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How 6000 Refugees Transformed an American Town
Read by Jeanette Illidge
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Like so many American factory towns, Lewiston, Maine, thrived until its mill jobs disappeared and the young began leaving. But then the story unexpectedly veered: over the course of fifteen years, the city became home to thousands of African immigrants and, along the way, turned into one of the most Muslim towns in the US. Now about 6,000 of Lewiston’s 36,000 inhabitants are refugees and asylum seekers, many of them Somali. Cynthia Anderson tells the story of this fractious yet resilient city near where she grew up, offering the unfolding drama of a community’s reinvention–and humanizing some of the defining political issues in America today.
In Lewiston, progress is real but precarious. Anderson takes the reader deep into the lives of both immigrants and lifelong Mainers: a single Muslim mom, an anti-Islamist activist, a Congolese asylum seeker, a Somali community leader. Their lives unfold in these pages as anti-immigrant sentiment rises across the US and national realities collide with those in Lewiston. Home Now gives a poignant account of America’s evolving relationship with religion and race, and makes a sensitive yet powerful case for embracing change.
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People Who Appear in This Book
Abdikadir Negeye—Somali Bantu refugee and cofounder of Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services (MIRS). Husband of Ikran; they have two daughters and two sons.
Carrys Ngoy—asylum seeker and high school student from Congo, recently arrived in the United States.
Fatuma Hussein—community leader and mother of eight. Founder of United Somali Women, now the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine.
Jamilo Maalim—young single mom who recently found her birth parents in a Kenyan refugee camp. Mother of Aaliyah and Hamzah.
Nasafari Nahumure—high school student navigating the college process and beyond. Lives downtown with her family.
Aba Abu—single mom, caseworker, and bus driver who arrived in Lewiston in 2003.
Farah Adan—owner of Juba Halal Market on Lisbon Street.
Frank—friend of Jared’s who also leads an ACT for America chapter.
Heidi Sawyer—close friend of Jamilo, Ikran, Abdikadir, and other Somalis.
Jared J. Bristol—head of an inland Maine chapter of ACT for America.
Jihan Omar—cofounder of Minds for Health. Also works at MIRS.
Mohamed Heban—owner of Baraka Store on Lisbon Street.
Nabega Nankema—older sister of Nasafari and mother of Azaleah.
Norbert Rwambaza—father of Nasafari. Married to Kamakazi; they have five children.
Phil Nadeau—former deputy city administrator of Lewiston.
Sadio Aden—Lewiston High School student and cross-country runner. Friend of Nasafari.
Shukri Abasheikh—owner of Mogadishu Store and a wedding hall. Mother of eight.
Zamzam Mohamud—Somali leader and single mom who arrived in Lewiston in 2001.
Glossary of Somali, Arabic, and Other Terms
Abaya—loose overgarment worn by Muslim women.
ALAC—American Laws for American Courts (legislative bill).
Alhamdullilah—Praise be to Allah.
Aroos—Somali wedding reception.
Asylum seeker (asylee)—someone in the United States or a port of entry claiming inability or unwillingness to return to his/her country because of persecution or fear thereof.
Baati—casual Somali dress.
Biil—Somali custom of resource sharing. In the United States, often takes the form of sending money to family members in Africa.
CMCC—Central Maine Community College.
Dadaab—Somali refugee camp in eastern Kenya.
Dagahaley—subcamp in Dabaab where Jamilo’s birth family lives.
Dirac—full-length diaphanous dress worn for special occasions.
Dugsi—Muslim religious classes for children.
Eid al-Adha—Muslim commemoration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
Eid al-Fitr—the celebration at the end of Ramadan. Commonly called Eid.
Eid Mubarak—Happy Eid.
FGM—female genital mutilation.
Guriga waah Lewiston—Lewiston is home.
Halal—meat prepared according to Muslim guidelines. More generally: permissible.
Hijrah—the prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina. Islamic term for migration, taken by anti-Islamists to mean territorial incursion.
