The Dyslexic Hearts Club

Initially published in 2014, The Dyslexic Hearts Club is the second novel by Hanneke Hendrix. Born in 1980, Hanneke Hendrix grew up in a small southern town in the Netherlands. She studied writing at the University for the Arts in Utrecht and philosophy at Nijmegen’s Radboud University. As a writer, Hendrix writes for literary production companies, radio, podcasts, theatre groups, festivals, and various journals. Her first book, De Verjaardagen (translation: The Birthdays) was shortlisted for the Dioraphte Prize, the Academia Debut Prize, and the Woman and Culture Prize. Essentially this is the tale of three women who escape from a secure burns unit while under police guard to embark on a crazed road trip. Their escapades gain wide public interest as the media disperse daily updates on their attempts to avoid capture. Three smoking women The narrative opens with three women sharing a small hospital room. All three have severe burns of a non-accidental nature and are being detained in the room pending legal investigation. The story is told from the viewpoint of Anna van Veen. She quickly becomes entwined in the lives of her two room-mates as they share personal stories to deal with the long empty days stuck in a small confined space. The pace quickens when the three escape from the hospital, steal a car and kick off a nationwide chase that grabs the attention of the Dutch public. Along the way the reader is exposed to further details of the situations leading to the women meeting one another in the hospital. Additional characters are introduced as the three purloin clothes, food, money and vehicles in their race to avoid the authorities. The joy of running riot Described as quirky and bizarre, the characters, dialogue and plot may not hold up under close scrutiny – yet somehow this is part of the fun. The personal stories that the three women tell one another unravel to include more fact and less fantasy as the story progresses. It is an effective tool Hendrix has used to keep the reader turning pages. The title of the novel refers to the name the women give themselves on discovering they share the trait of being unable to make sense of the feelings they have, even though others have explained the feelings to them many times. It also relates to the 1992 song by Paul Westerberg Dyslexic Hearts. The Dyslexic Hearts Club is an entertaining, fast-paced read. Translator, David Doherty, has competently incorporated the black humor into the English version of the novel, which was published in 2016 by World Editions. With obvious similarities to the film Thelma and Louise this novel begs to become the first Dutch road film. The Dyslexic Hearts Club was nominated for the BNG Literary Award in 2014. Ana McGinley  More >






Amsterfam

Amsterfam

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Amsterdamming

Amsterdamming

Three years in Amsterdam and counting! Daily journeys through the streets of this cosy and beautiful city. More >



Dutch Wannabe

Dutch Wannabe

Lesia is the writer behind Dutch Wannabe, a travel blog focusing on culture-oriented travel in The Netherlands and bey More >



European Mama

European Mama

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I love Noord

I love Noord

North Amsterdam is described as the Brooklyn of the Dutch capital. If you want to know why, read this blog. More >


Learn to cycle in Amsterdam

This gorgeous how-to book brings out all of the rules and norms of cycling in Amsterdam alongside amazing pictures of every day cycling experiences. Get it for anyone who comes to visit and needs a primer before heading out on a bike in the city. Author Xing Chen is a neuroscientist who moved to the Netherlands for work in 2014. She grew up in Singapore and lived in the UK and the US before arriving here. She learned how to ride a bike as a child, but quickly learned that the cycle paths of Amsterdam were nothing like the quiet suburban streets she was used to. The book is divided into five chapters, covering bikes and bike accessories; road signs; tips and etiquette; behavior and weather. Do you have any idea what all of the road signs mean? You will after you read this. Cycling for dummies It is, essentially, a cycling for dummies book. The material is dry in places, but so are the cycling rules. There’s an enjoyable narrative about the author in the beginning but what mostly keeps the book entertaining are the photos. Many of them were taken by Shirley Agudo, the photographer behind The Dutch and Their Bikes and showcase the interesting and weird things you may see while cycling in Amsterdam. But the photos also extensively showcase the traffic signs, conditions and road layouts you might encounter while biking. As the title suggests, the book is wholly focused on Amsterdam. While most of the information is valid across the Netherlands, there are some specific things that only apply to the city itself, such as information about local bike rental shops and the police contact details. Fortunately, if you want to find any of this information out for your own city, it’s fairly easy to search for or to find on your local council website. The book is small, making it easy to carry with you and would make for a great gift for newcomers. Or keep it around your house for guests who are nervous about venturing out on their own. Buy this book  More >


