Third Culture Kids is one of my favorite topics. A friend was sharing with me (a TCK herself) about a conference she recently went to where a woman was researching on the differences in identity within third culture siblings. Same parents but depending on age, stage of development, geography and experiences, had skewed their own third culture identity and views although they had grown-up in the same “household” as their siblings.
I’ve most definitely felt this with my own siblings. The three of us are, in age sequence, one year apart, and we fall under many of the stereotypes of third culture children. We take longer to finish university, tend to have more formal education than the general public—in our case the 3 of us were in our mid-late twenties when we finished our bachelors, we marry later — in our case none of us are married, multilingual — check, travel more—yup, tend to be leaders within roles we do take — yup. However, our own views as third culture children and our identities within that are extremely different.
If you were to ask my siblings who was the “most Mexican” of the three of us, they would agree it was me. As the oldest, I got to travel back to Mexico more with my mother. I got to go on my own and develop friendships during adolescence that I maintain to this day. The two of them may visit Mexico but their experience is different from mine as I return to stay with friends, go to my friends weddings, baptisms, graduations. They return and only stay with family, who culturally they have little in common with–they feel even more out-of-place than me. However, there are other places they “fit in” better than I do. Even the views on the economics of the household we grew-up in is quite varied. Oddly, enough if we were to ask who was the most “American” of the three of us, I am not sure we would agree…in my case I would argue that it is my brother.
My brother was effected by gender and economics (as we all are) and I felt bad for him when he told me his Mandarin was better than his Spanish, and that it was possible that so was his Japanese. My mother spoke of talking to him on the phone, he exhausted and barely awake with a 12 hour time difference from my mother, she said he kept slipping into this hybrid English-Mandarin-Spanish and that it made no sense and that he fell asleep mid sentence. My mother it seems with age has slipped back into Spanish, and my brother the longer he lives in Asia the rustier his Spanish becomes. I worry that one day they will not be able to communicate as effectively as the both desire.
Our experiences are different, our opportunities are different. I remember when I first started to learn Mandarin (which I don’t actually know) I kept dreaming in German, a language I have never been conversational in, but my brain was scattered and nothing seemed to fit right. Sometimes thoughts fit easily within language without pensiveness other times expressing these thoughts or feelings are a struggle. There is a struggle to know a concept exists in one language or culture and not another. That struggle is frustrating when I am dating a monolingual non-TKC, how to explain an emotion or a sentiment when they have no concept of it? Which may explain the smile across my face when I think of the relationships some of these TKC musicians have.
As of late I’ve been really into the music, art, activism of the following third culture children, Jarina de Marco, Stromae, and power couple Maya Jupiter and her partner Aloe Blacc. Jarina de Marco was born to parents from the Dominican Republic and exiled to Brasil then later to Canada. Stromae was born to a Belgium mother, a Rawandan father, in Beligum and from what I’ve gathered in reading, raised in a French community in Brussels but attended a Dutch speaking university. Maya Jupiter born to a Mexican father, a Turkish mother and spent much of her childhood and adolescence in Australia. Aloe Blaac*** born in the white suburbs of Orange County California to Black Panamanian parents (I say this because I think skin color play a deep role in third culture identity in this country).
***(I’m not actually sure I would identify Aloe Blacc as a TKC rather than more of a child of immigrants but I’ve personally found that black men raised in white communities have much in common with TKC. To grow-up in America as not white, but within a white community allows you to have an ability to identify with TKCs. Although, now that I think of it, I had a black-American boyfriend who grew up in a Mexican-American community and he had the ability to identify with TKC identity issues in a way I think most men, within the accepted standard of norm do not have—perhaps just growing-up outside the “norm” allows empathy—this is to say, more simply, what the hell do I know?)
All are political engaged, and globally aware, as tends to happen with third culture children. It made me smile when I saw that Aloe was active in the Day Laborers Movement (if you recall my sister Cristina Tzintzún is Executive Director of The Workers Defense Project — an organization for Day Laborers in Texas) I couldn’t help but think, yes, of course he would be supportive.
Anyway, go listen to their music, they are brilliant and we are lucky they share their minds via their music with us. With these artists this is just a taste of their work and their ranges are wide so go find some of their old and new stuff and enjoy discovering them for yourself.
Here is a video from each
Jarina De Marco
At the age of five got kicked out of D.R.
Revolution from the start
Baby girl pack your dolls
Next stop Montreal
Parlez vous Français
Oui monsieur I do….mix race, pretty face, we embody all the nations
It will take about 5 seconds before you realize she is brilliant
Aloe Blacc (this video was made by Alex Rivera — I’ve blogged about Alex Rivera before..but can’t seem to find the link, he has also been a big supporter of Cristina’s Workers Defense Project and is the artist who made the very moving documentary The Sixth Section AND he was just here in Ohio too to present his work to students in a new project I’ve taken on —I’ll blog about that later)
I was torn which video clip to put here. His song Formidable is one of my favorites and I love the sound he produces with his “R”s (yes the letter R). However in the video I chose,
he has a beautiful way of playing with identity including within gender roles, and breaking cultural standards of normativity and so that is what I am going to roll with.