Hooyo—Somali word for “mother.” More broadly connotes the mother-child relationship and nurturance.
Iftar—meal after sundown that breaks the daylong fast during the month of Ramadan.
JAG—judge advocate general (military lawyer).
Jumuah—Friday afternoon prayer observed in congregation by Muslims.
Kafir—infidel (sometimes used derogatorily for ill-intended nonbeliever).
Kameez—white garment men wear to the mosque for prayers.
L-A—the Lewiston-Auburn area.
LHS—Lewiston High School.
Macawis—sarong-like garment worn by Somali men.
Mashallah—praise or thanks to God; more informally, “Well done.”
Nikah—Somali wedding contract and ceremony.
ORR—Office of Refugee Resettlement (federal).
Salah—Muslim prayer. There are five requisite prayer times in Islam.
Sambusa—pastry stuffed with minced meat and vegetables.
Shaax—spiced tea similar to chai.
Sharia—Islamic law primarily derived from the Quran and the Hadith (sayings and practices of Muhammad).
Somaalinimo—pride in being Somali.
TANF—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (federal program).
Taqiyya—deception to protect oneself or the Muslim community.
Tarawiy—nightly Ramadan prayers during which the Quran is read.
Wallahi—used for emphasis: “I swear to God…”
WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, LISBON STREET IN LEWISTON, Maine, was the center of the world. A few times a year, my family drove there from our village forty-five miles up the Androscoggin River to shop and to see my great-aunt. Aunt Nell had moved to Lewiston decades earlier; her husband worked in a mill there. Now in her seventies, widowed, she lived on the left side of a tidy duplex with an upright bass in the living room. During our visits, she served rolls hot from the oven and lemonade. The bass grumbled whenever my sister or I plucked it.
In the early 1970s, Lisbon Street formed the spine of the small city. The sidewalks were filled with families and couples and old men wheeling handcarts. After shopping for school supplies at Kresge’s, we’d head to Ward Brothers department store, where the saleswomen spoke English to us and French to each other. The smell inside Ward’s was a heady mix of everything the cosmetics counter had to offer, the carpet plush underfoot.
As I got older, a friend and I sometimes walked along the busy streets in the evenings. Laughter and smoke wafted from the doors of restaurants, and the nearby river was a vast, unseen presence. We got sundaes or stopped at Ward’s to sample makeup and try on clothes our mothers wouldn’t have approved. We didn’t know it, but even then Lisbon Street was in decline. The city’s glory years manufacturing textiles and shoes—decades that brought trains filled with French Canadians in search of jobs—were fading as one by one the mills closed and commerce slowed. Maine’s once-richest city, its Bates Mill the state’s largest employer for over two decades, would struggle for years to come.
It wasn’t until the ’80s, passing through on the way to and from college and later from my home in Massachusetts, that I realized how much Lewiston was changing. The couples and young families had vanished, and Lisbon Street was losing businesses like a mouth losing teeth, until only scattered stores remained.
The city was headed the way of other once-prosperous American industrial centers—jobs gone, the young moving out for good. Welfare set in: subsidized housing and unemployment benefits, food stamps—a sadder kind of commerce that swelled City Hall and social agencies. Kresge’s closed, Ward’s left, and the studio where I’d taken ballet attracted fewer and fewer students.
The secondhand store stayed open. It had seemed unremarkable before, but the rest of downtown was so bleak that its bright front was a beacon. I went there often. Sometimes I walked the neighborhood off Sabattus Street, past the house with the bay window where my Aunt Nell had lived until she died at eighty. Eventually, I’d wind up by the Androscoggin. The river was cleaner than when I was growing up; the mist rising from the falls no longer stank of processed pulp from upstream paper mills.