Safe Passage

In the process of moving families around the world, the task of finding international schools with available places for children is sometimes the deal-breaker. While most international schools offer consistency in language, education and teaching philosophy, these schools have also been given the task of helping children to establish themselves within the school community. A new book by Douglas Ota argues that many students in international schools are suffering, psychologically and academically, due to an absence of available support during the transitional phases of joining and leaving the school environment. Hence, children are grieving the loss of the safe lives they had known, as they navigate through an unknown new school system, resulting in negative implications on confidence, self-identity and learning. As a Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), psychologist and previous school counsellor at The American School in The Hague (ASH), Ota presents relevant psychological theories and research, adding personal anecdotes to advocate the need for transitional programmes in international schools. His book Safe Passage – How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It begins by considering the psychological stress children face when parents are relocated to a new country.  He utilises attachment theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to identify the responses of children and staff members confronted by the ever-changing population of students and staff in international schools. In later chapters, Ota presents a transitional model based on ‘Safe Harbour’, the programme he designed and introduced at The American School. Over seven chapters, this model is detailed in its design construction, implementation and evaluation phases. The book concludes with eight ‘Messages in Bottles’ – or letters to the relevant stake-holders: students, parents, teachers, administrators, board members, counsellors, human resource managers, and admissions staff – that identify the need for a transition programme from their specific individual perspective. These messages offer a quick learning, or Cliff Notes option, for readers not wanting to read the entire book. Safe Passage is based on thorough research conducted by an obviously highly experienced psychologist. The bibliography, notes and CIS accreditation standards total 32 pages, indicating that this book is more educational psychology textbook than a general expat resource guide. Even as a parent of children who have been in the international school system in different countries, Safe Passage is an intense book, yet it should be a mandatory read for all staff of international schools. Helping to ease children through the transitional phase, central in expat lifestyles, is crucial in ensuring these children are happy, confident and able to fully benefit from the academic programmes on offer at international schools. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Old Heart

Old Heart is a novel about Tom Johnson, an 85-year old American widower who embarks on a mission to find Sarah van Praag, the Dutch woman he fell in love with during WWII. Tom’s journey takes him back to Veldhoven, a small town close to Eindhoven in the southern province of North Brabant, where he had been stationed during the war. In doing so, he eludes his adult children, Brooks and Christine, who have their own motives for wanting to see their father relocated in a local retirement village. His relationships with all family members are beautifully detailed throughout the novel. Old Heart is about love, loss, aging, relationships and self-discovery. It is a story of Dutch people and culture, from an American perspective.  Ferry’s portrayal of Veldhoven and its inhabitants rings true, a consequence of him having lived in the town as a Fulbright exchange teacher in 1991-2. As a novelist the author displays remarkable talent in transposing the story through timeframes, continents and narrators. Ferry refuses to take the easy path by jumping to fairy tale conclusions. Every character is complex and their negative attributes are clearly displayed. This full exposure gives the characters substance and the plot credibility. At no time is the reader presented with a stereotypical ‘sweet old person’ character – often found in books and films, but never found in real life. Old Heart requires the reader to question the idea that making decisions and taking chances is something older people are incapable of doing. Setting the tale in the Netherlands, both in the present day and during WWII, offers a Dutch cultural and historical perspective, which is softly differentiated from that apparent in North America. Old Heart is a thought-provoking and entertaining novel. Highly recommended. Ana McGinley  More >


Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between

Born in the UK to American parents, O’Shaughnessy has lived, been educated, explored and worked in more than 90 countries. His experiences are incorporated into Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between providing humorous personal anecdotes to explain the issues frequently experienced by expat kids relocating to new countries as dictated by the jobs of one or both parents. Specifically the book looks at what it is to be a Third Culture Kid (TCK), Cross Culture Kid (CCK) and Invisible Alien. Definitions are provided with reference to earlier work by Ruth van Reken, Dr Ruth Hill Useem and David C. Pollock. In short, all three labels refer to children who have grown up outside their parents own culture in temporarily adopted countries – and as a result have an ambiguous national or cultural self-identity. Chapter One opens with a tale of self identity resilience in the face of opposing pressure from others and the identity they have of you. In this specific childhood example, O’Shaughnessy believed he was a robot – a fact confirmed by static electricity in his bed-sheets. When confronted with the fact that he was not a robot - rather 'just normal, nothing special' (p5) he felt a sense of disappointment akin to the response many expat children feel on registering that their foreign-ness in a new school environment does not make them special with their peers. In the following seven chapters, O’Shaughnessy covers the implications of being TCK and CCK on personality development (adaptability, confidence), social relationships (guardedness, fitting in, conflict management), future directions (being rootless and restless), feelings of grief and loss, and the benefits of having a wider understanding of cultures, languages and global communities. Each chapter ends with a list of the points covered and references included in the text. The reader can also access additional information by scanning quick response barcodes found throughout the book with their smart phones. As a verified TCK, adult global citizen, and travel adventure addict - Chris O’Shaughnessy has the prerequisite credentials to write about the experience of growing up as an expat child. His personal stories are hilarious examples of the educational information he is presenting. Arrivals, Departures and the Adventures In-Between is a highly recommended read for anyone who has taken up the exciting challenge of becoming a global citizen with kids in tow. Further, for adults who were raised globally and now hesitate when asked questions like ‘where are you from?’ or ‘where do you consider home?’ - this book will not give you the answers, but it will help explain your hesitation. Ana McGinley  More >


How to be Orange

How to be Orange, offers an insightful look at Dutch culture by social commentator and comedian, Greg Shapiro. Shapiro's extensive knowledge of Dutch culture and politics has been accrued over twenty years of living and working in the Netherlands. His cultural immersion has involved marriage to a Dutch woman and parenting first generation Dutch children, while living in Amsterdam and forging a durable career within the local art scene. In the Netherlands, Shapiro is the immigrant people laugh at. He happily accepts this fate, not just because it is how he makes his living, but because it indicates that his efforts at inburgering have been a success. Shapiro is an American, obvious in many ways including numerous comparisons of the Netherlands to the US throughout the book. His birth culture is the basis for what formulates his views about his adopted land. An example is chapter 22 on Dutch service, renowned for being non-existent if you are lucky, and terrible if your luck is running short. Shapiro rates service in North America as sitting on the other end of the hospitality scale - something akin to being downright annoying due to desire of earnest staff to increase their tips by attentive servitude. Stage show The book is the offspring of the author's stage show, and hence the material has been tried and tested in terms of relevance to the audience/reader experience. Newcomers to the Netherlands will identify with topics like dealing with government bureaucracies that don't make sense acquiring a cheap, used bike from unscrupulous sources feeling insulted by Dutch honesty and the irrational love of Zwarte Piet in a land that is otherwise unable to gracefully accept racial differences into its mix. Difficult topics are tackled with facts, sharp insights and often hilarious, personal anecdotes. Presented in two parts, part one contains 24 short chapters interspersed with caricature illustrations of Shapiro by Floor de Goede, and photos of Dutch things that become laughable in translation. Exam Part Two is the Assimilation Exam, a list of questions and answers used in the National Inburgering Test, a test of Dutch cultural understanding for foreigners. This second part emphasizes the idiosyncrasies of Dutch culture that are difficult to understood even for the Dutch, yet can be found in the examination questions for newcomers. Again, Shapiro addresses the odd image the Dutch have of themselves, compared to how the world sees the Dutch. A good example is the multiple choice question about where Dutch people go on holidays (p235). The answer that is officially correct is: A) The Netherlands, yet Shapiro states that the true answer is actually: B) In France and Spain. Most Dutch people, and camping ground staff in France and Spain, would agree with Shapiro. How to be Orange is not an official guide book to Dutch culture, yet the inclusion of this book on the essential reading lists of cultural assimilation courses would save newcomers unnecessary frustration in understanding their host country. For the rest of us, the book is a compendium of humorous subjects presented with respect, wit and sarcasm by an American with a strong attachment to the people and culture of his adopted homeland. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


