illustrates how you don’t have to be brave to choose to reside in a foreign place, you just have to commit.
I don’t want to spoil anything – but this anthology is definitely worth a read. The stories are short(ish) snippets (7 – 20 pages) of personal narratives from women who have lived or continue to live in Asia. They talk about daily life, hardships, and memorable moments abroad. Through their words, you can get a window into the life of an expat woman in Asia.
Because really, when you’re living abroad, no one actually knows what they’re doing. Everyone seems to just be along for the ride.
And if you’re interested in reading about all the rides these women have been on, I highly recommend the anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit.
You might just learn about something new.