In "New Mainers," author Pat Nyhan explores who these new Mainers are and why they have  come to Maine. (Tilbury House Publishers, Thomaston, Maine)
In "New Mainers," author Pat Nyhan explores who these new Mainers are and why they have come to Maine. (Tilbury House Publishers, Thomaston, Maine)
Maine poet Gary Lawless, who owns Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick with Beth Leonard and helps others find their creative voice, suggests how Mainers can learn about the state’s newest residents through volunteering to help immigrant children tell their stories in Portland and Lewiston. 

The Telling Room, a non-profit writing center in Portland, and Tree Street Youth in Lewiston offer newly arrived immigrants and refugees a path to putting their experiences into words. 

The Telling Room focuses on literacy skills and confidence building for young writers under the age of 18. Tree Street Youth offers free programs to Lewiston youth and encourages children to tell their stories. Both programs seek volunteers.

Lawless also offers a book list for those interested in better understanding immigration in Maine.

The Good Braider by Terry Farish (Young Adult Fiction  about moving from Sudan to Portland)

In Sudan, life is a mixture of fear and violence for Viola and her family. After seeing a boy shot trying to defend her honor and being assaulted in Sudan, Viola flees to Cairo with her mother and brother and they finally settle in the  Sudanese community in Portland, Maine. The free-form verse and repetitive symbolism tie this portion of Viola’s life, tenuously, to her fading ties to Sudan, according to a review by Horn Book Magazine. The reviewer notes the book captures the tension between Viola and her desire to assimilate into American culture and her mother, who has more traditional views, by using the tradition of braiding hair as a structural motif in telling Viola’s story.

Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian (Young Adult Fiction about Somalis in Lewiston)

The book, as described on the author’s website, is about Tom Bouchard, a popular boy with a bright future who is also captain and star of the Enniston High School soccer team.

Things change when his town becomes a destination for Somali refugees and four Somali boys join the soccer team. One of the Somalis, Saeed, leads the team to win.

But when Saeed’s eligibility is questioned, Tom is left to grapple with a culture he doesn’t understand and take responsibility for his actions.

“Out of Nowhere” received the 2014 Maine Literary Award and the 2014 Lupine Award from the Maine Library Association.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Fiction about Somalis in Lewiston)

As reviewed on Amazon: “Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan — the Burgess sibling who stayed behind — urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.”

Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Olive Kitteridge. 



Homesick Mosque and Other Stories by Reza Jalali (Fiction)

Going to Friday prayers in a small New England town became risky for Muslims after 9/11. The stories in this collection represent the struggle of some of America’s newest immigrants to survive the most recent wave of bigotry and hatred in order to feel at home.

Flawed Landscape by Sharif Elmusa (Poems 1987-2008) 

Elmusa is originally from Palestine, where his village was leveled and replaced with an Israeli settlement, according to Beth Leonard, co-owner of Gulf of Maine Books.

New Mainers: Portraits of Our Immigrant Neighbors by Pat Nyhan and Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest (Photographs and stories)

Black-and-white photographs and stories of 25 immigrant Mainers who came from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America to settle in Maine.

Some work at highly skilled positions in medicine, engineering, law, and at colleges. Some are public school teachers. Some are migrant workers. About one-third are successful entrepreneurs. 

The stories don’t stop when the immigrants reach Maine. They continue on to portray life in their adopted home.

Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine by Catherine Besteman

The book follows Somali Bantus from their homes before the 1991 civil war to Kenyan refugee camps, to cities across the United States, and finally to their new home in the struggling former mill town of Lewiston, Maine.

Voyages: A Maine Franco-American Reader by Nelson Madore and Barry Rodrigue

Essays, stories, plays, poetry, songs, and art from Franco-Americans and the Acadian experience in Maine.

Dead Still Dream by Kifah Abdulla and Brook DeLorme (Poems)

Originally from Iraq, Abdulla was a soldier in the Iraq-Iran war. He was captured and spent over eight years as a prisoner of war in Iran before moving to Portland, Maine,  in 2011.

How May I Help You by Deepak Singh (Memoir)  

National Public Radio commentator and journalist Deepak Singh tells his story: an immigrant’s journey from MBA to minimum wage in retail. He lives in Brunswick and will read at Gulf of Maine Books on March 4.