NLXL – possibly the biggest book about the Netherlands you have ever seen

The Netherlands might like to consider itself a small country - a kleine kikkerlandje, as the Dutch are so fond of saying - but this is one mighty big book. Karel Tomei's NLXL weighs in at a whopping 3.5 kilos but is such a joy to look at that you will forget the weight on your knees. The book draws on the tradition of birds eye view paintings in which the world is captured from the skies: the intricate patterns of reclaimed land crisscrossed by ditches, the contrast between bulb fields and a golf course, great swathes of sand with a city in the distance, a drone's view of a busy cafe terrace, the intricate carvings on the roof of a cathedral. But it's the landscape that really rules NLXL - the Netherlands might be oh so very flat, but it still has amazing variation in its countryside - from the seaside dunes to the southern heaths, from the the seals sunning themselves on a sandbank to intricate cityscapes. NLXL will make a stunning, if heavy, present for anyone who loves the Netherlands in all its variations. You can buy NLXL at all good bookshops and online from Xpat Media   More >


Roxy

Esther Gerritsen seems to specialise in writing about calamitous female characters. Her 2012 prize-winning novel, Dorst (published in English translation as Craving) featured Coco, a young woman embarking on a journey of self-destruction after learning that her mother is dying. In Roxy, the main character of the same name, quickly unravels upon learning that her husband and his young intern have been found naked and dead in his car. Her disintegration is disturbingly ugly - drawing an analogy between the reader and Roxy, who describes herself as the type of person who 'always want to look when there’s an accident on the motorway.'   Who is Roxy? Roxy, the only child of a working class parents, spends her childhood in a small town in North Brabant. Her father is a long-distance truck driver who revels in telling his jokes to strangers. Her mother routinely enjoys her wine to excess. After writing a book, loosely autobiographical, Roxy attracts some fame and quickly meets Arthur, a television producer 30 years her senior. Arthur whisks Roxy away from her parents, to a new life of comfort, celebrity and money. The novel opens with 27-year-old Roxy being told by police that her husband has died in a car accident. She takes the information and goes back to bed, deciding that by not telling Louise, her three-year-old daughter, or notifying family and friends, she can delay making the news a reality at least until the morning. This proves to be her modus operandi – delaying or refusing to confront her own pain by indulging in behaviour that distracts her from facing her true emotions. Her conduct picks up speed and intensity as the novel progresses, starting with Roxy having sex with the undertaker and ending with her flipping sheep on their backs (a dubious belief by some that this can kill a sheep). But the Dutch seem so mild-mannered…. Attempting to support Roxy as she faces the first days and week following her husband’s death are Jane (Arthur’s personal assistant), Liza (Louise’s babysitter), Marco (Roxy’s only friend) and Roxy’s parents who take up this opportunistic chance to enjoy the comfort and involuntary hospitality available in Roxy’s marital home. While all characters try to help Roxy, their help is compromised by their own psychological limitations and the irrational demands that Roxy makes on them. Escaping on an impromptu road-trip with Jane, Liza and Louise is far from a therapeutic experience for Roxy and her passengers. With each day, Roxy isolates herself further from her companions by her recklessness and inability to relate to the women as anything but paid help. In the final pages she calls her father to come and collect her in France, yet when he arrives she quickly refuses his help to continue on her own path of ruination. An uncomfortable yet captivating tale. Gerritsen has written a compelling novel. While difficult to maintain empathy for Roxy, or, indeed, any of the characters, there is a strong impetus to discover what happens next and a hope for a positive conclusion that urges the reader to keep going. The dialogue is sharp and the character interactions credible. Roxy was originally published in 2014. This novel, written in Dutch, has been translated into English by Michele Hutchison and was published by World Editions in 2016. Roxy is the third book by Gerritsen to be nominated for the prestigious Libris Literature prize. Selected as author of the 2016 Boekenweekgeschenk (Dutch Book Week gift book), Gerritsen’s latest novel Broer is now available.  More >


