Six thousand African refugees (mostly Muslim, mostly Somalian) relocate to the historically French-Canadian, Catholic, white, blue-collar town of Lewiston, Maine. The narrative tension hinges on this story’s improbabilities, the contrasts of black and white, snow and sun. And Lewiston is no Brigadoon; with its flatlined enterprises, environmental-pollution legacies, and aging homes and infrastructure, jobs and resources are precious to the locals. What could go wrong?
In Home Now, Cynthia Anderson chronicles the everyday lives of Lewiston’s African immigrants, such as Fatuma Hussein, who establishes a nonprofit, and Nasafari Nahumure, a high-school student planning to be an attorney. Strains occur—isolation, conflicts, peanut-gallery racists, clan-division hangovers between ethnic Somalis, and the intrusion of Maine’s former governor, who is a flaccid doppelgänger of President Trump—but, on the whole, the experiment works. Its successes slowly but inexorably accumulate: efforts toward ending female-genital mutilation, better high-school soccer teams, and families shoring up their lives while also bolstering Lewiston’s long-suffering economy with small, family-run businesses.