Friday, February 01, 2013


Refugee Hotel, Juliet Linderman, McSweeney's Books, 2012, 317 pp

Refugees entering the United States from Asian and African countries in the 21st century number 64,000 a year. After often years, even decades, in refugee camps, their first experience of America is a night in an airport hotel until they are flown to their destination city. Hence the title.

Half the book is photos of these people in the hotels and in their new homes. Many end up in high-rise projects but they are given services to help them adjust, learn English, find jobs and become citizens.

The rest of the book relates the immigration stories of many of these people. Heartbreak, broken families, and lost nationalities combine with determination and hope. The 64,000 a year are the lucky ones. Millions more are still in the refugee camps, underfed, barely housed, and dying.

The book moved me and opened my eyes to the realities of the countries from which these people come. We live in a world of intense upheaval and I wonder at the disparity between my safe, secure, and prosperous life and the desperation of so many. It is hard to fathom.

(Refugee Hotel is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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