Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Living around the globe with Melissa Dalton-Bradford...plus a book giveaway

Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

Today's guest and I have three things in common: Our first names, we're both moms and we've lived in New Jersey for a brief period of time. That's where the similarities end though, as Melissa Dalton-Bradford has lived in multiple foreign countries and has written a book about her experiences called Global Mom (reviewed here).

Melissa Dalton-Bradford is a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, writer, independent scholar, professional soprano, avid reader, and a serious avoider of all things mathematical. She holds a BA in German and an MA in Comparative Literature, (both from Brigham Young University), and speaks, read and write fluent German, French, and Norwegian. (She's also conversant in Mandarin.) Melissa has taught language (English and German), humanities and writing on the university level, have served on the editorial board of Segullah, a women’s literary magazine, and has published award-winning poetry and prose. And that's not all... In Vienna (city of opera), Melissa began singing seriously, and has over the decades since then performed professionally as a concert soloist and musical theater actress in the U.S., Scandinavia, Central Europe, and South East Asia. She and her husband, Randall, have lived in Vienna and Hong Kong, and have raised their four children (Parker, Claire, Dalton, and Luc) in Oslo, Paris, Munich, and Singapore.

You can find Melissa at her blog and on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to BookSparks PR, we have one copy of Global Mom for a lucky US reader.

What was the biggest adjustment you've had to make during any of your moves?
The biggest adjustment by far in any move anywhere was the transition to Munich from Paris, which was also when we moved from being an "intact" family to a broken one, after the tragic and untimely death of our oldest, Parker. It requires phenomenal energy and focus to handle a major international move with a new language, culture, school system and a new job for my husband. But it takes exponentially more energy and focus to remain vertical - and help your surviving family members remain vertical - after major traumatic loss. That move eclipsed anything I'd ever managed before.

What was the easiest language for you to learn?
German, because I began learning it the best way possible; when I was a child, through natural contact with native speakers, and on native soil. I refined it much later in life in my 20's, but already had a pretty darned good foundation set in place years earlier.

Is there something you had to leave out of your book for length purposes but would like to share about briefly here?
This question makes me laugh! I had to leave out a whole second book for length purposes! Seriously, my biggest challenge as a writer is trimming. I do have many, many stories to tell. . .We cut an entire chapter describing solo trans-global airline travel with four young children. We hauled all their gear and I hauled my children, including one a chest-pack and one a backpack. And I recall that delightful moment when my toddler projectile vomited right into the big open designer bag of the woman sitting in the row behind me, and the flight attendant, unwilling to help out, told me, chawnking her gum, "Who ever throws up, cleans up."

Oh, and that time in Hong Kong when I was locked in a sweltering, flea-infested, outdoor laundry room all day long and in - how shall I put this delicately?- in the most compromising state: unclothed and with my newborn baby at my breast. I can shake my head and laugh until I cry now, but those were ten dangerous and frightening hours. I cried for real.

(I nursed that same baby while squatting in rat-infested alleys, while standing on public buses holding onto ceiling straps, and while holding an unfolded map in my teeth as a sort of privacy shield while crushed into elevators in China.)

I would have loved to have included more input from other family members' perspectives. I'd thought of writing an entire chapter solely from the POV of my husband, for instance. And I tinkered with the concept of a chapter each from each child's perspective for added color and texture, especially in the chapters regarding early grief, when everyone was floundering in his or her own way. But I knew this was not intended primarily as a grief memoir, and so I limited myself there.

Are you still in contact with people from places you've lived in the past? If so, who are you closest with?
I am in regular contact with many of my friends from Norway, Versailles, Paris, Munich and Singapore. My friends from New York, Hong Kong and Vienna have been harder to maintain a grip on, only because I lived there long before the advent of Facebook, (and even before email!), and so I've had to do FB searches for them.

