Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community

book review

Author: Rosemary Dewerse
Publication details: Adelaide, SA: Mediacom Education Inc, 2013

Summary: Framing her book around the true Maori story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, Rosemary Dewerse invites readers to confront ideas of what is acceptable and unacceptable in their communities and to break culturally ingrained mindsets. Rosemary challenges a static concept of multiculturalism and argues the dominant group, in particular, must be proactive in promoting interculturality. Each of the book’s four chapters addresses a particular ‘calabash’: Caring for Identity breaks down the concept that “stereotypes are useful for understanding people”; Listen to Silenced Voices challenges the tendency to think “my voice is most worthy”; the third chapter confronts the idea that “cultural ignorance is bliss” by inviting readers towards a life of Nurturing Epistemic Ruptures; the final chapter, Dealing in Justice, addresses the attitude that “our kind are better than your kind”.   

Evaluation: Breaking Calabashes is a very honest book, presented with great humility and written with scholarship, humour and deep personal engagement. Rosemary tells real stories with which the reader can relate, yet the book packs a hidden punch through the interweaving of challenging questions, which invite the readers to take concrete, practical steps to address the issues raised. A leaders’ study guide is available and has the potential to be an excellent tool for congregations seeking to build truly intercultural spaces.

Reviewed by: Lesley Houston

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