Seattle Libraries Examine Immigrant Experience

November 25, 2015 7:20 am
by David Jakeman

The National Endowment for the Arts supports a program that helps communities in banding together by reading and discussing a shared book. The King County libraries are taking part in this NEA-supported program, called “The Big Read” and have chosen the book The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, written by Dinaw Mengetsu.

Ethiopian Immigrant Experience in DC

Mengestu’s book explores the immigrant experience of an Ethiopian-American in the nation’s capital in Washington DC. As the SeaTac area has become more and more cosmopolitan, the need for understanding the immigrant experience has become all the more important. The tensions of life in a new country, including racism and displacement make it accessible to those dealing with the same issues.

The choice of book is an effort to help libraries be a safe place for newer arrivals in the King County area. Some passages of the book have even been translated into Amharic, Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Khmer. The book choice and its subject are an effort to help spark a conversation among immigrants and their receiving communities.

Author’s Background

Mengestu’s work of art draws from his own personal experience. He was born in Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. The book was in many ways an effort to uncover his own past, which had been lost in his new home in the United States. He will be coming to Seattle to discuss his work, meet with readers, and to help host a youth writing workshop. 1

If you’re a Seattle immigration attorney, The Big Read is an opportunity to interface with the immigrant community in a different setting. It is nice to see multilayered efforts at integrating immigrants and addressing their many needs. Such an event is a great opportunity to escape what is often a politically divisive topic and explore instead the very human side to immigration.

It is much easier to mistrust and dislike groups of people we don’t know, and it is great that the King County library system is providing such an exciting opportunity to help make the immigrant experience more accessible. So, as weather starts to get a little bit cooler this fall, maybe you can think about putting on a warm sweater and reading Mengestu’s book. This Seattle immigration lawyer might just do that.


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