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'Love in a Global Village' chronicles intercultural families

In Kalona, Iowa, friends of the Hussey family have come to expect an answering machine that greets them in English and Mandarin Chinese. The Hussey household is a mix of two cultures. Jim grew up in Iowa; his wife, Jean, in Taiwan. They met in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a gathering of international students and American mentors.

The couple is one of more than a dozen to share their impressions in "Love in a Global Village: A Celebration of Intercultural Families in the Midwest" (University of Iowa Press, $19.95). It features interviews with couples in intercultural marriages.

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The result is a series of diverse personal histories that testify to these couples' ability to "settle and thrive in what may seem the most unlikely places," the authors write, challenging stereotypes of American families and communities.

Jim Hussey says the coexistence of intercultural families in monocultural, white Midwestern society is not that hard to understand. He observes in the book: "My theory on it is that if you are in a place where the majority is such a majority, where they never feel threatened, then there's no real reason to give anyone a hard time."

In some respects, the book is about courtship, about how loving relationships evolve between people with open minds and hearts. The soil for many of these, it's clear, is sown in earlier culture-bridging experiences. For example, Mr. Hussey grew up in Iowa City, a university town, where he had friends of many nationalities. His wife's family, meanwhile, had already adjusted to an American in their midst: One of Jean Hussey's sisters had wed an Ohioan.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society