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Reading: Becoming Cross-Cultural Kids in K. J. Fowler’s 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves'


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Becoming Cross-Cultural Kids in K. J. Fowler’s 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves'


Jessica Sanfilippo

About Jessica

Jessica Sanfilippo-Schulz is a first-year PhD researcher at the University of Leeds (School of English). She obtained her BA in English and Italian and her MA in National and Transnational Studies at the University of Muenster WWU, Germany. Jessica’s current research is focused on the life writing of contemporary creative figures who grew up navigating between multiple cultures, languages and nations.

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Anthropologists and biologists maintain disparate opinions in discussions on whether all primates are cultural creatures or not. In her contemporary novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2013), Karen Joy Fowler implies that there is culture in nature and that animals and humans deserve equal respect. This is also the view of the two protagonists, Rosemary and Lowell Cooke, who grow up on a farm with their chimpanzee sister Fern. Raised in both animal and human ‘cultures’ and worlds, the three Cooke siblings can be considered as ‘Cross-Cultural Kids’ (CCKs). In sociology, the term CCK refers to individuals who grow up among multiple cultural environments. Interdisciplinary in scope, this article uses CCK research from fields such as intercultural and  psychological studies alongside readings of Fowler’s text in order to argue that, because she grows up in multiple cultures, the novel’s narrator faces challenges which are common to many CCKs. As a young girl, Rosemary believes it is normal to mirror the culture of her chimpanzee sister. Yet, her school peers ridicule the ‘monkey girl’ and, similarly to many CCKs, Rosemary grows up feeling like an outsider. Due to her childhood experiences, as an adult Rosemary promotes the importance of respecting other cultures. By discussing what it means to be a human-animal in Fowler’s novel and by offering an innovative mode of adopting the CCK perspective, this article calls to attention the significance of cross-cultural interaction both in childhood and with nonhumans. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, greater recognition can be achieved through cross-cultural individuals, for all humans and nonhumans alike.

How to Cite: Sanfilippo, J., 2019. Becoming Cross-Cultural Kids in K. J. Fowler’s 'We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves'. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 4(1), pp.23–42. DOI:
Published on 01 Apr 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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