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Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir

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Somewhere in the Unknown World is a themed collection of stories of refugees from around the world who have converged on Minneapolis, collected and told by the award-winning author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet. Back in the 1980s, Minnesota's University Avenue was barely clinging to life. Lined with church thrift stores, boarded windows, and prostitutes leaning ag Somewhere in the Unknown World is a themed collection of stories of refugees from around the world who have converged on Minneapolis, collected and told by the award-winning author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet. Back in the 1980s, Minnesota's University Avenue was barely clinging to life. Lined with church thrift stores, boarded windows, and prostitutes leaning against streetlights, the sidewalks were thick with bloody, discarded needles. Today, University Avenue is a bustling commercial center, a hub of Halal butchers, Mexican carnicerias, grocery stores selling delicacies to new arrivals from Ethiopia and Bosnia, Iraq and China. A dying strip of America has been revived by the stateless. As the country's doors are closing and nativism is on the rise, Kao Kalia Yang—herself a refugee from Laos—set out to tell the stories of the refugees to whom University Avenue is now home. Here are people who have summoned the energy and determination to make a new life even as they carry an extraordinary burden of hardship, loss, and emotional damage: Irina, an ex-Soviet, who still hoards magical American fruit—bananas!—under her bed; the Thai brothers of Vinai and their business selling purified water to gullible immigrants; the Kareni boys, who have brought Minnesota to basketball glory. In Yang's exquisite, poetic, and necessary telling, the voices of refugees from all over the world restore humanity to America's strangers and redeem its long history of welcome.


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Somewhere in the Unknown World is a themed collection of stories of refugees from around the world who have converged on Minneapolis, collected and told by the award-winning author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet. Back in the 1980s, Minnesota's University Avenue was barely clinging to life. Lined with church thrift stores, boarded windows, and prostitutes leaning ag Somewhere in the Unknown World is a themed collection of stories of refugees from around the world who have converged on Minneapolis, collected and told by the award-winning author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet. Back in the 1980s, Minnesota's University Avenue was barely clinging to life. Lined with church thrift stores, boarded windows, and prostitutes leaning against streetlights, the sidewalks were thick with bloody, discarded needles. Today, University Avenue is a bustling commercial center, a hub of Halal butchers, Mexican carnicerias, grocery stores selling delicacies to new arrivals from Ethiopia and Bosnia, Iraq and China. A dying strip of America has been revived by the stateless. As the country's doors are closing and nativism is on the rise, Kao Kalia Yang—herself a refugee from Laos—set out to tell the stories of the refugees to whom University Avenue is now home. Here are people who have summoned the energy and determination to make a new life even as they carry an extraordinary burden of hardship, loss, and emotional damage: Irina, an ex-Soviet, who still hoards magical American fruit—bananas!—under her bed; the Thai brothers of Vinai and their business selling purified water to gullible immigrants; the Kareni boys, who have brought Minnesota to basketball glory. In Yang's exquisite, poetic, and necessary telling, the voices of refugees from all over the world restore humanity to America's strangers and redeem its long history of welcome.

30 review for Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I have been looking forward to this because I loved the author's two earlier memoirs about her immigrant family of Hmong descent. She came to live in Minnesota, which has in fact the highest number of refugees per capita of any state in the U.S. In this, her latest book, she writes of these refugees, people she has come to know. They spoke and she wrote their stories. Each read through what she had written and confirmed she had drawn their story accurately. What we have here are her words but ot I have been looking forward to this because I loved the author's two earlier memoirs about her immigrant family of Hmong descent. She came to live in Minnesota, which has in fact the highest number of refugees per capita of any state in the U.S. In this, her latest book, she writes of these refugees, people she has come to know. They spoke and she wrote their stories. Each read through what she had written and confirmed she had drawn their story accurately. What we have here are her words but others’ stories as they were told to her. The refugees are from all over the world. They have lived through wars and / or discrimination. They come from a wide range of countries, for example Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Liberia, Thailand and Somalia. The stories demonstrate how historical events play out in individual lives. The stories told are personal and often heart-wrenching. At the same time, the message that is conveyed by these stories is positive, life-affirming. They illustrate the resilience and strength of human beings and what we are capable of overcoming. The author has a way with words. She writes lyrically. She writes poignantly making a reader care about those she speaks of. She writes with empathy. Some life stories are more captivating than others. I do prefer a book that focuses on just one or two individuals rather than many. Two narrate the audiobook, one male and one female. The author reads the stories told by women. Kurt Kwan reads the stories of men. Splitting the stories up like this is good. However, I much prefer Kurt Kwan’s narration. His voice is strong and clear and forceful. Kao Kalia Yang’s voice is thin and weak. Her words are less distinct and harder to decipher. Even if the story she relates has a positive message, the impression left is depressing. Her voice lacks adequate resonance. If I could rate them separately, I would give Yang’s narration one star and Kwan’s four. Overall, I have given two. Yang writes a very good book, but she should not have done the female narration. I am glad to have read this book. It is an important book. It shines a light on the plight of refugees in today’s world while at the same time instilling hope for the future. ************************** *The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father 5 stars *The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir 5 stars *Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir 4 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ms. B