The city was in tough shape overall. Yet whenever I came back to the fine old buildings and the river and the hills beyond, I thought, Here is a place. Even at its nadir the city retained grandeur and suspense, like a stage between acts. By the mid-’90s a tenuous renaissance was taking form—though some would have called it barebones accommodation—with health care, banking, and other services beginning to fill the postindustrial void. Former mill spaces were converted into restaurants and galleries. Unemployment fell, though the population continued to dwindle and downtown remained stagnant. Of the families who stayed, half of those with children under five lived below the poverty level.
Such was the situation in February 2001 when the first Somali refugees came north from Portland, forty miles away, where housing was short. Maine was cold, and homogeneous (the second-whitest state in the nation, also the oldest), but it offered safety and access to services, and a lower cost of living than large cities where the federal government had first resettled the refugees. Moving to the extreme Northeast was their choice—a gutsy one considering that photos shared through social media showed snow banked four feet high.
By the beginning of 2003, more than 1,400 newcomers had come to Lewiston. They settled into triple- and quadruple-deckers on Spruce and Birch and Pine—the tree streets neighborhood off Kennedy Park. When I came north that spring to visit friends, women in hijabs were shepherding kids down streets that for years had been all but empty. It was an incongruous, astonishing sight. On Lisbon, a few closed stores had reopened under Somali ownership. I went into one, bought cardamom, wondered at signs offering translation and money-wiring services and—back out on the sidewalk—at the palpable energy. In a place where businesses rarely stayed open after five p.m., these were still lit at eight thirty.
Refugees kept coming. People I knew in Lewiston responded to the changes in accordance with their nature: curious or suspicious, or holding off on judgment. In 2005, the New Yorker called what was happening in Lewiston a “large-scale social experiment”—a blunt but not inaccurate assessment. There were, after all, now several thousand African Muslims in an overwhelmingly white town not known as a liberal outpost. Pickups flying American flags regularly drove down Lisbon Street, and stories in the local Sun Journal about the newcomers triggered online rants.
Yet I was seeing a slow, quiet shift—Somalis stocking shelves at the supermarket; white and black kids sitting together at the library; white people buying goat meat on Lisbon. A high school acquaintance who had a daughter in kindergarten with Somali children was happy about the new diversity. “I only knew white kids when I was growing up,” he said. After one of the kindergartner’s family came home to find “Get Out” scrawled on their apartment building, longtime residents helped paint over it. They worked late into the night, he said, so the message would be gone when kids left for school in the morning.
If there was a hostile undercurrent, and if some complained Somalis consumed the city’s resources, other Lewistonians were reaching out and seeking accord. In 2006, a man rolled a pig’s head through the doorway of a mosque. Residents rallied around the city’s Muslims. The deed was denounced, the offender criminally charged. But the act spoke to a bitterness that remains.
I’ve been reporting on Lewiston’s transformation for more than a decade. Early on, the narrative I embraced was of passive refugee-victims. The trauma of wars they left Africa to escape—the loss of loved ones, sexual assault, splintered families and years of privation—means that most newcomers do bear heartache. But over time I came to see that they were not passive. Their resilience moved and inspired me. One early acquaintance, Fatuma Hussein, founded United Somali Women of Maine to promote gender equality. She’d come to the United States at thirteen, from a Somali refugee camp. The first line in my Lewiston notebook was hers: “We are making new lives here.”
The new lives were complex, often delineated by loss. Jamilo Maalim had been separated from her parents as a toddler. When the Somali civil war intensified and militants attacked their village, relatives took her to a refugee camp in Kenya. She lived there eight years. I met Jamilo when she was twenty-two, or maybe twenty-three. (Record keeping, especially during escalations in the war, was haphazard and many refugees don’t know their birthdate.) Her downtown apartment was spare but comfortable, decorated with swags of plastic flowers and photos of her daughter and son. The living room held a leatherette sofa and TV, and a soft rug where the family sat to eat their meals.
Jamilo’s physical traits—the slight set to her chin, upright posture, a warm but searching gaze—suggest both sensitivity and grit. When she arrived in Lewiston as a nine-year-old, she entered third grade. She was quick—learned English easily, made friends, loved gym class. Yet she struggled at home, shuttled among relatives and sometimes harshly punished.
