Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering
Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering is a collection of essays by twenty different women who are all raising children in a multicultural environment. The children in this book mainly fall into three categories: they are of mixed racial heritage, they are being raised in a country to which their parents have immigrated, or they have been adopted by parents from another culture. Being multiracial myself and having been raised in an army town where interracial relationships, foreign mothers, and multiracial children are fairly common, I was interested to see what Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering had to say.
Overall, I found the stories in the book to be very hit or miss. Some were moving and touched on issues that multicultural families sometimes face. One stand out is “Fade to Brown,” the story of a woman of mixed race who worries how her daughters’ differing skin colors (one is light, the other dark) will affect their relationship with each other and their cultural identity. It’s an insightful story, dealing with real concerns and specific problems that many people of mixed race can relate to.
Other stories in the collection are less on target. For instance, “Dr. Bucket in Bishkek” has nothing to do with raising children in a foreign country or culture. Instead, it is an amusing tale about an English woman’s experiences while being pregnant in Kyrgyzstan. While it makes for a good fish-out-of-water story, the essay has little to do with the central theme of the collection. Many of the stories were also centered more on how the mother was reacting to the family’s environment or circumstance instead of focusing on the children. These stories were more about bad marriages and personal prejudices than about mothers coping with unusual situations.
My main problem with many of these stories is that due to the way they were written, they just did not feel real. Don’t get me wrong—the writing is good, but it’s all very fanciful and poetic, making the work seem more like fiction than a relating of real life events. Instead of flowery prose, I would have preferred straightforward accounts of the obstacles and triumphs these mothers have encountered. In the end, Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering is worth a look for the better stories, but be prepared to have to wade through the bad ones as well.