    Dear Kao Kalia Yang, Thank you for sharing these beautiful and heartbreaking stories of our immigrants and refugees. As your yawm txiv (Hmong for father) said, "Life will teach you the strength of the human heart, not of its weakness or fragility.” You are a voice for the voiceless. May this book be embraced by many. Dear Kao Kalia Yang, Thank you for sharing these beautiful and heartbreaking stories of our immigrants and refugees. As your yawm txiv (Hmong for father) said, "Life will teach you the strength of the human heart, not of its weakness or fragility.” You are a voice for the voiceless. May this book be embraced by many.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Interesting stories of refugees living in Minnesota. Many are Hmong, Karen, Sudanese and Eritrean. Their stories are often harrowing and it’s moving they came to the US to live a better life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    One of the reasons I’ve loved this author’s work since I read her first novel is culture is a component of her stories. She doesn’t tell her readers about her characters lives. She shares the language, knowing and context with us so we begin to see the world through her character’s ways of seeing. This book is a compilation of the true stories of people with refugee status who the author knew in her own life, captured by a woman who was a refugee herself. She beautifully captures the human exper One of the reasons I’ve loved this author’s work since I read her first novel is culture is a component of her stories. She doesn’t tell her readers about her characters lives. She shares the language, knowing and context with us so we begin to see the world through her character’s ways of seeing. This book is a compilation of the true stories of people with refugee status who the author knew in her own life, captured by a woman who was a refugee herself. She beautifully captures the human experience in this book and her storytelling has depth and beauty.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mindy Greiling

    Beautifully stories of why refugees came to Minnesota that help me understand exactly why citizenship ceremonies are so emotional. Yang is a wonderful, clear writer!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beckie

    The connection of the story tellers Kalia reveals at the end of the book wraps this together so nicely. The tales from all parts of the world but all having a MN piece were hard to read, eye-opening, and sad. Many were inspiring. These are the stories that should be told and broadcast so others can understand what war and disruption do to our brothers and sisters across the world. Kalia's narration with her soft voice is something to get used to, then beautiful. The connection of the story tellers Kalia reveals at the end of the book wraps this together so nicely. The tales from all parts of the world but all having a MN piece were hard to read, eye-opening, and sad. Many were inspiring. These are the stories that should be told and broadcast so others can understand what war and disruption do to our brothers and sisters across the world. Kalia's narration with her soft voice is something to get used to, then beautiful.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This beautiful collection of stories of refugees that have resettled in Minnesota is such a treasure of important perspectives. I think it probably should be a must read for every Minnesotan. As these are the stories of our neighbors, co-workers and students among us. The author Kao Kalia Yang has detailed their journeys in prose that makes you feel like you are in each of their situations. I listened to the audio and enjoyed the different voices in the collection.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joel Newman

    This is a truly incredible collection of stories—all written in the first-person by Kao Kalia Yang. A must read, especially for those of us who call the Twin Cities “home”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    3.5 stars. Some of the stories are beautifully lyrical and some are clunky, but I think she is writing them as the individual speaks them to her, so the style varies. What strikes me is the sheer hassle, terror, bureaucracy, and uncertainty that these people endured to escape their countries. The average American has no clue. Is everyone glad to be in the US? No. There is loss and disconnection and regret. But there is also strength, resilience, and pride. I learned a lot.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    "How do we let people have their own voices in a system that is designed against their stories?" Kalia Yang has earned her trust as a storyteller over years of deep listening, and this book is a polyphonic response to the question. I learned so much! "How do we let people have their own voices in a system that is designed against their stories?" Kalia Yang has earned her trust as a storyteller over years of deep listening, and this book is a polyphonic response to the question. I learned so much!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Loved the stories, wow! Amazing author!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lin Salisbury

