Summer Land has encountered all kinds of unexpected adventures since moving from America to Australia, and she bares it all in her latest book.
Her second novel, I Now Pronounce You Husband and Expat, shares tales of migration, marriage, motherhood and all the things in between.
“It’s a brutally honest and hopefully funny look at what it’s like to be American in Australia,” she said.
As the title of the book suggests, life as an expat is a central focus.
“It’s about that cross-cultural misadventure: adjusting to new work, new food, driving on a different side of the road, the different political set up,” Land said.
But she said the book is also very much a love story.
After meeting an Australian man on the ski slopes of Utah, she followed him to the small country town of Mudgee in New South Wales, where they eventually got married and had two children.
“I am here (in Australia) because of my husband,” she said.
“I still grapple with the fact that I love my girlfriends as much as my husband… and I left all of them for this one person, which I think is crazy. But I still want to go on this adventure with him and still feel we’re very much in the middle of it. So, female friendship is also a key theme in the book.”
Life as an expat: ‘It’s hard to know where to focus my attention’
After almost 10 years of living in Australia, Land said she is finally starting to feel settled in her adopted home.
She used to go back to the US almost every year to visit family and friends but since “staying put” in Mudgee for longer periods, she has felt more connected to the place.
“I think staying put in your town, even for just a little bit, helps because you end up investing more time and more energy where you are,” she said.
Land said she also makes efforts to get involved with her local community to feel more integrated.
“As soon as I found people that liked it here and were locals, that’s when I really got to feel at home. I think for me to feel adjusted to this town, I had to hang out with people who were actually from here, for them to show me the best of their town,” she said.
In many ways, life as an expat comes with mixed emotions.
Arriving in Australia at the end of 2010, Land said she left the US at a time that “has never been more unstable”, with the election of Donald Trump as president, and the Me Too and Time’s Up movements all taking place since her departure.
“On one hand, I feel like my country is broken and I’m so afraid to go back. On the other hand, I feel like I have abandoned it and I should be there, still fighting for things that I believe in. Even though I don’t’ live there (in the US), my friends do, and family does, and they still need to be advocated for. It’s hard to know where to focus my attention,” Land said.
Book two was harder to write
I Now Pronounce You Husband and Expat continues from Land’s first novel Summerlandish: Do as I Say, Not as I Did, a memoir about growing up in Florida as the outspoken, outrageous child of an alternative single mother.
With two memoirs under her belt, it’s safe to assume that Land enjoys sharing the intimate details of her personal life with her readers.
She cites Lena Dunham and Chelsea Handler as writers that “are willing to bear it all” who inspired her to find her own voice.
“It’s an important part of building your own voice, speaking with vulnerability and putting it all out there,” she said.
“It (memoir) is what I like to read – it’s what touches me the most and I find it connects.”
Even though she has written a book before, Land admits that the writing process was harder for her second book because she felt extra pressures and expectations.
“This time, I felt it had to be better because people are going to have opinions,” she said.
Land also found she had to sit with her second book for longer – the book was finished in 2016 but she spent a couple more years refining it before it was published.
“I maybe wrote it too soon. I think I needed to do a lot more living. It needed an ending and it needed a point,” she said.
I Now Pronounce You Husband and Expat by Summer Land is out now. Purchase a copy here.