At seventeen she left school and moved out of state to live with a Somali boy she’d met online. She named the baby born that fall Aaliyah—Arabic for “ascending.” A year later, the relationship dissolved. Jamilo and Aaliyah wound up in a shelter for several months. After they returned to Lewiston, her family maneuvered her into an arranged marriage. That ended after two years, just after her second child, Hamzah, turned one.
In spite of the instability, Jamilo has kept moving forward. She returned to high school while pregnant with Aaliyah, got promoted to team leader within weeks of a new job, played on a women’s soccer team. Almost daily, her extended family pressured her to return to the marriage, in which she felt unloved. She wants to raise her kids, work, find a man with whom she can have a marriage that feels mutual. She wants to sort through her past and choose her future.
“Inshallah, someday I will have a happy life,” she says.
LEWISTON NOW HAS the fifth-highest per capita Muslim population of any US city, most of it Somali, along with rising numbers of immigrants from other African nations. Its challenges—strained resources, a still-struggling older generation, teen anomie, de facto segregation—mirror those in other places with large refugee communities. For some, the long-term effects of trauma hinder acculturation. Yet Lewiston is more vital than it was two decades ago. The stakes are high, progress real but precarious.
Into this mix came the 2016 elections and a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment around the country. From spring 2016 through winter 2019, a time when national realities were colliding with those in Lewiston, the lives of five new immigrants play out on these pages. Jamilo and Fatuma each carry a thread. Three others belong to Nasafari Nahumure, Abdikadir Negeye, and Carrys Ngoy. All granted me sustained access to their lives—for which I’m abidingly grateful. A sixth thread examines my family’s leave-taking of the village where we’d lived for generations and the factors that led us to go.
A note about the writing: This is a work of journalism. But it’s not without bias. I talk with my students about the lens of subjectivity—the attributes and accumulation of experiences through which each of us views the world. My lens: I’m female, middle-aged, and married with children. White. I’m registered as Unaffiliated, socially progressive, and attended college in New York before moving to Boston. I now live part-time in Maine.
Getting to know Lewiston’s new-immigrant community changed my lens. The beliefs of strong Somali women made me reevaluate my views on Muslim gender bias, which made me wonder about what I’d absorbed—was still absorbing—about Islam overall. During the thousand-plus hours I spent reporting, a parallel track emerged—this one personal. Trying to understand Islam from the Quran and other primary sources led me to comparisons with the Bible and then from my meditation practice back to the Christianity I’ve grappled with for years. This search had unintended consequences. I sifted through my family’s past, grew closer with my mother.
Some Mainers I interviewed described a reexamination of values that stemmed from what they saw as cultural richness in the new immigrants. One Lewiston man put it like this: “My Somali friends changed [my perspective]. What matters are relationships. Material things do not equate with happiness.” His observations resonated with me. For close to two centuries, my family’s life had revolved around community, family, and faith. The values we abided by were like the ones many of Lewiston’s newcomers hold close today. How had these values sustained them through hardship in Africa and equipped them for new challenges in the US? What had my family given up?
A sizable minority of Mainers remains unhappy about the presence of the city’s newest residents. Lewiston sits in the state’s second congressional district, where the political right has hold. Trump’s win here was his sole district victory in New England. The expansion of the city’s services to include translators and English as a second language (ESL) instructors is anathema to many, as is coexistence with Islam. In recent years the region’s anti-Islam faction has gained momentum and new followers. In my reporting, I set out to get to know them, too.
So much overlays the social landscape through which Jamilo and her friends move. On a sunny autumn day she hosted Aaliyah’s fourth birthday party at an orchard outside Lewiston. Most of the guests were Somali. Among the tree-lined rows, women hoisted kids onto their shoulders and handed them bags for apples. One woman’s fiancé—the only male guest—helped. “So many Eves, only one Adam,” another woman joked.