    In SOMEWHERE IN THE UNKNOWN WORLD; A COLLECTIVE REFUGEE MEMOIR, acclaimed author Kao Kalia Yang compiles the stories of refugees from diverse backgrounds. Whether from Syria, Thailand, Afghanistan, or any of the other countries represented in these 15 harrowing stories of escape, the refugees have one thing in common – outrageous hope and courage. With empathy and compassion, Yang tells the stories of these survivors who ultimately came to Minnesota to build new lives for themselves and future g In SOMEWHERE IN THE UNKNOWN WORLD; A COLLECTIVE REFUGEE MEMOIR, acclaimed author Kao Kalia Yang compiles the stories of refugees from diverse backgrounds. Whether from Syria, Thailand, Afghanistan, or any of the other countries represented in these 15 harrowing stories of escape, the refugees have one thing in common – outrageous hope and courage. With empathy and compassion, Yang tells the stories of these survivors who ultimately came to Minnesota to build new lives for themselves and future generations: The story a Syrian woman whose comfortable life on the skirts of Damascus disappeared overnight. “The war came to us in two days’ time. One day we had electricity and running water. The next day these modern conveniences were gone and the schools were closed.” The story of a family who opened a restaurant on University Avenue in St. Paul that attracted an array of Southeast Asian refugees , resettlement workers, teachers, and friends, serving pho, the national dish of Vietnam. The success of this restaurant allowed the family to send all five of their children to college, and ushered in an age of revitalization along University Avenue. Their son, following college and a career in corporate America as an analyst, opened a Vietnamese Bistro in the same space and in 2020 was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Midwest Award. Other stories in the book, tell of the horrors of war, harrowing escapes, years languishing in refugee camps, and families separated by continents. The story of Fong Lee, who as he was escaping Laos across the Mekong River with his wife, three boys, and baby girl, is confronted by two orphans, a six-year-old girl with her three-year-old sister strapped to her back, who begs him to take her sister safely to the other side, away from the violence and the soldiers who are rushing toward the river’s edge. He has no room for them, but promises to come back for them; before he is able to turn around, he hears the cracking of guns from the tree line and the girls are gone. He lives with the memory of their eyes, “round like the moon in the night sky” begging him for help. A refugee, Yang tells us, is someone who is unable to remain in their home country because of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, or politics. Every October the president of the United States , in consultation with Congress, sets a cap for the number of refugees we can take in as a country. Each refugee is expected to take out a no-interest loan for his or her flight, and upon arrival each receives a onetime grant of $1125 from the federal government. For ninety days, the refugee is assisted by a sponsoring organization and then they are expected to make it on their own. She writes that the immigrants and refugees that come to America are often fleeing countries and wars whose history is absent from American consciousness. “Life will teach you the strength of the human heart, not of its weakness or fragility,” Kao Kalia Yang’s father tells her. It is a lesson that Yang passes on to her children and one that she hopes will fortify the hearts of children everywhere, passed on through the stories in Somewhere in the Unknown World. The book is dedicated to “Refugees from everywhere – men, women, and children whose fates have been held by the interests of nations, whose rights have been contested and denied, whose thirst and hunger go unheeded and unseen.” Through this important work, we see them, Kalia, we see them. I recommend SOMEWHERE IN THE UNKNOWN WORLD for readers interested in global politics, immigration policy, and those who have loved the poetic voice and masterful storytelling of Kao Kalia Yang in her books THE LATEHOMECOMER and THE SONG POET. Listen to my interview with Kao Kalia Yang on February 25 at 7:00 pm on 90.7 WTIP, stream it from the web at www.wtip.org, or listen to it on my Superior Reads blog at www.superiorreads.blog. This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karin Jensen

