Nadia Owusu is an author and Third Culture Kid (TCK) who has lived in five countries as a child. She reflects on her experiences and hardships in her memoir “Aftershocks.”
Among us everyday are people who have survived and lived in a variety of places and cultures. Being an individual who grew up culturally mobile is especially unique because it adds a hidden diversity in a world among billions. Understanding others’ cultural fluidity and acknowledging this remarkable hidden diversity around us allows an understanding of their meaningful experiences.
Nadia Owusu’s early life
Owusu, winner of the 2019 Whiting Award, has created a space to acknowledge the hardships of being a TCK who was very culturally mobile in her developmental years. Owusu was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She was raised in Italy, Ethiopia, England, Ghana, and Uganda. Now she works at a consulting firm in Brooklyn, New York, USA. Her most profound work that touches on her unique childhood was her memoir “Aftershocks,” which explores her trauma as a child.
Life as a Third Culture Kid
Owusu’s book “Aftershocks” discusses extremely powerful and devastating experiences she went through as a child. In an interview with Anita Sethi from “The Guardian,” Owusu says she “wrote this as a way to process trauma.” Owusu was abandoned by her Armenian-American mother at the age of two. Her father (who was Ghanaian) died from cancer when Owusu was 13.
Owusu also writes about the disasters of being culturally mobile before her father’s tragic death in relation to the emotional trauma she has experienced. At the age of seven, an earthquake had destroyed her mother’s hometown of Armenia. During the earthquake, she recalls her mother visiting her family in Rome (where she lived with her father) only for her mom to leave again with a new husband. She says, “I wanted to show how our private disasters happen in the midst of larger forces that shape our lives without us realizing – from natural disasters to war and genocide and terrorism.”
Owusu was a culturally mobile child because her father worked for a United Nations (UN) agency where he responded to crises such as famine and war. She grew up moving countries every couple of years due to this. In her book, she explains how with all the moving, it was extremely challenging figuring out who she was and maintaining friendships. While she may have been culturally mobile, she was indefinitely left emotionally immobile.
Her father’s working for a UN agency meant living in places where conflict was higher, more intense, with a higher likelihood of insecurity. She lived in Ethiopia at one point during a civil war and a drought where she mentions that “there’s inequality everywhere.”
I wanted to show how our private disasters happen in the midst of larger forces that shape our lives without us realizing – from natural disasters to war and genocide and terrorism.
Despite her emotional trauma, her life hardships, and her struggles all around, Nadia Owusu was able to attend college and graduate from Pace University and Hunter College. Today, Owusu works at a black-founded and black-owned firm called Frontline Solutions that drive social change organizations to make an impact by evaluating goals and implementing plans for change.
For more information, you can visit her website at https://www.nadiaaowusu.com/.