Multilingualism and Multiculturalism meet the modern-day mobile life in one big messy way
Ever struggled to answer the question “where are you from”? Speak more than one language at the dinner table? Your kids celebrate Christmas AND Eid? You might just have a MOLA family.
A what now? Let me introduce you to
Mariam Ottimofiore and This Messy Mobile Life
I have had the pleasure of knowing Mariam for several years when we first connected through an expat bloggers group and she interviewed for us in our Global Parenting series about bringing up her first baby in Singapore as a Pakistani expat mum married to a German/Italian, having relocated from Copenhagen!
We subsequently followed up with Mariam when her family moved from Dubai to Ghana last year and have been following along with her complicated expat journey, as well as her exciting travel adventures on her personal blog And Then We Moved To.
I was so excited when Mariam announced last year she’d be writing a book. Her multiracial, multilingual, multicultural life is an incredible eye-opener as to what the modern-day mobile family actually looks like.
She had always come across as a happy-go-lucky, glass is half full kinda person, so what could we expect from This Messy Mobile Life?
This review is part of our expat life series. You can read all our previous book reviews here.
What to expect from This Messy Mobile Life
The book is based around the metaphor of a mola– a South American shirt made from intricately stitched layers of patterns and clothes – and how this represents mobile families living between cultures, countries, languages, nationalities, identities and homes.
Chapter by chapter, Mariam helps explain the intricate layers of your mola, and how to use her “MOLA toolkit” to design and show your story to the world, however intricate and complicated it may seem.
The book is a very personal account, with complete transparency on her own multicultural childhood, how she came to meet her husband, then subsequently start a family of their own over three continents in four languages.
Mariam draws heavily on expert opinions as well as a Global Mobility Survey conducted in 2018 in this well researched and eloquently written piece. Many relatable, real-life family examples are used to explain the MOLA approach giving it a personal touch.
At the end of each chapter, you are encouraged to reflect on how to apply the toolkit to your own situation. You are also provided with some handy conversation starters to explore the topics together with your MOLA family.
This Messy Mobile Life also contains a wealth of resources for further reading and support from books to websites and blogs that support the global family.
Who would this book suit?
Although there is a big focus on multilingualism and multiracial families, the book has a far-reaching audience.
Anyone whose undertaking any sort of expat posting, or married someone from outside their culture or faith would be able to relate to Mariam’s touching anecdotes, but more importantly, the questions that are raised and tactics for handling difficult situations as they arise.
Most books I have read around mobile families have not gone into as much depth about the roles of language and culture as a family unit. As a cross-cultural yet monolingual family, this has been a revelation for me as to the importance of language for retaining and building your family’s own sense of culture and belonging, regardless of the setting.
I would also thoroughly recommend This Messy Mobile Life to anyone working in supporting globally mobile families. Global HR, mobility specialists, international schools and relocation agents would also highly benefit from understanding the challenges faced in this increasing sector of the global workforce.
The expression “it takes a village” had never been truer and This Messy Mobile Life equips everyone in your village with useful tools and insights on how to support your MOLA family.
Globetrotters Recommend This Messy Mobile Life
This Messy Mobile Life really pulls together that rich tapestry that makes up today’s modern, mobile family. It teases out concepts I had only vaguely attached and has given me tactics on approaching many topics not only with our immediate family but explaining ourselves and our chosen lifestyle to family and friends too.
This is the sunny side up of mobile living with warts and all reality of what it’s like living under the wing of a multinational company and subject to constant instability yet new adventures ahead – whilst dealing with your own families racial and cultural identity.
I have always loved Mariam’s way with words and this is no exception. Thoroughly researched yet well articulated, let Mariam guide you through her own messy mobile life and help you find a design for your own.
It will be a firm inclusion on my expat bookshelf alongside The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide by Clara Wiggins and Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child by Julia Simens.
Where can I buy This Messy Mobile Life?
This Messy Mobile Life is published by Springtime Books and available from:
In Dubai, you can purchase from Santa Fe Relocations (email Christine.Sperr@santaferelo.com) for 100AED. More retailers coming soon.
A little more about Mariam
Pakistan-born Mariam is a writer, researcher and expatriate family specialist who grew up and lived in nine countries. Her husband is German/Italian and together they have raised their children in Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
You can follow Mariam’s blog “And Then We Moved To” as well as her Instagram where she gives more great insights and up-to-date mini-blog posts on their very own Messy Mobile Life.
You can also read our in-depth interview with Mariam here.
For more insights, advice and great reads on the expatriate life, head over to our Family Expats home page.
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