    "On a bright day that I saw only through the filtered doorway of my home, a middle-aged man arrived at our house. He said, “Your son has fifteen minutes before we go.” He brought me a change of clothes: a pair of blue jeans, walking shoes, and a T-shirt. He said to take nothing." -- From Somewhere In The Unknown World So begins a young man’s fateful journey from Afghanistan to Minnesota. Young Afghanzada worked as a bookkeeper for the U.S. International Development Agency, hoping to do some good "On a bright day that I saw only through the filtered doorway of my home, a middle-aged man arrived at our house. He said, “Your son has fifteen minutes before we go.” He brought me a change of clothes: a pair of blue jeans, walking shoes, and a T-shirt. He said to take nothing." -- From Somewhere In The Unknown World So begins a young man’s fateful journey from Afghanistan to Minnesota. Young Afghanzada worked as a bookkeeper for the U.S. International Development Agency, hoping to do some good for his war-stricken people. But when the Taliban found out, they repeatedly threatened him until he did the only thing he could think of to survive. He paid $25,000 to a trafficker to sneak him out of his country. He had inquired first about getting a Special Immigrant Visa through the U.S. State Department. He was qualified as an employee of the U.S. government. However, there was a three-year wait, and he didn’t have that long. A Collective Refugee Memoir Somewhere in the Unknown World is a collection of stories written by Kao Kalia Yang on behalf of fourteen refugees. Yang, herself a refugee of Laos, is the author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet, which chronicle her family’s stories. While traveling across the country to speak about her work, she met other refugees and resettlement workers. She discovered that the isolating loneliness so many of them felt was a shared experience. Many asked her to tell their stories. At first, she was reticent to do so. However, over the last few years, she witnessed an America questioning its long history of refugee resettlement, an America that began to increasingly cast its vulnerable immigrants and incoming refugees to the margins of society. She felt compelled to share something about the refugee lives around her, to show, as she describes in her prologue, “our shared understanding of war and hunger for peace, our vulnerabilities, and strengths, and to offer our powerful truths to a country I love.” Minnesota and Refugees Although the refugees in this memoir come from all over the world (Bosnia, Liberia, Syria, Burma, Iraq, Kandahar, and more), the thread that binds their stories together is that they all settled in Minnesota, where Yang also lives. Before reading Somewhere in the Unknown World, I never realized that Minnesota has the highest number of refugees per capita of any state. In the words of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, “We have a rich history of welcoming refugees because Minnesotans believe in treating all people with respect, dignity, and compassion.” The Law Center further notes that “After their first years of adjustment, refugee incomes rise rapidly, and so do their contributions to taxes and the economy. Refugees pay back the cost of the airfare for coming to the U.S.” Back in the 1980s, Minnesota’s University Avenue had become a skid row, lined with church thrift stores, boarded businesses, prostitutes, and bloody, discarded needles. Now, however, University is a busy commercial district with Halal and Mexican butchers and grocery stores catering to new arrivals from Ethiopia, Bosnia, Iraq, and China. In sum, the stateless have revived a dying strip of America, even as they carry a heavy burden of economic and human loss. Heartbreaking but Inspirational The stories are compelling. There are accounts of what it is like to lose your home and sometimes your family and start from scratch in a foreign country. This is essential reading but also heartbreaking. We learn what it means to be stateless and have one's fate left up to government agencies and bureaucracy. “I was not a criminal, and yet I was being treated like one. I started getting angry, too. Who is responsible for my situation? What had I done? What makes them better than me, the ones asking the questions, the ones with the power to make me shake and quiver?” – From Somewhere in the Unknown World We see America in its extremes of wealth and poverty from an immigrant’s view. “I saw homeless people with their bags and shopping carts beside them. I saw broken concrete and uneven sidewalks. I thought, I’ve made a mistake. How can America go into the world and speak of humanity, of peace and prosperity, when there are so many within its own borders looking for help, searching for meaning, worth, a chance at a good life?” – From Somewhere in the Unknown World Some stories are inspirational in the way the refugees begin to craft new lives, although the measure of their success is sometimes heartbreaking in its own way. In Afghanzada’s case, after being allowed to settle in Minnesota, he secures a full-time job as an office manager at a community college then works nights and weekends as a Lyft driver to support his family in Afghanistan. “It brings me pride. Because of me, my family is middle class; they have food to eat, my baby brother can go to school…Someone in America sees them clearly and loves them completely.” – From Somewhere in the Unknown World Context Most of the stories plunge us into the thick of the action, the culminating event that causes the protagonist to conclude that he or she has no choice but to flee. My one critique is that I wish there were a paragraph or two at the start or end of each tale providing a summary of the historical events surrounding each person’s story. Places and events are referenced that I recognize from headlines, but I often don’t recall the details. I would appreciate a bit more background. Recommendation Somewhere in the Unknown World provides a candid and intimate view of the consequences of war and the unfathomable decisions required in these circumstances. It teaches empathy and allows us a glimpse into lives most of us would never otherwise be exposed to. I recommend it as thought-provoking non-fiction. This review first appeared on News Break on 1/23/21

