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The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays    by Tara L. Masih order for
Chalk Circle
by Tara L. Masih
Order:  USA  Can
Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2012 (2012)

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The Chalk Circle is a collection of intercultural prizewinning essays edited by Tara L. Masih, an Indian-American woman with an undergraduate degree in English, a minor in sociology, and an MA in Writing and Publishing. Masih prefers the term intercultural to multicultural, because she sees it as more inclusive, and she started the annual Intercultural Essay contest, hosted by Soul-Making Keats Literary Awards, from which these essays were chosen.

The American writers are sometimes mixed race and sometimes have life experiences that have opened their eyes and hearts to other races and cultures because of where and how they were raised. Some have had painful experiences of being taunted and harassed. Christine Stark writes about losing some of her paintings in a fire, apparently set on purpose by someone who didnít want her kind around. I'm not going to explain what that kind was, since she and the other authors explain their problems fitting in so beautifully.

The essays speak of the countries the writers or their parents or grandparents came from. They tell stories about growing up as the only one or family of their race or nationality in a foreign country, and always feeling homeless as adults because of that. There is such a range of experience here that it's hard to do justice to the collection. Some of the chapter headings can give an idea of this range - Letters of Identity, The Tragedy of the Color Line, Eyewitness: as Seen by Another - but this doesn't reveal the range of emotion from deep sorrow to humor that appears.

I really enjoyed reading these accounts. Even the sad ones open up our eyes to the vast range of experience of other people, and reinforce the central truth that we all share our central humanity, that we all feel hurt by slights, learn to love or hate in much the same way, and live our lives as best we can.

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