The American dream is alive, with a twist, in "Our Stories Carried Us Here," which offers 10 stories of young people who cross cultural barriers to make a new life in the Midwest.
The anthology includes a range of stories — narrators come from familiar immigration points such as Mexico, Liberia, Guatemala and Vietnam, and less familiar destinations including Chad, Kazakhstan and Pakistan — and an unexpected range of immigrant experiences.
We're introduced to Craig Moodie, a gifted student who emigrates from Jamaica to study at Macalester, the University of Minnesota, and later launch a career in neurogenetics, despite microaggressions along the way.
And Ruth Mekoulom, whose parents left Chad and Cameroon for North Dakota, to give her more educational opportunities as a deaf student.
Teenager Alex Tsipenyuk leaves Kazakhstan when his parents win the green card lottery, and Amara Solomon Kamara follows his heart to Minneapolis after meeting an American in Guinea.
The experience of two Dreamers, Sergio Cenoch from Mexico and Mary Anne Quiroz from the Philippines, encapsulates the anthology's layered approach to immigrant stories.
Brought to the U.S. by single mothers at a young age, they met at a St. Paul school in seventh grade and began organizing dance and cultural activities in response to bullying by white students. Their work evolved into the Mexican dance and drum group Kalpulli Yaocenoxtli.
The pair, who later married, helped launch the Indigenous Roots cultural space in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood after fighting for funding and pushing back against a big developer.
Colombian-born artist Camilo Aguirre, now based in Minneapolis, illustrates their story in fluid ink drawings with a color palette of blue for Mary Anne and orangish-brown for Sergio. The colors merge into shades of brown and purple as their stories come together.
Each of the narrators in the anthology is paired with an artist or artists from a similar cultural background, adding a documentary and emotional dimension to the stories.
Minneapolis artist Sunshine Gao evokes a dreamy sense of memory with her watercolor illustrations of Aziz Kamal's childhood in a Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar; the wall of black, red and orange when Buddhists attack and burn his village lands as a stunning act of violence.
Polish-born illustrator Tom Kaczynski, who teaches at MCAD, captures the Soviet-era landscape of Kazakhstan in stripped-down line drawings on an orange on tan background that evoke the muted color palette of Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang."
And the Cameroonian-American artist collective HOP captures the bustle of the market in N'Djamena, Chad, and the playfulness of Ruth and her friends gathering flowers in the woods, before her family begins their journey to a new country.
The narrators and illustrators of "Our Stories Carried Us Here" take the reader on journeys, across cultures and into a Midwestern experience that is often overlooked. They also showcase the depth of storytelling talent in our region, thanks to those who have chosen to make it their home.
Trisha Collopy is a copy editor at the Star Tribune.
Our Stories Carried Us Here
Edited by: Julie Vang, Tea Rozman and Tom Kaczynski.
Publisher: Green Card Voices, 201 pages, $24.99.