In Marin / READING LIST
MM: When did the conceptualization of
this book begin?
LB: The work began when I first went to
refugee camps in 2004 in eastern Chad.
But the conceptualization of writing this
kind of book really started around four
years ago, when I started to see the kind
of political rhetoric we were having in our
country and how many people were losing
sight of the human story of the refugee. I
began wondering how I could construct a
book that would be apolitical, but sort of
reclaim the story of the refugee. I want to
start a conversation, and this book offers a
lens into 11 powerful stories.
MM: What would you say to someone who
doesn’t think the immigration process is their
problem or applies directly to their lives?
LB: I understand it. We’re living in a time
where people are feeling overwhelmed.
Every day it’s a new issue, right? Health
care. Education. The economic disparity.
The refugee situation. The isolation of it
all. But of those people I would ask: What
is a refugee? No one is born with the intention of being a refugee; circumstances
simply arose — whether around race, religion, etc. — that made it impossible to live
in one’s own country. When you leave your
own country, you leave behind your home.
Family. Language. Culture. Familiarity.
You have to learn all kinds of new things.
Aren’t we all, in some ways, refugees?
Refugees from childhood, from our youth,
from our dreams? I don’t mean to simplify
the plight of those who have been forced
from their homelands, but (to identify)
what, within ourselves, it might mean to
be a refugee. What would it mean for you
to leave everything behind? What have we
left behind, and what have we reclaimed?
MM: What do those featured in the book
have in common?
LB: None of them want to be labeled a refugee. They, like anyone else, don’t want to be
limited to a single story. We all have stories
that are complex. We’re human beings. And
so are they. They want this country to be
good, and safe.
MM: What do you consider the crux of the
LB: There’s a question I ask a lot in my
classes. In our world, we’ve seen incredible
advances in technology, science and medicine. It’s unbelievable. Have we advanced
humanly? All around the world, people are
brutalizing other people. How can we foster that human sort of advancement?
CALIN VAN PARIS
Author Talk Refugees in America: Stories of
Courage, Resilience, and Hope in
Their Own Words by Lee T. Bycel (San
Francisco), Rutgers University Press,
$26.95. From the story of a 93-year-
old Polish grandmother who survived
Auschwitz to that of a blind, undocu-
mented immigrant from El Salvador who became a
college graduate, each chapter of Refugees in America
highlights the extraordinary experiences of individuals who have come to the United States after fleeing
oppression, violence and war in their home countries.
Timelier than ever, this collection of stories compiled
by humanitarian activist Lee T. Bycel presents a stunning and eye-opening mosaic of the myriad aspects
of human experience, from heartbreaking suffering to
awe-inspiring resilience. Appearing at Book Passage Corte
Madera on Tuesday, October 15, 7 p.m.
The Invention of Yesterday by Tamim
Ansary (San Francisco), PublicAffairs,
$30. Tamim Ansary’s tome takes a
far-reaching look at human history, begin-
ning with our existence in small, often
isolated groups and traveling forward to
the planet-wide community we’ve estab-
lished today. But while that journey provides the backdrop,
Ansary’s true focus is on those essential human attributes
that have persisted throughout — our religions, laws,
cultural movements and philosophies. Appearing at Book
Passage Corte Madera on Tuesday, October 8, 7 p.m.
The Memory Keeper by Jennifer
Camiccia (Bay Area), Aladdin Books, $17.99.
Young Lulu Carter has the brain condi-
tion known as HSAM — highly superior
autobiographical memory — which
allows her to remember almost every
moment of her life. Yet for the heroine of
this middle-grades novel, HSAM is more of a burden than
a blessing, leaving her isolated except for her relationship
with her grandmother — until her grandmother’s own
memory starts to fade. Realizing that her grandmother’s
amnesia could be rooted in a past trauma, Lulu begins
investigating her grandmother’s history, but she soon
uncovers secrets that were meant to stay buried. Appearing
at Book Passage Corte Madera on Sunday, October 20, 4 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Reviews by Book Passage Marketing Manager
We sat down with professor,
rabbi and humanitarian Lee
T. Bycel of San Francisco to
discuss his new book, Refugees
in America: Stories of Courage,
Resilience, and Hope in Their