Dutch Cooking: The New Kitchen

If the idea of authentic Dutch cuisine fills you with horror, then you're not alone. Even the authors of The New Kitchen admit that, 'Dutch cooking does not, to say the least, have a very good international reputation.' Amsterdam based writers Manon Sikkel and Michiel Klonhammer have penned numerous articles about their passion for traditional food and have enthusiastically updated some authentically rustic dishes in Dutch Cooking: The New Kitchen. You could be forgiven for thinking that there is little appeal in modernizing recipes that include culinary gems like cheese soup or salsifies with sour cream, but there's lots about this cheery and self-deprecating little book that makes you want try them out, like the bizarre but surprisingly tasty, eel and asparagus soup or the hash, made from stewed steak (with herbs, onions and juniper berries). If you ate this kind of food every day then watch out! You might just find your left ventricle slamming shut. It's what you might call wholesome, stodgy fodder: very short on sophistication but full of flavour. Generations of Dutch peasants toiled the polders nourished on this kind of fuel and it certainly hasn't stunted the nation's growth, so what is there to criticise? Well quite a bit actually, such as the bacon pancakes with avocado mousse, which according to my husband, won't even tempt a famished fox. As well as nearly all of the vegetable dishes, and specifically the sprout puree which looks like it's passed through the digestive tract of a cat. But thankfully almost every pudding was scrumptious and my three-year-old thought the strawberry fool and apple pie were 'Lishus'. It was only the prunes and curd that let the side down and looked revolting despite whatever nutritional benefits it may have boasted in days of olde... Dutch Cooking: The New Kitchen, has been lovingly produced in homage to old-fashioned Dutch cuisine and it successfully manages to inject some fun into a stale national pastime with this funky mix of traditional hearty fare. All the recipes are simple, cheap and easy to prepare which makes it an ideal cookery book for youngsters, or anyone who fancies trying out an eclectic menu on friends. But if you really are planning a 'Dutch' dinner party, and before you fill the trough, just make sure you choose the courses wisely, and more importantly, keep a defibrillator handy. Shelley Antscherl books@dutchnews.nl  More >