At the cash register, one of Jamilo’s friends commented that, picking the apples, she’d thought they were free. The cashier’s face hardened. “You shouldn’t take produce you can’t pay for,” she said.
The friend protested—she was paying; that’s why she’d brought her bag of apples to the register. If she didn’t have enough money, she’d take some out.
The cashier narrowed her eyes. “It’s wrong.”
“I didn’t come here to steal your apples,” the friend said.
The cashier glared. The friend swore. The cashier threatened to call the police. Party guests backed away from the register. Jamilo and a friend hurriedly cleaned up the remains of the lasagna they’d brought. The cashier chastised me for letting “them” bring their own food, as if that was my call. “This is a family place,” she said.
The party wasn’t ruined. The kids didn’t overhear the confrontation, and Jamilo shrugged it off. Her friend had a temper; the cashier was rude. Jamilo had dealt with worse.
So they packed up the gifts. Aaliyah would open them and they’d eat the cake inscribed with her name when they got home.
A month later, Trump won the election. Jamilo texted me the next day. She’d voted for the first time—for Hillary. She was shocked at the outcome, she said, and worried for herself and other Muslims. Then she added, “God bless America! I still love this country!” That was Wednesday. Thursday at noon she left work to go home and make chicken for lunch. It was chilly outside, and overcast. As she stepped into a crosswalk, a motorist sped past and shouted at her to take off her hijab. Soon afterward Jamilo texted, “I’m terrified.”
A few days after the incident, though still shaky, she reiterated her love for the US. “This is my home,” she said.
In the eighteen months to come, Jamilo would question her goals and priorities at work and at home. The strain of being Muslim in America under the new president would magnify her struggles.
But Jamilo never thinks about leaving the US. After Trump was elected, Somali social media lit up with rumors. Muslims would be required to wear identification bracelets. They’d have to sign a national registry. Muslim men would be monitored.
Since then, fear in Lewiston has flowed and ebbed based on the president’s latest pronouncement on refugees, or on public reaction to it, or on actions taken by local anti-Islamists. But the city’s Muslims aren’t easily deterred. These are people who trekked miles across the desert, often under attack, to reach refugee camps where conditions too were perilous. Those who made it to the United States—even more, those who left primary resettlement sites to move to an isolated city in western Maine—did so with intention. The same is true of the city’s more recent wave of African asylum seekers who, though less overtly targeted than Muslim refugees, also have sometimes faced unwelcome.
So here we are. The first Somali American kids born in Lewiston are teens now. They’re Mainers, kids who grew up with snow and the piercing blue of a winter sky. They wear wool hats over their hijabs and go to sleep at night with the nearby Androscoggin flowing beneath the ice.
Early Spring 2016
Nasafari, Fatuma, Carrys
FRIDAY, TEACHERS’ WORKSHOP. SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD NASAFARI Nahumure streams The Bold and the Beautiful, fixated on her iPod when she knows she should be studying for her SAT. But these few hours are her haven. She got up this morning glad for a break from the intensity of school and homework and the youth center where she volunteers.
The condo smells of citrus and last night’s jasmine rice. It’s atypically quiet—her little brother and sister upstairs in their rooms, father at work, mother helping out at a friend’s store. Her mom asked Nasafari to tidy the house, so she swept and quickly wiped surfaces with Lysol. This bit of time belongs to her. She sits in her place at the kitchen table, close to a heat vent that keeps away the chill, flicking back a braid or two when they fall forward. She’s lanky, with a fine-boned oval face.
Wind pushes at the windows. Behind the complex a dog barks and barks. Onscreen, the Forrester family schemes to stay on top of the Los Angeles fashion world.
The SAT is April 12, and Nasafari needs to do well. Her dream—she calls it that: “my dream school, it means everything to me”—is to attend St. John’s University in New York for the paralegal studies that will set her up for law school. She hopes to apply early decision next fall. But her parents, conservative Christians and watchful, aren’t sure they want Nasafari that far away, especially given what’s happened with her two older sisters. The oldest moved to Arizona with her youth pastor’s family. The middle sister left high school and lives with her boyfriend, who’s neither born-again nor African.
