by Susan Hartman
For readers of Caste, this intimate portrait of newcomers revitalizing a fading industrial town illuminates the larger canvas of refugee life in 21st century America
Many Americans imagine refugees as threatening outsiders who will steal jobs or be a drain on the economy. But across the country, refugees are rebuilding and maintaining the American Dream. In City of Refugees, journalist Susan Hartman shows how an influx of refugees helped revive Utica, New York, an old upstate manufacturing town that was nearly destroyed by depopulation and arson.
Hartman follows 3 of these newcomers over the course of 8 years as they and their families adjust to new lives in America. There's Sadia, a bright, spirited Somali Bantu teenager who rebels against her formidable mother; Ali, an Iraqi translator who creates a home with a divorced American woman but is still traumatized by war; and Mersiha, a hard-working and ebullient Bosnian who dreams of opening a café.
They are part of an extraordinary migration of refugees from Vietnam, Bosnia, Burma, Somalia, Iraq, and elsewhere, who have transformed Utica over the past four decades--opening small businesses, fixing up abandoned houses, and adding a spark of vitality to forlorn city streets.
Other Rust Belt cities have also welcomed refugees, hoping to jump-start their economies and attract a younger population. City of Refugees is a complex and poignant story of a small city but also of America--a country whose promise of safe harbor and opportunity is knotty and incomplete, but undeniably alive.
"Susan Hartman's City of Refugees is storytelling at its very best. Her detailed portrait of the ordinary lives of a few extraordinary people and their community gives us an utterly compelling glimpse into the heart and soul of the United States of America in the twenty-first century." --Jenny McPhee, author and translator
"Susan Hartman has written a vital book about the refugee experience in America. With spare and direct prose, she captures the daily joys and heartaches of three refugee families. This is a story of the tenacity of family bonds and the underappreciated contributions of refugees to the vitality of American life. I loved every single page."
--Jen Percy, author of Demon Camp: The Strange and Terrible Saga of a Soldier's Return from War
About the Author:
Susan Hartman has written about immigrant communities for over 20 years. Her cover stories and profiles have appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday. The author of two books of poetry, she was educated at Kirkland College and received an MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts, where she now teaches. She lives outside New York City with her husband; they have 2 grown children.