Thursday, June 16, 2016

Memoirs from Kenya to Maine

When I was researching Out of Nowhere, I went to Portland one evening for a reading from this collection, They Were Very Beautiful, Such Things Are. Several of the writers/contributors to this volume read from their work. It was quite the night, and this is an incredible book.

Once an isolated outpost in a desert region of northeastern Kenya, today Dadaab is the site of the largest refugee "camp" in the world, with more than 300,000 people. I use the term camp loosely, because Dadaab has grown so exponentially and residents there have remained so long, it has taken on a permanence that "camp" does not convey. It is a harsh place to dwell: daytime temperatures rarely fall below 90, summertime is often above 115, annual rains bring disastrous floods.

Beginning in 2001 Somali refugees, many who were resettled to the U.S. from Dadaab, began making their way to Lewiston, Maine. By 2008, more than 3000 Somalis lived in Lewiston: a former mill town of about 30,000, where annual winter snows of several feet are typical, and the population is predominately white, Catholic and Franco. Maine is the "whitest" state in the nation (although Vermont rivals us); Lewiston the most Franco city in the nation.

This book is a collection of voices from this unlikely merge. Unpolished, raw, and completely honest.

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