Nasafari’s father, Norbert, keeps a close eye on his third daughter. She has no phone and little in the way of a social life, does not have a curfew because mostly she doesn’t go out. In navigating Lewiston High School, where she’s a junior, it helps that Nasafari is outgoing. Other students know the slim girl in boots and jeans even though they rarely see her at night or on the weekends. Nasafari isn’t alone; a lot of teens with new-immigrant parents are kept close to home.
It’s possible her mother and father won’t let Nasafari go away for college at all. She knows this. She doesn’t want to know this. She forges ahead.
In school, her strengths are history and English. “I like words, adding to my vocabularies.” She’s been learning languages all her life: Kinyamulenge in the refugee camp where her mother, in her third trimester, fled after rebels jailed her husband and pillaged the Congolese village where the family farmed. Nasafari (whose name means “journey”) was born on the way to the camp. While her father remained imprisoned, the rest of the family resettled in Rwanda. Nasafari learned Kinyarwanda there.
After the rebels released her father, he applied for asylum in the United States. Eventually the family reunited in Maine. Nasafari has lived eleven years in Lewiston, longer than anywhere else. Her English bears traces of Down East: occasional dropped consonants at the ends of words, a two-syllable “there.” She loves Portland (“booming and friendly”) and Freeport for good deals at the outlet stores. Her father’s wages at Pioneer Plastics pay the mortgage on their two-story condo.
Around town, kids who arrived as refugees or asylum seekers are applying to college or gearing up for the SAT. Other immigrants are finishing the semester at universities across the state and elsewhere. Will they come back to Lewiston when they graduate? Will there be jobs if they do? Nasafari sees herself going away for college and then returning; maybe she’ll open a law practice on the lower end of Lisbon, alongside the other offices with their plate-glass windows.
School superintendent Bill Webster hopes so. “The city needs these kids,” he says. “We need their energy and their talents. If they settle here, if they have their own families, [Lewiston] will be a place that can keep pace with the rest of the country.” Webster likes what he’s already seeing: As Maine’s leaders lament its aging, Lewiston is younger than it has been in decades. A new elementary school will soon be built, as schools around the state have had to close their doors.
Five years ago Nasafari walked into the office of Tree Street Youth, the after-school program where she now volunteers, and announced she wanted to be a JAG (judge advocate general) military lawyer. Director Julia Sleeper remembers: “She was twelve, a sixth grader. I didn’t even know what a JAG was.” Nasafari can’t recall where she got the idea. “I just knew I wanted to serve my country and also to be a lawyer and advocate for kids.”
To launch her on her way—St. John’s. Nasafari sees herself as equal parts homebody and adventurer. She likes the idea of college in New York—the pace, the crowds, the rush. Why not? She’s seventeen, impatient—“If I want something done, I want it done now
- "In this detailed, sensitive portrait of the city's revitalization by African immigrants... [Anderson] expertly captures the multilayered dynamics between Lewiston natives and African immigrants...The result is a vivid and finely tuned portrait of immigration in America."—Publishers Weekly
"This compelling account relates how 6,000 African refugees came to settle in Lewiston, Maine... Anderson relies on several voices and story threads to convey the complexities of assimilation: long-time residents, concerned about strained resources; bewildered, often traumatized newcomers; passionate, steadfast activists; parents determined to provide better lives for their children; and government officials grappling with ingrained cultural traditions...Readers will find lots to think about."
