Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Christine Gilbert's "Mother Tongue"

Christine Gilbert is a writer, photographer, and documentary filmmaker and is the creator of the popular blog Almostfearless.com.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Mother Tongue: My Family's Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish, and reported the following:
From page 99:
It only took a few days of sun and watermelon smoothies for the persistent throbbing in my forehead to go away. My sinuses cleared. The eight-hundred-pound gorilla that had been sitting on my chest for the last few months was gone. We took long walks on the Ping River, wearing flip-flops and T-shirts. Cole jumped at the opportunity to play with other kids, making friends with the guesthouse owner's toddler and playing happily in the dirt together with sticks.

At first we didn't talk about Beijing. We remained in a state of shock, making the motions of living - eating Thai food, reading books and playing with Cole - but an endless horizon of the unknown stretched out before us. Now what?

Childhood trauma is a wound that never heals. It scabs over, forms a scar. It fades to just a slivery thin line on your skin, a story you tell, the time that thing happened to you. But unlike physical wounds, it can break open again. I had packed away my childhood for a decade before having Cole. It was my origin story, but it didn't define me. I never used it as a crutch. In fact, I prided myself on most people never suspecting that I went through high school as a ward of the state, living in foster care. I got a little thrill if someone assumed I had an idyllic childhood. All I ever wanted was to fit in, to pass.
I loved this experiment. Page 99 in Mother Tongue caught a more serious tone than most of the rest of the book, which is about my family and I traveling in Beijing, Beirut and Mexico so I can learn to speak Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish. Page 99 hits us just as we are at a crossroads in our journey where we have to make a decision to keep trying this or call it quits and figure something else out entirely. At the time I was honestly ready to tell my publisher I quit. Thankfully I was given time to cool off, which I did.
Visit Christine Gilbert's website.

--Marshal Zeringue