The subjects of Hartman’s book, a mix of nationalities and ages, find a city with low annual income, but also a low cost of living. Readers see not only the particular people, but also the changes that their presence brings to the city. The challenges of integration provide a road map for revitalization ... covers a remarkable eight years as Hartman keeps returning to interview her subjects as their lives change ... Each individual’s narrative reveals that people are not simply defined by the hardest period of their lives, but also by their hopes and ability to adapt and strive in their new homes. The damage of displacement will continue to color their future, but it is not them. Readers get to know the people and their personalities before the author delves into the circumstance which led them to become refugees ... The book is filled with poignant and personal stories about people overcoming hardships and the devastation of war. It is the stuff of human drama: the joys, disappointments, and hopes of people who needed help to rebuild. In addition, it encapsulates American exceptionalism in the creation of a nation with the blood of those who were born elsewhere, but contributed their energies, efforts and experiences to create something new.
... insightful and fascinating ... Hartman interweaves their stories with those of other immigrants who establish themselves in this Rust Belt city, shaping its life for the better, and reviews the complicated history of post-industrial cities in the Northeast. In doing so, she will hone and reshape the reader’s understanding of the impact of refugees on American society.
The vignette-filled short chapters may have seemed a solution to the narrative puzzle of humanizing a city of immigrants through their actions. But, though we soon affirm what we might assume all along — that they are regular people living their lives stalwartly, day by day — a reader may wish for more guidance than is on offer ... Makes readers hungry, but might leave some unsatisfied. There's an impressive vastness to the reporting, but it is not tamed in the service of systematic insight ... The daily facts flow past us like rubble from the flood of cultures. The net realization is that energetic young people from several religions and backgrounds devote themselves to a process that amounts to homogenization, as our commercial vigor and consumerism convert these diverse and admirable souls into more of us — in the same deep trouble ... akes an honorable place among the literature of urban revitalization, offering us few answers — perhaps there are few, in the current atmosphere of unresolvable peril — but much to consider.