- "It's a book that feels both current and necessary, a microcosm of the immigration stories we see playing out daily on the national stage."—Portland Press Herald
- "[Anderson] chronicles the transformation of a formerly white town by an influx of Somali refugees, drawing on the perspectives of old and new residents...The result is a varied political picture."—The New Yorker
- "The arrival of thousands of African refugees in a fading Maine city is a situation ripe for a writer as gifted as Cynthia Anderson. Home Now is immediately relevant and universally resonant, as it illuminates the explosive politics of immigration and explores complex issues around our relationships to places and each other. The richly told stories of Fatuma, Jamilo, Nasafari, Abdikadir, Carrys, and the other remarkable people in these pages will deepen and expand the ways that readers see the world."—Mitchell Zuckoff, New York Times-bestselling author of Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11
- "In this journalist's beautifully written, balanced, personal account, we learn how a former Maine mill town losing business 'like a mouth losing teeth' begins in 2001 to absorb 6,000 Somali, Congolese, and Sudanese refugees. . . . In discouraging times, such an honest and heartening read."—Arlie Hochschild, bestselling author of Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
- "Home Now is a thrilling narration of the lives of the new Mainers settled in one of America's whitest towns--Lewiston, Maine. Cynthia Anderson humanizes the stories of the recent immigrants--many of them Somalis--who helped reawaken a sleepy town. As a recent Somali immigrant myself, I saw in this book a true, intimate, and timely account of what I live every day. This book should be read by everyone to learn about the stories, geography, tradition, strength, and resilience of their new neighbors."—Abdi Nor Iftin, author of Call Me American
- "A compassionate and insightful account of the human stories behind one of the most divisive issues in American politics."—Farah Stockman, New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner
- "Home Now is a breathtaking work of journalism and heart. Following several 'new Mainers' who arrive from war-ravaged African countries, Anderson brings her own deep Maine roots to bear as she illuminates their culture, assimilation, trauma, and homecoming. Her writing is graceful and clear-eyed and brimming with compassion both for the intrepid newcomers and the often-ambivalent citizens who receive them. I found it instructive, poignant, and riveting. We need this book right now."—Monica Wood, author of The One-in-a-Million Boy and When We Were the Kennedys
- "An essential book to remind us that racism and prejudice will never be more powerful than what binds us together in the great American mosaic--community, family, faith, and ultimately, hope. Cynthia Anderson provides an honest portrayal of being a Muslim immigrant in Trump's America."—Ali S. Khan, dean of the School of Public Health, University of Nebraska
- "Home Now folds us into a non-polemical but clear refutation of the villainization of immigrants. Families we come to know and respect have survived appalling hardship in Africa and settled in a Maine mill town that's been demoralized after factories closed or moved on. Nasafari Nahumure, Jamilo Maalim, and the many others on these pages--they stand in for about 6,000 new immigrants in all--help revitalize Lewiston's spirit and commerce. Cynthia Anderson's expert reporting welcomes us, in highly readable style, to the complex and constructive fate of the real America. Her careful rendering, and her insights, deepen our understanding of what's happening here and now."—Mark Kramer, founding director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University
- "With great clarity and honesty, Cynthia Anderson blends intensely personal narratives with first-rate reporting to produce an indisputably necessary book for our times. Both an homage to those fearless immigrants who, through their industry and dedication, remake our country, and a wake-up call, Home Now gives us an America as it is now, today, not some bogus vision of what it never was. There's hope in this book, and struggle, and endurance-all beautifully and intimately captured. And you want to know what it is like at the Walmart at 9PM in late August in Lewiston? Anderson can tell you; she's been there."—Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others and Am I Alone Here?
- "With the depth and detail of a skilled reporter and the narrative grace of a master storyteller, Cynthia Anderson brings to life one of America's unlikeliest immigrant communities: the six thousand people from Sub-Saharan Africa who have made a home for themselves in one of the coldest states in the nation. In Home Now, she carefully strips away the politics surrounding Muslim refugees in the United States to reveal human beings whose relationships with each other are anything but foreign. These individuals are recognizable as mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons and recognizably American in their dreams of a better future."—Paul Doiron, author of The Poacher's Son
- On Sale
- Oct 29, 2019
- Hachette Audio