The best novels that show the third-culture kid (TCK) experience

Who am I?

I’m a second-generation TCK. I was born in Peru and grew up in Chile and Panama, as well as the US. My YA novel, The Means That Make Us Strangers, explores some of my own experience moving crossculturally as a teenager.


I wrote...

The Means That Make Us Strangers

By Christine Kindberg,

Book cover of The Means That Make Us Strangers

What is my book about?

Adelaide has lived her whole life in rural Ethiopia as the white American daughter of an anthropologist. Then her family moves to South Carolina, in 1964.

Adelaide vows to find her way back to Ethiopia and become part of the village for real. But until she turns eighteen, she must adjust to this strange, white place that everyone tells her is home. As she becomes friends with the five African American students who sued for admission into her high school, life in Greenville becomes more interesting, and “home” becomes a much more complex equation. Adelaide must finally choose where she belongs: the Ethiopian village where she grew up, to which she promised to return. Or this place where she's becoming part of something new.

The books I picked & why

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The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Why this book?

This book is a modern classic for a reason! It can sometimes be difficult to read about the failures of this missionary family in the Congo against the backdrop of the violence that took place in that country in the 20th century, but I loved the way the novel shows how each of the daughters adapts and relates to the surrounding culture in her own way.

The Poisonwood Bible

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Poisonwood Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.

'Breathtaking.' Sunday Times
'Exquisite.' The Times
'Beautiful.' Independent
'Powerful.' New York Times

This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will…


When We Were Orphans

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of When We Were Orphans

Why this book?

This book, by Nobel-prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, was the first novel in which I saw a character like myself—someone who grew up in a culture that was very different from his parents'. The mystery plot gets wild, but I found that the main character’s search for closure felt connected to my own nostalgia and grief over the places I’d left behind.

When We Were Orphans

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When We Were Orphans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

England, 1930s. Christopher Banks has become the country's most celebrated detective, his cases the talk of London society. Yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him; the mysterious disappearance of his parents, in Old Shanghai, when he was a small boy. Now, as the world lurches towards total war, Banks realises the time has come for him to return to the city of his childhood and at last solve the mystery - that only by his doing so will civilisation be saved from the approaching catastrophe.

Moving between London and Shanghai of the inter-war years, When We Were Orphans is…


The Namesake

By Jhumpa Lahiri,

Book cover of The Namesake

Why this book?

This beautifully written story centers around an immigrant family, but TCKs will find they have a lot in common with Gogol, an Indian American with a Russian name, who tries to define his cultural identity in opposition to his parents'. This book beautifully expressed something important for me, and discussing the movie with my brother and my parents provided a rich opportunity to process our own experiences.

The Namesake

By Jhumpa Lahiri,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Namesake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Namesake' is the story of a boy brought up Indian in America.

'When her grandmother learned of Ashima's pregnancy, she was particularly thrilled at the prospect of naming the family's first sahib. And so Ashima and Ashoke have agreed to put off the decision of what to name the baby until a letter comes...'

For now, the label on his hospital cot reads simply BABY BOY GANGULI. But as time passes and still no letter arrives from India, American bureaucracy takes over and demands that 'baby boy Ganguli' be given a name. In a panic, his father decides to…


Black Dove, White Raven

By Elizabeth Wein,

Book cover of Black Dove, White Raven

Why this book?

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Wein’s since I read her bestselling YA thriller Code Name Verity, and I was thrilled to discover she herself is a TCK. In this novel, two adopted siblings (one white, one Black), move from the US to Ethiopia in the 1930s, just before Ethiopia’s war with Italy. TCKs will relate to Teo and Em’s struggle with not feeling fully at home in any one place. Like all of Elizabeth Wein’s books, there is plenty of airplane-flying adventure to keep readers on the edge of their seats!

Black Dove, White Raven

By Elizabeth Wein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Dove, White Raven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Think of the sky!" Delia gave Momma's hands a shake. "Think of the sky in Ethiopia! What will it be like to fly in Africa?"

This New York Times bestseller is a story of survival, subterfuge, espionage and identity.

Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking - one white, one black - is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it's an anathema in others. Rhoda and Delia dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity determines their life. When…


Firekeeper's Daughter

By Angeline Boulley,

Book cover of Firekeeper's Daughter

Why this book?

The main character in this book is bicultural, white American and Native, but I really related to the way the author shows what it’s like to belong to two cultures that don’t necessarily understand each other—and the way someone can become a bridge between cultures because of that. I also really appreciated the main character’s struggles with the expectations people have of her based on what she looks like, which doesn’t match the fullness of her cultural identity.

Firekeeper's Daughter

By Angeline Boulley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Firekeeper's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PRINTZ MEDAL WINNER!
A MORRIS AWARD WINNER!
AN AMERICAN INDIAN YOUTH LITERATURE AWARD YA HONOR BOOK!

A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB YA PICK

An Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller

Soon to be adapted at Netflix for TV with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground.

“One of this year's most buzzed about young adult novels.” ―Good Morning America

A TIME Magazine Best YA Book of All Time Selection
Amazon's Best YA Book of 2021 So Far (June 2021)
A 2021 Kids' Indie Next List Selection
An Entertainment Weekly Most Anticipated Books of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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