Longtime Cherry Hill resident attempting to bridge cultural gaps

Rances’ writing on positivity and unity between Asia and America.

Resident of Cherry Hill since the late 1970s, immigrant Jean Rances has carved out a busy and meaningful life, with education and music and teaching a message of positivity and cultural understanding through her authorship.

Speaking with longtime township resident Jean Rances, it is obvious she is a woman of many passions and talents — all of which she’d love to share given enough time and space. She’s an artist, an educator and a musician, but nothing gives her more of an outlet to express herself than writing, and spreading a message of unity and positivity.

And so it is with her fourth book, which should be completed and released some time after the turn of the new year, called “Tree of East and West,” about the divisions between Asian culture and American culture, the merging of the two and how it relates to family dynamics.

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“It was inspired by the increasing negative feelings in this country revolving around politics and the pandemic,” Rances explained to the Sun on Oct. 21. “It’s a plea to be united, a plea for citizens to enact some common sense and spread some positivity.”

Rances has firsthand experience with the subject, an immigrant herself and a native of the
Philippines whose mother was a formidable Spanish Caucasian.

“She gave me an education through her eyes; I was scared of her,” she admitted. “But I guess I’m still my mother’s daughter. Both of my parents were teachers, so I became a teacher too.”

Raised in California, Rances set foot in the region almost 50 years ago, fully embracing the
country’s most positive qualities, and making the most of her opportunities. Begun in her native country, she completed a bachelor’s degree in Education at Trenton State
College, then added a master’s degree in English Literature from the The College of New
Jersey, and completed her academic bona fides with a doctorate in Education from Widener
University. She also taught at Widener for seven years as well as TCNJ for seven-and-a-half
years.

Rances was first a resident of Philadelphia, but settled down and raised a family in Cherry Hill, and has dwelt in the same house on Brookmead Drive for the last 42 years. Widowed for almost two decades, she has little time to ponder her fate, opting instead to keep moving forward and fill up her time with things to do and see and to learn well into her 70s.

Her previous three works have been published in 15 countries, including the United States,
Canada and the United Kingdom: “Half the World Away,” “Love and Prejudice,” and “Doorways of Discovery,” all of which contain positive messages and positive reinforcement regarding the thorny issues of cultural understanding.

“In each book, I’m looking to speak about positive things for younger and adult students, for them to be able to make their way in their learning and their lives,” she said. “I want to project happy and positive ideas for growth.”

Moreso than simple tools for emotional growth, Rances cites higher authorities as the driving force which guides her to write and create.

“I am a Catholic, and I possess faith in a supreme being which is telling us now we ought to be cautious because we are not made by human hands,” she said. “I thought I wanted and needed to do something to try and lift us all out of the present times. I think I am blessed with the skill to write and to want to give, and to transmit that positive energy
through the pages.”

That positive energy has translated beyond simple books. Rances has also spent time at Spring Hills assisted living facility, serving as music director, and has also hosted prominent figures of different cultures for a series of discussions at her home. Again, the goal was a greater understanding among different worlds.

“America is the best country in the world. We are the ‘united states.’ I am trying not to focus on the prejudices that keep us apart, divisiveness and negativism, but focusing on thinking and acting on the positives of life and the things which can bind us,” she added.

“When life gives you double hell, then create triple Heaven.”

BOB HERPEN
BOB HERPEN
Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.
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