It is not an easy road—but hope is the oxygen of my life. These insightful words of Meron Semedar, a refugee from Eritrea, reflect the feelings of the eleven men and women featured in this book. These refugees share their extraordinary experiences of fleeing oppression, violence and war in their home countries in search of a better life in the United States.
Each chapter of Refugees in America focuses on an individual from a different country, from a 93-year-old Polish grandmother who came to the United States after surviving the horrors of Auschwitz to a young undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who became an American college graduate, despite being born impoverished and blind. Some have found it easy to reinvent themselves in the United States, while others have struggled to adjust to America, with its new culture, language, prejudices, and norms.
Each of them speaks candidly about their experiences to author Lee T. Bycel, who provides illuminating background information on the refugee crises in their native countries. Their stories help reveal the real people at the center of political debates about US immigration.
Giving a voice to refugees from such far-flung locations as South Sudan, Guatemala, Syria, and Vietnam, this book weaves together a rich tapestry of human resilience, suffering, and determination.
About the Author
LEE T. BYCEL is a humanitarian activist, Rabbi, teacher and author, who serves as the Sinton Visiting Professor of Holocaust, Ethics and Refugee Studies at the University of San Francisco. He has visited refugee camps in Darfur, Chad, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Haiti. He has written extensively about the plight of refugees, and has secured much needed funding for medical clinics in refugee camps.
DONA KOPOL BONICK is an esteemed portraitist and artist whose photographic career spans three decades. The photography director for the inaugural BottleRock music festival, her works have appeared in many books, art museums, and private collections.
ISHMAEL BEAH whose work has been published in over 30 countries, is the New York Times Bestselling author of A Long Way Gone; Memoirs of a boy soldier and Radiance of Tomorrow, a novel. His next novel, The Lively Skeletons of Every Season, a novel, will be published by fall of 2019.
"Refugees in America is a timely, important, and deeply moving testament to the profound ways in which refugees have enriched our nation. By letting refugees tell their stories, Rabbi Lee Bycel reminds us of their humanity and our responsibilities to help them."
— Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
"Bycel’s powerful depiction of the lives of refugee families and their struggle for safety and freedom - from Iraq to Darfur - prove a testament to the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit."
— Nancy A. Aossey
"This compelling book is a timely reminder that refugees are an indispensable part of the American nation. Their deeply affecting anecdotes of escape from terror highlight the existential motivations that continue to bring reasonable, desperate people to the United States. Readers will be inspired by the gratitude and hope in these pages."
— Leon Botstein
"Lee Bycel offers us a compelling and astute look into the very difficult lives of refugees. His powerful insights and the historical context he provides make this compilation of deeply moving first-person stories an excellent primer for everyone—individuals, book groups, religious study groups, academic classes—who wishes to go beyond the myths and headlines into the real world of the refugee experience.”
— Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
"Lee Bycel wrote this book to 'move readers to not only care deeply about the plight of refugees…but also deepen their resolve to help.' His touching profile of 11 refugees from around the world achieves that goal. This is definitely a book for our xenophobic times."
— Stephen A. Privett, SJ
"These tales so effectively make real the multiple reasons people leave behind all that is familiar and undertake fraught journeys and face untold risks in pursuit of freedom and hope, Bycel’s gathering is a critical read for all who are grappling with the moral implications of borders and global human-rights obligations."
"One of the main points of [Bycel]’s book is that one does not have to be a humanitarian activist to either be concerned about this issue or engaged in searching for a solution to the global crisis that displaced peoples and refugees will continue to be."