Rituals of Separation: A South Korean Memoir of Identity and Belonging

Available on Amazon.com


When her American family returns to the U.S. after sixteen years in South Korea, Liz is a hidden immigrant. Her mixed-up cultural identity is veiled behind the face of the girl down the street. She’s the granddaughter of upper-class Americans, but her homeland is a divided Asian peninsula of neon-lit cities, five-hundred-year-old palaces, and army dictators. Rice tells the story of her life in South Korea from ages nine months to sixteen, the influence of the tragedy and tension of the Korean peninsula, and the story of her parents, who walked arm-in-arm with social activists during South Korea’s democratic revolution. Told with honesty and humor, Rituals of Separation captures the tension of living between identities, the deep longing for home, and the determination to find healing in the face of unrecoverable loss.

Praise for Rituals of Separation:

“Told with unflinching honesty Rituals of Separation perfectly captures the untethered nature of being torn between two cultures. Part memoir, part history, Rice expertly weaves the tale of her parents, her own childhood, and the experiences of the Korean people during those tumultuous years into a highly readable and enjoyable book. Once I started it, I could not put it down, and I have gone back time and again to re-read it…”

“I have been reading this book while alternately weeping and laughing. I can see the neighborhoods, smell the soup, feel the cold of permafrost winters of our dear homeland. I was never so surprised after a couple hours to look up and find myself in Tennessee! Thank you for wording our sense of double belonging.”

“A beautifully written memoir about transitions and belonging. People who have lived internationally, especially as children, will appreciate the author’s descrption of sorrow and loss of culture and community. Knowing someone else has gone through the transition, will help others through the grief process.”

“Rituals of Separation is ultimately a joyous celebration of the ‘in between’ and will speak deeply to those whose identity was forged between and across divergent cultures and places.”

About the Author

Elizabeth Rice grew up for sixteen years in Seoul, South Korea as the daughter of social activist Presbyterian missionaries. That experience came to define her cultural and national identity. After moving back to the US for college, she spent a number of years working in the NGO sector in public health, immigrant and refugee, and community development nonprofits from Lusaka, Zambia to Jackson, Mississippi to Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2008 she left that work to write about her childhood in South Korea and the difficult aftermath of trying to make a home in the country of her passport, a place she did not belong to. The result, Rituals of Separation, is her first book.

She is currently living between Costa Rica and Vermont.

Elizabeth has a Master of Public Administration degree from University of Washington and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Boston University.


What is a Third Culture Kid?

Third culture kid (TCK) is a term used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the culture of the country given on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years.

The term was first coined by researchers John and Ruth Useem in the 1950s, who used it to describe the children of American citizens working and living abroad. Ruth Useem first used the term after her second year-long visit to India with her fellow sociologist/anthropologist husband and three children.

There are considered to be particular benefits to and challenges resulting from growing up as a TCK. Because of their cross-cultural upbringing, TCKs are considered to often have an expanded world view, a more multi-dimensional understanding of the world and cultures, and sometimes cultural adaptability. Challenges include difficulty adjusting to adult life, especially on return to passport country, feelings of isolation, and feelings of non-belonging.

There are numerous resources to learn more about issues pertaining to Third Culture Kids, Cross-Cultural Kids, Global Nomads, and those who are asking questions about issues of place and belonging.

The mission of Interaction International is to be a catalyst and a resource working cooperatively in the development of programs, services and publications to provide and contribute to an ongoing flow of care that meets the needs of Third Culture Kids* (TCKs) and internationally mobile families. http://www.interactionintl.org

Denizen is an online magazine and community dedicated to people who grew up in multiple countries, international school alumni, or Third Culture Kids.

TCKid is a active global community of Third Culture Kid (TCK) adults and youth across geographical boundaries.

Read the Reviews

“A beautifully written memoir about transitions and belonging. People who have lived internationally, especially as children, will appreciate the author’s descrption of sorrow and loss of culture and community. Knowing someone else has gone through the transition, will help others through the grief process.”

“Ms. Rice’s book is a sensitive and sincere memoir. I found her complex journey toward personal identity reconciliation genuine, heart wrenching, and beautiful. She has an enjoyable straightforward manner, blending personal impressions, historical context from turbulent times, and an awe and appreciation for all the people, especially her parents, working to better the lives of those in need around them. I highly recommend!”

“This is an extremely well written book which enables the reader to experience the history and the heart of Korea. At the same time, it helps explain the complex lives of those who live in a country which is not their “own” and yet that is what it becomes. I highly recommend it.”

“Reading Liz’s remarkable story you can’t help but ask questions about yourself. What place or places define me — where am I at home? How do you reconcile the person you see today with all the places that make that person. It’s a beautiful story- read it.”

(Amazon customer reviews)


%d bloggers like this: