Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Crossing Borders by Michael Ferris

Michael Ferris grew up in Michigan but when he left home to go to school, he went farther than most 18 year olds. He went all the way to Austria in order to go to music school. This memoir tells of some of his experiences living abroad for 12 years now.

Ferris opens his memoir talking about his untraveled younger self and getting to Europe. Once he is there, many of his experiences revolve around cultural misunderstandings (both those made by him and those made by others) and culture shock. Meeting not only Austrians but also people from various other countries in Europe and Africa broadens his horizons and makes him more sensitive to the simple differences that we sometimes misinterpret negatively instead of realizing them for what they are: different expectations and actions dictated by our cultural beliefs, harmless but important to recognize in fostering understanding.

The memoir is very short and made up of not quite fully realized vignettes. Chapter transitions are choppy and I had to double check that I hadn't skipped pages several times as the jumps in time can be disconcerting and unexpected. When Ferris describes cultural traditions unfamiliar to Americans, his tone takes on that of a pedant, which was out of keeping with his more conversational tone elsewhere. And while this was a quick read, it strikes me more as the type of book that's lovely for his family to have but not polished or fleshed out enough for a larger audience. In all fairness, the reviewers at amazon disagree with me entirely and have seen something here that I clearly missed so by all means check their opinions out as well.

Thanks to the author and Pump Up Your Book Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

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