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Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 4: Feeling Comfortable Living in the Borderlands Between Cultures

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This week’s characteristic of intercultural competence is hard to “pin down” with good reason because it involves having a flexible mindset. Homi Bhabha, a Harvard professor who has written about this in his essay The Location of Culture (1994), calls it living in the present in the borderlands. He explains that instead of thinking of ourselves as belonging in certain cultures or spaces, we think of ourselves as in between, or the area between categories where things are fuzzy and we are redefining some of our identity. It is a place of tension–no doubt about it. But it is also an exciting place because it is an area of growth. It is a willingness to live in the messy areas instead of feeling the need to define everything in fixed categories. Continue reading

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Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 3: Seeing Ourselves with Multicultural Identities

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

When people ask me to describe myself, I am hard-pressed to know where to begin. Do I start at the very beginning and talk about all the places I have lived that shaped the way I interact with current life events? Or do I start even further back and talk about my parents and grandparents because they shaped my early values? Or maybe I should start with my husband, sons, daughter-in-laws and grandkids and the way living with them has shaped my views on childrearing, family dynamics, nutrition, etc.? Or should I begin with the life-changing experience of being connected to the work of Worlds of Words? Or I could describe the ways working at a university has shaped the questions I ask or the professional books I read. All of these cultures I belong to have molded me into the person I am. I see myself as multicultural–a person who belongs to multiple groups who have shaped (and continue to shape) my beliefs and values that in turn impact the way I deal with life events.

Cover for Marisol McDonald features an upside down girl with red braids and arms hanging downOne of my favorite book characters who exhibits this same multicultural view of herself is Marisol McDonald (Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios). While others see her as a person who doesn’t “match” because she does not follow societal patterns, she sees herself as a person who loves all the parts of her Scottish/Peruvian/American background. So she eats peanut butter burritos, wears colorful dresses with her Peruvian hat (a gift from her grandmother) and throws in Spanish words when they express her thoughts better than English words. Marisol embodies the third descriptor of interculturally competent people: folks who see themselves with multicultural identities. This week we will look at several of the titles on the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2019 list list that serve as examples of multicultural identities. Continue reading

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Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 2: Seeking Multiple Perspectives

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This week I profile titles from the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2019 list that serve as examples of another characteristic of intercultural competence. In the two fictional titles the main character is forced to understand different perspectives. In the non-fiction texts, the reader is invited to consider multiple ways of seeing the world.

One of my earliest conscious thoughts about people who move easily between cultures happened when I was a teenager and had just returned to the U.S. after having spent five years living in France. It struck me that the way my French friends approached life was just as “valid” as the approach of my new American friends. One was not better or more correct than the other–they were just different. Years later, my husband and I took our four boys to France to live for two years because we wanted them to learn that there are multiple ways of approaching food, family, the tempo of life, academic studies, etc. I wanted them to understand how important it is to seek other perspectives–it does not require agreeing with the perspectives, but it does mean finding them and hearing them. This willingness to look for other perspectives and listen to them is a characteristic of an interculturally competent person. The four books mentioned in this post helped me understand a perspective I was not familiar with. As a result I did more research on facts or ideas I discovered in these books.

Book Jackets from all four books mentioned in post that encourage seeking multiple perspectives. Continue reading

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Peace Defined by Child Characters and the United Nations

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

I have just been listening (again) to Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, the piece that cellist Vedran Smailovic played in Sarajevo to protest the deaths of 22 innocent civilians. As I listen to the exquisite melodies, I think about peace and what that means to so many people around the world who are in areas of political strife. I also think about peace in the homes of the people I interact with, whose lives have been fractured by bullying behavior, divorce, abuse, other forms of violence, death and extreme poverty. We need peace in all areas of our lives.

Peace Defined by Child Characters and the United Nations: UN Resolution Rights of the Child

Click to go to Unicef’s full-size poster.

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Characters Whose Choices Threaten or Support Peace

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Ready for the next description of peace based on the book Peace Begins with You by Katherine Scholes and Robert Ingpen? The fourth way they describe peace involves the choices that we all make that either threaten or support peace. Scholes and Ingpen go on to say, “working for peace may be harder than using force. You may have to be braver and stronger. You may have to learn new skills, new ways of thinking and planning.” The focus this week is on characters whose choices threaten or support peace. For many of the characters, that involves a shift in perspective.

Characters Whose Choices Threaten or Support Peace Continue reading

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Challenging Status Quo to Create Peace in Children’s Literature

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

One of my challenges is to fit inside the boxes that different groups in society create for me to live in. For example, I am a professor, so I live with the box of student expectation and preference for numerical grades instead of narrative feedback (my preference). Another box I live with relates to the frequent moves I have made between countries, states or provinces. Each place has their own way of operating, so I spend the first few months in a new environment learning the rules of that community. There are many rules that are fine and help me get along with the neighbors (e.g., “Mow your lawn once a week”). Others puzzle and constrain (e.g.,”Normal families eat dinner at 6 p.m.”) and end up making me feel odd, unwelcome and definitely not at peace.

Peace Continue reading

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The Difference Between Wants and Needs

Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

A big challenge I faced as a parent of four boys was helping them understand the difference between things that are a big want and things that are a small want. My husband and I had no extra money, so it was important that they grasp the difference so they did not feel deprived! It took multiple discussions for them to develop a nuanced understanding of what was a need and what would be cool to have. The great challenge for me as a parent was providing them with what they didn’t consider to be a want, but that, unbeknownst to them, they needed in order to have a sense of peace, of well-being. Those “hidden” big wants or needs are the focus of this post.

Wants and Needs Continue reading

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Seeking Peace in Children’s Literature

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

As I began to write this post, President Trump returned from the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The goal: a fragile peace. While I don’t work towards peace at that diplomatic level, my desire to foster world peace motivates what I do on a daily basis. My hope as an educator is to shape my students to be peace-seeking individuals. But fostering peace in the classroom or at home isn’t always easy because peace is abstract and difficult to describe; it’s hard to figure out how peace “happens.” It’s not passivity, ignoring conflict in the hopes that it will go away. And it’s not the opposite, digging in heels at all costs because we feel we’re right. Continue reading

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MTYT: Orion and the Dark

As we discussed last week, the current emphasis in schools on developing emotional health in children prompted our selection of books. We chose books that center around emotions common to children (loss, fear, anger) but with a twist. The emotions act as a character in the story. Also important, the books tell stories of a child coming to grips with emotion. The focus is on the great story–not on a list of coping skills found in the end matter and meant to teach children and parents. This week, we discuss Orion and the Dark.

Orion and the Dark Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Mary’s Monster

Mary's Monster by Lita JudgeWriting in free verse and illustrating in stark black-and-white watercolors for Mary’s Monster, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teen runaway who authored the first Gothic horror story, Frankenstein. Lord Byron’s challenge to write a horror story may be the often-cited reason Shelley wrote her book, but Mary’s Monster demonstrates the way the author drew on elements of her own difficult life to create the story of an experiment gone awry. Judge tells the story through Mary’s voice. Her sparse verse weaves the story of Mary’s own rejection with her creation of a monster rejected by society. Continue reading