This is one of my all-time favorite, and probably most frequently recommended, books. Mary Pipher, probably best known as the author of Reviving Ophelia, turns her pen here to her experience working with refugee communities who have been resettled in her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Mary Pipher’s book The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community is a highly readable account of the resiliency of refugee peoples, as well as describing the many ways that we can engage in helping them in their transition to their new life. Pipher, a family therapist, looks at psychological sociological, and cultural issues through the stories she shares of individuals and families she has met in her professional life as well as her volunteer work. This isn’t a textbook. Rather, it is full of stories–wonderful stories, heartbreaking stories, frustrating stories, and stories of hope, all revealing the lives behind the facts, and drawing us into the daily experiences of people who are doing their best to rebuild.
Whenever I meet someone who is new to volunteering with refugee and immigrant communities, I recommend this as required reading! I have read it myself a couple of times, and even after being immersed in refugee ministries for several years I still find helpful insights and reminders. This is one to have on your book list, even if you aren’t a volunteer with refugee communities. The insights you gain into family systems under duress, and how to help others build their own capacity for resilience, are helpful for everyone to learn. Besides, Pipher is an excellent writer and it is just a very good read.
The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community, by Mary Pipher, (Mariner Books, 2003)