Welcoming Week Reads

therefugeesWelcoming Week takes place September 15-24 and encourages communities to bring together immigrants, refugees, and native-born U.S. residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. To better understand the experience of immigrants and refugees, you can check out these books (a mix of both fiction and nonfiction) from your local library:

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen – A new collection of stories, written over a 20-year period, which explores questions of home, family, immigration, the American experience and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis by Patrick Kingsley – Presents a searing account of the international refugee crisis to illuminate the realities of modern day mass-scale forced migrations, describing the ongoing safety challenges imposed on refugees in seventeen countries.

Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya – Follows a family of Russian immigrants who move to Brooklyn and discover that the lines between the old world and the new are very blurred and the things they thought they had left behind are readily available in America.

Refugee Hotel by Gabriele Stabile & Juliet Linderman – Accompanied by candid photos and unforgettable stories and oral histories, a photographer and journalist present nine portraits of modern-day refugees on their way to becoming Americans, documenting their first night in the U.S. to their triumphs and struggles as they adjust to a new way of life.

Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy by Carlos Eire – Presents the story of the author’s exile in America, where his brother and he relocated as youths from their revolution-torn home in Cuba, struggled with the loss of their cultural identity, and acclimated to American culture. Continue reading

“I’ve whispered ‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.”

selloutA small group joined Books on Tap on a beautiful, September 7, at  Champion Brewery to try to “untangle” Paul Beatty’s award-winning 2015 novel, The Sellout.

The plot centers on a Californian African American, an urban farmer home-schooled by his single father, alternately referred to as “Me” or “Bonbon”.  He contemplates how he has ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court over his efforts to reinstitute segregation and put his hometown of Dickens back on the map.  Oh, and he’s also the reluctant owner of a single slave, Hominy, a former child actor in the television series The Little Rascals.  

Going into it, we thought this would be a challenging novel to discuss. It seems to say that one can use racism to make people less racist.  And it questions how much or how little progress has been made on race relations in a supposed post-racial America.  

Some readers were put-off by the language. There were continual references to American Black culture, stereotypes and sometimes over the top, non-stop comedic innuendos that some readers might not “get”. Many reviewers and critics have characterized the novel as “satire”, but we discussed whether we thought the author really intended it as such.  Other readers appreciated the rich, dense sentences but admitted that it made the book a complex read. Readers felt there was some general wackiness and a few subplots that might have distracted from the book’s main storyline. 

There are many L.A.-area neighborhood references and fans of The Little Rascals might find some of the related trivia interesting.

Our discussion perhaps inevitably turned to current events and race relations in Charlottesville due to the author’s prescient wording on page 234.   Describing different ethnic groups at a “Hood Day” celebration, the main character says of a certain group “..it was hard to tell if they were from Dickens. Like Nazis at a Ku Klux Klan rally, they were comfortable ideologically but not in in terms of corporate culture.”

In the final pages, the protagonist reflecting on his own silence after a white couple is basically chased out of a black comedy club (p. 287), says that “Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times it’s fear.”  

More Information:
About the author
About the book
Other titles

Related Reading
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Waking Up White by Debbie Irving

2016 National Book Critics Circle Award (Fiction), winner for The Sellout
2016 Man Booker Prize winner for The Sellout
2017 International Dublin Literary Award long-list for The Sellout

Books on Tap Information:

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Welcoming Week Events

Welcoming_Week_Primary_Logo_300ppi_Welcoming Week is September 15-24 and JMRL is celebrating with a variety of programs. During this series of events, communities and groups bring together immigrants and U.S.-born residents in a spirit of unity to help raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone – including new Americans.
Help us celebrate!

Past Events

Digging For Your Roots – Northside Library
Wednesday, September 13 at 6:30-8:30pm
Susan Emert, Central Virginia Genealogical Association, guides you through genealogical research using Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest databases (available at jmrl.org). Required registration begins August 23.

Telling Our Stories – Northside Library
Thursday, September 14 at 6:30pm
Everyone has a story. Hear students working with Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education (TJACE) share their stories of leaving their homes and coming to the United States. Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program.

Laughing Dragon Kung Fu – Northside Library
Friday, September 15 at 4pm
Join us as Laughing Dragon Kung Fu presents a traditional Chinese dragon dance followed by a traditional southern Chinese lion dance.

Salam Neighbor Film – Greene County Library
Friday, September 15 at 7pm
Documentary film followed by discussion with Alyson Ball of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Charlottesville.

Mulan Film (PG) – Nelson Memorial Library
Saturday, September 16 at 10:30am
For all ages.

More Than One Story – Northside Library
Saturday, September 16 at 10:30-11:30am
Join us for More Than One Story, an award-winning card game which builds bridges between people of all ages, backgrounds, and cultures. Required registration begins August 26.

Get Moving with Salsa! – Northside Library
Saturday, September 16 at 1-3pm
Charlottesville Salsa Club will teach you about the music and dance of salsa, a dance form with origins in the Caribbean. Ages 14 years+. Required registration begins August 26.

Irish Dance and Music Performance – Central Library
Saturday, September 16 at 3pm
A family event with music and dance provided by the Blue Ridge Irish Music School. A short talk about their instruments will follow the performance. For all ages. No registration required.

Who is Dayani Cristal? Film – Northside Library
Monday, September 18 at 6:30pm
Who Is Dayani Cristal? tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death.” Screening of the film will be followed by a discussion led by representatives from Creciendo JuntosRequired registration begins August 28.

Salam Neighbor Film Discussion – Crozet Library
Monday, September 18 at 6:30pm
Watch documentary Salam Neighbor, about America filmmakers who live for a month among 75,000 Syrians in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, and then discuss the issues with Alyson Ball of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Donated items will be collected in an IRC drive for resettled families in Charlottesville.

Irish Music – Nelson Memorial Library
Tuesday, September 19 at 2pm
Come by and listen to live Irish music at this family event.

Arabic Calligraphy Class – Central Library
Wednesday, September 20 at 6pm
Learn about the art of calligraphy. Hafidha Bouzidi and Mouadh Benamar from the Islamic Society of Central Virginia will teach a class. All supplies provided. For ages 14+. Registration begins September 6.

8 Borders, 8 Days Film – Central Library
Thursday, September 21 at 7pm
A 60-minute feature documentary film; the story of a fierce, resourceful mother willing to risk her children’s lives for a better future.

Mehndi – Northside Library
Thursday, September 21 at 7pm
Mehndi is a form of body art in which decorative designs are applied on skin using a paste created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. Come learn about the origins of this art form from ancient India and witness the preparation of henna paste. The program concludes with an opportunity to create lovely henna tattoos and sends you off with safety and care instructions. Ages 14+. Required registration begins August 31.

Ned Kelly Film (R) – Nelson Memorial Library
Saturday, September 23 at 10:30am

T’ai Chi Class –  Central Library
Saturday, September 23 at 11am
Join us for an introduction to this graceful form of exercise. The Charlottesville T’ai Chi Center will teach a T’ai Chi class for beginners. For ages 14+. Registration begins September 9.