Ready, Steady, Go Dutch

The Netherlands sells itself as a country of tulips, windmills, cheese and clogs, but that is not how international workers see it. In Ready, Steady, Go Dutch, a new book by DutchNews.nl and volunteer organisation ACCESS showed clogs don'Ž“t merit a mention. Nor do tulips and windmills. But mention bikes, doctors and the lack of sunshine and you will find international workers have plenty to say. Divided into 10 short chapters and with a list of extra information resources, Ready, Steady, Go Dutch takes the reader through the ups and downs of relocating to the Netherlands, learning the language, finding a job and a home, and making a new life. Doctors, shops, the weather and of course cycling are all dealt with in bite-sized quotes from people who have already made the move. Some of the comments are unexpected, some are amusing or poignant and some highlight the differences in expectations and experiences between different nationalities. Together they form a snapshot of the expat experience in the Netherlands which everyone can learn from. In particular, the relaxed atmosphere in the Netherlands, especially at work, is a big plus for international workers. The work environment is relaxed. I saw people cancelling meetings just because it was sunny that day, said one Turkish expat. Ž•I love the fact that where I work there is less emphasis on hierarchy and more on consensus and delivery,Ž“ said a Russian national who has lived in the Netherlands for nearly nine years. And an American expat was quite certain about the impact of working in the Netherlands on her work-life balance. Ž•I will never go back to a country where I only get one week's holiday a year, she said. Dutch houses also come in for a lot of comment. Ž•Having a washing machine in the bathroom was really strange as was the lack of a bath, wrote one British woman who moved in with her Dutch boyfriend. The steepness of Dutch stairs and big windows in many older properties came in for a lot of comment as well. One expat even warned people to be aware of moving too close to a tram line because of the excruciating noise made by the machines which clean the tracks early in the morning. The alternative to public transport is, of course, cycling, which all expats seem to adopt enthusiastically. 'I love how relaxed the Dutch are on their bikes. You see men in suits and women in fancy dresses,' said a Bulgarian office worker. The 140-page book has been put together by DutchNews.nl and ACCESS to help newcomers benefit from the practical experiences of people who've already gone Dutch. A large part of the profit will go to ACCESS to help the volunteer organisation continue providing information and advice to expats. Buy this book  More >


The Dutch Maiden

Marente De Moor, born in 1972 is the daughter of writer Margriet de Moor and visual artist Heppe de Moor. She studied literature and Slavonic languages at University of Amsterdam, and after graduation, moved to Russia for 10 years. Her work as a columnist for De Groene Amsterdammer and Vrij Nederland, has been respectively collated and published as De Peterburgse Vertellingen and Kleine Vogel, Grote Man. Marente de Moor published her first novel, De Overtreder (translation: The Transgressor) in 2007. Her second, De Nederlandse Maagd (2010), sold over 70,000 copies and was awarded both the AKO Literatuurprijs (2011) and the EU Prize for Literature (2014). This prize winning novel, translated into English by David Doherty, was published by World Editions earlier in 2016 under the title The Dutch Maiden. The novel’s main character is Janna, an 18-year-old fencer, is sent from her home in Maastricht to the German town of Aachen, where she stays with Egon van Bötticher, a German aristocrat and fencing master, her father befriended during the first World War. Janna arrives in Germany in the summer of 1936, a period of disquietude with unresolved grievances leftover from WWI, and the laying of early groundwork for the political climate that would give birth to WWII. Numerous themes and storylines run through the novel and overlap in the lives of the main characters. Egon was rescued the Dutch soldiers during WWI and taken to a Dutch hospital to recover and be observed by Janna’s father, a doctor with a keen interest in medical science. This relationship does not sprout the roots of a friendship, yet the reason the men remain connected to one another two decades on, is one of the conundrums running through the narrative. Janna’s relationship with Egon, a disfigured older man who seems to prefer animals to humans, is also bewildering. Attraction to Egon, especially as Jana is in the constant company of the prepossessing identical twins, Fredreich and Siegbert, who are also her peers and fencing partners seems unlikely and is only barely explained by the author. In the larger picture, the narrative exposes the German negative attitude to the Dutch in comments made about Janna and her father. Friction within Germany is highlighted by the presence of Nazi-supported Heinz and some members of the Mensur congregation who gather at Egon’s estate to indulge in this forbidden fencing tradition that seeks to inflict physical injuries to evince courage. The Dutch Maiden has beautifully constructed chapters, which have been preserved in translation. The narrative promises to take the reader on a journey that will uncover and explain the characters and the reasons they do what they do.  These promises are quietly kept, and although this may disappoint some readers, it seems to be almost idiosyncratic trait of many esteemed Dutch authors. An interesting, recommended read. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >