Home, James by Emily Steele Jackson. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018. Available in both Kindle and paperback format.
Home, James by Emily Steele Jackson is the tale of James, an 8th grader who is transitioning from Nanning, Guanxi, to Missoula, Montana and from an international school to an American public school.
While not quite a hostile witness to his new life in Montana, TCK (third culture kid) James had thrived in Nanning. Of the five people in his family, he welcomed the transition to Missoula the least. In Home, James we follow James as he navigates American middle school, friendships, small talk, and school activities.
This book would be ideal for families to read in the first few months after transitioning back to their passport country. However, it is not just for kids. Transitions seem to trigger the middle schooler in all of us and I found myself relating to James in unexpected ways.
When it comes to friendships, James said:
With the kids I met in Nanning, I pretty much knew from day one that we were friends. We were all expats. Everyone knew you didn’t have much time together. It didn’t matter how long your parents said they planned to stay in Nanning. One of you was bound to move away soon. Friendships ran the course of a semester, not the entirety of elementary school like they do in America. Friendships are counted in dog years in Expatland. (Kindle location 507)
James goes on to compare friendships as a TCK to biting a hot pepper, while American friendships are more like eating mifen—rice noodles. I won’t say more because I want you to buy the book. Suffice it to say, you will find your experiences expressed in ways that instantly make sense.
Like James, I found it easier to make friends in China and have also found myself wondering, “Could it be that I finally have some friends in Missoula, Montana?” Only to follow up the thought with:
Yes, something feels off. I don’t notice it at first, but after a couple of week of hanging out with Rodney and Danny over lunch, it finally starts to bother me. Something about our lunch group doesn’t feel quite right. (Kindle location 453)
If only finding our place was quick and easy. Home, James is a book about the messy, imperfect process of finding ourselves in a place, asking the broader questions of what makes a place “home,” and how to rebuild a life on the other side of the world.
You will find yourself nodding and reliving parts of your own journey as the shipping boxes arrive, holidays are spent with relatives, and James processes his transition by drawing scenes from his China life.
Though a quick read—for an adult—this book is a must-read for anyone in transition from China to his or her home country.
Amy Young wants to help people find the sweet spot between burn out and rust out with ongoing personal and professional development. Founder of Global Trellis, co-founder of Velvet Ashes, she personally blogs at Messy Middle, and is the author of four books (Looming Transitions, Love, Amy,