A moving chronicle of who belongs in America.
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.
Short story author Anderson (River Talk) profiles residents of Lewiston, Maine, in this detailed, sensitive portrait of the city's revitalization by African immigrants. According to Anderson, the once-prosperous mill town was in sharp decline when the first refugees from Somalia's civil war, drawn by the low cost of living, safe neighborhoods, and access to public services, arrived in 2001. Today, Anderson writes, Lewiston has the fifth highest per capita Muslim population in the U.S., and roughly 6,000 of the city's 36,000 residents are African refugees and asylum seekers. Anderson's subjects include Nasafari Nahumure, a 17-year-old Congolese refugee applying to college, and Fatuma Hussein, a Somali community leader and mother of eight. Anderson recounts the immigrants' journeys to America and documents their daily lives from spring 2016 to January 2019, including their reactions to President Trump's election and immigration policies (one of her subjects considers running for office; others report increased incidents of harassment). She also interviews leaders of a local chapter of the anti-Islamist group ACT for America, and expertly captures the multilayered dynamics between Lewiston natives and African immigrants; in one scene, a food pantry volunteer shakes her head in disapproval when two refugees remove sugary cereal from their prepared boxes of food. The result is a vivid and finely tuned portrait of immigration in America.