Marketing Transnational Childhoods: The Bio Blurbs of Third Culture Novelists
Sanfilippo, Jessica Schulz
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Many contemporary novelists experienced high levels of transnational mobility during their childhood and were thus raised ‘among’ different countries and cultures. Predominantly the offspring of diplomats, business executives, missionaries, military personnel and academics, these writers have compelling backgrounds of transnational and transient childhoods. Third Culture Kid (TCK), coined by the sociologist Ruth Useem, is the term given to this childhood experience. Until 2010, the term TCK was only used by sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, and cultural educators, but never before by scholars of literary studies. In 2011, Antje Rauwerda adapted this concept and coined the term ‘Third Culture Literature’ to describe the fictional writings by authors who share a ‘cultural background of expatriatism’. For Rauwerda, these novelists do not fit ‘a postcolonial, diasporic or cosmopolitan paradigm’ so that an up-to-date classification is needed for this new ‘subset of international writing’. The purpose of this article is to verify to what extent cultural identities are deployed in the marketing of Third Culture Literature. The article focuses on five contemporary well-known authors (such as Ian Martel and Ian McEwan) who have ‘grown up across worlds’ and analyses over 25 biographical details that are offered to readers by publishers in selected editions of their novels. The biographical details I examine are not only distributed in English but also, for example, in Arabic, Danish, German and Spanish. Not all publishers choose to portray their transnational authors in a ‘global’ light. However, due to the primarily international settings of Third Culture novels, many publishers either adopt the expatriate culture of their authors or adapt their biographies in order to kindle their target audiences.