In the late 1970s, a local resident (Roberta Douglas) facilitated the resettlement of a single Vietnamese Amerasian in Utica, setting in motion the development of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees—now simply known as The Center.
Douglas’s thoughtful, singular initiative expanded in subsequent decades, sparking the regeneration of a Rust Belt city that soon became noteworthy for its growing foreign-born populations.
Utica’s somewhat inadvertent development into a longstanding haven for refugees is chronicled in Susan Hartman’s new book City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town. Hartman, who attended nearby Kirkland College (since merged with Hamilton College), has written pieces on immigration for a number of well-known publications. Her latest work picks up this thread and weaves together portraits of three individuals and the community they have helped to revitalize.
City of Refugees is centered around the lives of a Somali, an Iraqi, and a Bosnian who are building new lives in Utica for themselves and their families. In addition to following their development over eight years, Hartman’s book touches on important aspects of the history and current status of the area—topics that include The Center’s past and present roles in the local community. City of Refugees can be purchased online at a number of major book retailers.
Book excerpt published on Literary Hub, 6/9/2022
Read more here