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lara Lillibridge

    This book is unlike anything I've seen in the memoir category: a "collective memoir" with narratives from people from all over the world (Bosnia, Liberia, Syria, the Karenni in Burma, Iraq, Kandahar, and more) who settled in Minnesota. Male and female perspectives are represented, and while every story is unique, they all are testimonies of courage and resilience. In “Certificate of Humanity,” Afghanzada Achekzai said, “I started thinking about being independent again, being the maker of my desti This book is unlike anything I've seen in the memoir category: a "collective memoir" with narratives from people from all over the world (Bosnia, Liberia, Syria, the Karenni in Burma, Iraq, Kandahar, and more) who settled in Minnesota. Male and female perspectives are represented, and while every story is unique, they all are testimonies of courage and resilience. In “Certificate of Humanity,” Afghanzada Achekzai said, “I started thinking about being independent again, being the maker of my destiny, the maker of my life. I began thinking about America.” We travel from all over the globe, through refugee camps, all to the United States, and moreover, all to Minnesota. I was fascinated to learn that Minnesota is home to more refugees per capita than any other state. The prose is simply beautiful—lyrical yet without pretense.

  15. 5 out of 5

    the overstuffed bookshelf

    Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Co. for this advance reader's copy of Somewhere in the Unknown Word by Kao Kalia Yang. To say that I enjoyed reading this book would be wrong. Don't get me wrong, this was a good read but the stories told here are devastating accounts of what it is like to lose your home and become a refugee. Essential reading for sure, but these are not feel-good stories. These are stories that should help you understand what it means to be stateless, to have your fate le Thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Co. for this advance reader's copy of Somewhere in the Unknown Word by Kao Kalia Yang. To say that I enjoyed reading this book would be wrong. Don't get me wrong, this was a good read but the stories told here are devastating accounts of what it is like to lose your home and become a refugee. Essential reading for sure, but these are not feel-good stories. These are stories that should help you understand what it means to be stateless, to have your fate left up to governmental agencies and bureaucracy. Some of these stories are heartbreaking, some are inspirational, all are necessary accounts. This is not a book written by Kao Kalia Yang, although she is listed as the author. Each story is told by the person who lived it, as they should be. I can't state it enough, this is essential reading for these times in America and the world.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Popp

    This book was beautiful. 14 individuals and the editor of this collection share their stories of being refugees and resettling in Minnesota. These stories were heartbreaking at times, but so inspirational. There were a few stories that made me upset and I had to check myself. Who am I to put my values and worldview onto something I have never experienced? The people in these stories have had to make decisions that I have never had to make. War is not pretty and one has to make decisions that are This book was beautiful. 14 individuals and the editor of this collection share their stories of being refugees and resettling in Minnesota. These stories were heartbreaking at times, but so inspirational. There were a few stories that made me upset and I had to check myself. Who am I to put my values and worldview onto something I have never experienced? The people in these stories have had to make decisions that I have never had to make. War is not pretty and one has to make decisions that are unfathomable. I never thought about some of the issues written about so candidly in this book. I am so thankful to the publisher, editor, and goodreads that I was able to receive a free copy of this book for my honest review. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys nonfiction.

  17. 5 out of 5

    LuAnn

    I hesitated to start this book because I thought it would be too sad. And, during these dark pandemic times, I thought I should stick with fluffier, happier books. My mistake, this book was exactly what I needed. The people Yang interviewed were inspiring. The difficulties they faced reminded me how fortunate I am to be sitting safely in my own home. So yes, there are heart breaking moments, but the well chosen words and the indomitable spirit of these new Minnesotans make for a worthwhile read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Julie Morales

    I’ve learned a lot reading/listening to these stories. I would recommend reading it vs listening to the audiobook which sometimes gets confusing as to when each story ends and a new one begins. I think the stories deserve more reflection time which reading lends itself to vs listening. I think many people would benefit from reading these stories to have a better understanding of what it’s like to even consider immigrating to the US and how entire lives are changed for good and bad by those decis I’ve learned a lot reading/listening to these stories. I would recommend reading it vs listening to the audiobook which sometimes gets confusing as to when each story ends and a new one begins. I think the stories deserve more reflection time which reading lends itself to vs listening. I think many people would benefit from reading these stories to have a better understanding of what it’s like to even consider immigrating to the US and how entire lives are changed for good and bad by those decisions.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristine Olson

    This book is a must read, which is saying a lot from someone who typically reads fiction and avoids memoir. The individual stories in this collection are compelling, but it is their collective heft that really leaves an impact. This book provides insight into both the difficult journeys taken by many of our "new neighbors" and the raw and real struggle modern refugees face. If we're called to love our neighbors, reading this book is a first step toward understanding those who may be different fr This book is a must read, which is saying a lot from someone who typically reads fiction and avoids memoir. The individual stories in this collection are compelling, but it is their collective heft that really leaves an impact. This book provides insight into both the difficult journeys taken by many of our "new neighbors" and the raw and real struggle modern refugees face. If we're called to love our neighbors, reading this book is a first step toward understanding those who may be different from us and new citizens of our country.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shana