From Norway, we are still close to the Karlssons, (Christian and Bente, if you remember them from the book), Idar, Turid, many friends from the island where we lived, our children's school teachers, some of my musician friends, and several of Randall's work colleagues. From France, I have a vibrant FB connection with nearly every girlfriend mentioned in the narrative, and since we now live in Switzerland, France is next door, and we return often to maintain our friendships there. We are deeply attached to our school and church communities in Paris. The assistant headmaster of the American School of Paris, Aaron Hubbard, became like a brother to us, and the simple sight of certain ASP faculty and students is potent for me. Those ties are life-sustaining.

Our Munich and Singapore friends we see almost as regularly, odd as that seems, since Germany is close to Switzerland, and our Singapore friends tend to travel to us. Our two youngest, Dalton and Luc, have maintained fierce ties to those Singapore friends, and we have spent vacation time with them whenever possible. Of course, social media has utterly transformed our sense of connectedness, but nothing compares to sitting and talking in the real world.

Come to think of it, as I write this I am in NYC for book promotions, but have been in daily FB or texting contact with friends from every place we have lived. Yesterday, one of Dalton's best friends from Singapore, now heading for university in the US, met us on Time Square. And just this morning, some of our dearest friends from Paris, John and Renee (from the book), met us at Lincoln Center.

If "Global Mom" were made into a movie, who would you want to play your role?
Ah, this is hard. It would have someone who can play a blonde American, who sings professionally, speaks several languages convincingly, can do comedy as well as drama, and can age from her mid-twenties to late-forties. (It helps if she hyperventilates over math.) My idol, as you can guess, is Meryl Streep. But from the looks of her, she went past algebra in high school. Darn.

What is the strangest food you've ever eaten in any of the places where you've lived?
Monkey brain in China. Bear in Finland. Cheez-Spread in a tube in Pennsylvania.

Your "About" page on your blog mentions that you are a singer. What is your favorite song to perform?
Another torturous question! There are so many answers - from Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns", Bach's "Erbarme Dich" and "Bist Du Bei Mir", to Grieg's "Solveig's Sang" to "La Valse a Mille Temps", ABBA's "Like An Angel Passing Through The Room", to "Over My Head", a delicate spiritual.

But if I have to settle on one, I'd say I enjoy "Summertime" from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess", because I can sing it very high (as it was written) and as I studied it with Anne Brown (who was the original "Bess", and who happened to live in Norway). Or I can sing it in my lowest jazz register, as I really did in jazz clubs Oslo. "Summertime" has been sung by everyone on the planet, I know that, and yes, I've even heard in turned into generic elevator music. But that solo carries special personal significance for me. You'll understand when you read my book.

And when you listen to the audio version I recorded, I actually sing it!

Just for fun, who is your favorite celebrity with the first name Melissa?
Finally, an easy question. Melissa Amster. Of course!

(Melissa A: *Blush*)

Thanks to Melissa for a wonderful visit and BookSparks PR for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends August 26th at midnight EST.


Tina B said...

If I could live in another country for a year it would be Europe!!!

Connie said...

I was lucky enough to live in Paris for six years and raise our two sons there. I understand and sympathize with a lot of the things that you face living in another country. It takes a lot of bravery, guts and determination but it’s oh so worth it!

Nova said...

I would definitely go to France!

susieqlaw said...


Bonnie K. said...

I would love to stay in England and also visit the neighboring countries, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

PuttPutt1198Eve said...

I've always wanted to live in a smaller town in England.

Melanie Backus said...

I never have been to England so I would choose to live there and travel about to take in all I could.

Anonymous said...

I believe I met Melissa and her daughter Claire in PA,right before they moved again. They taught us a song about Sunflowers that they wrote. I found them to be very dynamic, and wished I could have gotten to know them better.
I would live in New Zealand!

Melody said...

Wonderful stories. Great interview. Thank you. What say we all meet up in Paris sometime?

bn100 said...


pascale said...

I DID live in france for one year. It was hard, great, terrible, fun, scary and lonely. I was cooking there, and that is tough for a woman. I was actually pretty miserable. However, the minute I returned home to the US, I knew that it was the best thing I could have ever done.

So, if I had to do it again.... FRANCE and a very close second would be Great Britain.

This book sounds great