Skip to Main Content

Refugee Awareness Month : All-Campus Read: Susan Hartman's "City of Refugees"

BC3 Collegewide Book Club

Book discussion with the author!

Discussion led by Stephen Joseph, Dean of Liberal Arts

City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed

Life into a Dying American Town by Susan Hartman

Wednesday, November 16 @ 12:30PM

In person: HFLC 232

Here’s the link to join the discussion virtually:

About the author

About the author-Susan Hartman

For over 20 years, Susan Hartman has been writing intimate stories about immigrants and their communities.  Her book, City of Refugees, the Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town, was recently published by Beacon Press. Her cover stories and profiles have appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday.

She has teamed up with some of the best American photographers, profiling a Belfast boy who needed a break from summer violence; a Chinese immigrant who repairs watches on a Brooklyn street; and Ghanaian live-in home health aides—far from their homes in the Bronx—who are united through a prayer call.

The author of two books of poetry, Hartman was educated at Kirkland College and received an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she now teaches.  She has taught journalism at Yale, NYU, and Barnard College.  

She lives outside New York City with her husband. They have a grown son and daughter.

About the book

About the book: City of Refugees: The Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town

Many Americans imagine refugees as threatening outsiders who will steal jobs or be a drain on the economy. But across the country, refugees are rebuilding and maintaining the American Dream. In City of Refugees, journalist Susan Hartman shows how an influx of refugees helped revive Utica, New York, an old upstate manufacturing town that was nearly destroyed by depopulation and arson.
Hartman follows 3 of these newcomers over the course of 8 years as they and their families adjust to new lives in America. There’s Sadia, a bright, spirited Somali Bantu teenager who rebels against her formidable mother; Ali, an Iraqi translator who creates a home with a divorced American woman but is still traumatized by war; and Mersiha, a hard-working and ebullient Bosnian who dreams of opening a café.
They are part of an extraordinary migration of refugees from Vietnam, Bosnia, Burma, Somalia, Iraq, and elsewhere, who have transformed Utica over the past four decades—opening small businesses, fixing up abandoned houses, and adding a spark of vitality to forlorn city streets.
Other Rust Belt cities have also welcomed refugees, hoping to jump-start their economies and attract a younger population. City of Refugees is a complex and poignant story of a small city but also of America—a country whose promise of safe harbor and opportunity is knotty and incomplete, but undeniably alive.

City of Refugees is available through Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. The BC3 Library also has a limited number of copies in its New Books collection.