    ***Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review*** In this multifaceted memoir, we get to read many and varied stories of how people from all around the world ended up in Minnesota. Each refugee tells their unique story, and while they are often linked in tragedy and loss, they are also connected in the tremendous patience and strength that they demonstrate. This format of a collective memoir is unusual, but it works really well.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Toni Azad

    Kao Kalia Yang is a very gifted writer and storyteller and her stories of refugees are moving and insightful. Each chapter tells the story of a different refugee in MN from different parts of the world. Their struggles and pain and joy leaving one country and settling in another all come through in these chapters. These are personal stories but Yang provides some context too for those who might not be familiar with what happened in some of the particular places.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura Geislinger

    More powerful storytelling by Kai Kalia Yang As a huge fan of this author, this did not disappoint. Yang takes us around the world and through the hearts of refugees who eventually find a home in my local Minnesota. As a former teacher of refugees, many of these stories weren’t completely new, but the depth of Yang’s story telling and her ability to share a perspective and connect our hearts to theirs is incredible.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A great read that left me more aware and compassionate toward the refugee experience in America. I highly recommend it. Kao Kalia Yang's beautiful writing shines through in each story, along with each person's vivid personality and experiences. I live in Minnesota and recognized many of the places and institutions in the book, which made the stories even more real for me. I'm still digesting and reflecting, and I expect to continue to do so for awhile. A great read that left me more aware and compassionate toward the refugee experience in America. I highly recommend it. Kao Kalia Yang's beautiful writing shines through in each story, along with each person's vivid personality and experiences. I live in Minnesota and recognized many of the places and institutions in the book, which made the stories even more real for me. I'm still digesting and reflecting, and I expect to continue to do so for awhile.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chandler Flanagan

    It is hard to descibe a novel with stories that are individually unique yet tragically the same. This novel really shows the resilliance of refugees that have setteled in the United States. The question for me is why aren't we learning about refugees in school? Why aren't we taught about the struggle of others trying to settle in "The Great United States"? These stories are something we need to know. Everyone pick up a copy of this book ASAP and share it with everyone. I know I will be. It is hard to descibe a novel with stories that are individually unique yet tragically the same. This novel really shows the resilliance of refugees that have setteled in the United States. The question for me is why aren't we learning about refugees in school? Why aren't we taught about the struggle of others trying to settle in "The Great United States"? These stories are something we need to know. Everyone pick up a copy of this book ASAP and share it with everyone. I know I will be.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Keri Penick

    Each and every story in this collection shines; I wanted to know more about all of them. Heard the author talk at virtual ALSC 2020. Her writing brings to life the struggles of refugees, and lots of love and understanding too. There is incredible sadness and atrocities, but there are lots of beautiful joyous details included as well. This book is an essential part of any library about the human condition and- as the author writes - the “incredible strength of the human heart.”

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    One of the most important and heart-wrenching books I have read. I highly recommend this for everyone. Such compelling stories. My heart hurts for the pain and struggles these amazing people experienced on their journey, and continue to experience in their new home. The Minnesota references make it particularly meaningful. I work with many refugee youth and their families, so this absolutely spoke to my heart.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karina Cortes

    15 stories. One city. Many nationalities. These stories will inspire you, challenge you, educate you, and move you. I really appreciate how the author explained the refugee process at the end of the book. I’m still blown away that Minnesota becomes a home to many refugees from all of the world (Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.) Refugees are resilient- read this book and learn from them!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim Butzen-Cahill

    Yang has accomplished something really big here. While these stories are, at their core, Minnesotan, they are preludes to the tales that refugees across America and the world bear in their souls. Prose, at times exquisite, makes this collective memoir the perfect and necessary complement to your daily interaction with news of global refugee crises.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia Fink

    In my opinion, this book would be more interesting if it contained fewer stories but more depth. How did they get to MN, what was it like to arrive, was it easy to connect to other refugees. The stories lack depth and did not bring in to them...to help refugees, we need to connect and have empathy. This book does not achieve it for me.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lana

    The author, herself a refugee living in Minnesota, tells the story of 15 refugees from various parts of the world, who have all settled in Minnesota. Their stories are painful as they mourn the loss of the life they once knew and yet hopeful as they settle into a new country after escaping from poverty and terror.

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