Swarthmore College Bulletin
“Books always have this connection with us,” Aly says. “My hope was for a family to create its own book. They will start their stories in it, and hopefully these books will continue to grow and they will keep telling their stories.”
March 3, 2019
“Especially in the past few years, the topic of refugees have become so politicized and polarized both here and in the world,” Bolnick said. “It’s all the more necessary now more than ever to focus on the human element of refugees and to keep that on the forefront of our minds whenever we are having these political discussions.”
March 22, 2019
The seed of the program was was sown in the Swarthmore College libraries. College Librarian Peggy Seiden was thinking about the Swarthmore Peace Library’s Trocmé Collection, and perceived connections between the international refugee crisis of the past decades and the Jewish diaspora chronicled in the papers of Christian minister Andre Trocmé and his wife Magda (who protected French Jews during World War II).
May 8, 2019
Listen to Matt Kalasky interview Suzanne Seesman, Islam Aly, Abdul Karim Awad, and Yaroub Al-Obaidi to learn more about how this project used art to connect and create dialogue between recent resettled individuals from Syria and Iraq and the Philadelphia community.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
July 3, 2019
After 10 years in the U.S., Ali said she now thinks of herself as Iraqi and American. She considers herself something else, too — and when she proudly proclaims it, it’s the only time her accent completely disappears. “Now, I’m from Philly!” she said.
July 9, 2019
Diab said she worries some people see refugees as burdens on their new country’s public resources, and hopes the artwork she created will help shatter that stereotype and show instead what she can contribute. Making art has also helped the refugees process their displacement. Diab used the sewing skills that once helped her put food on the table to make an elegant lace wedding gown. News images of bombed-out Syrian streets and men armed with rifles hide beneath the white lace.
October 22, 2019
One workshop, for instance, asked the “collaborators,” as the refugee participants were called, to share negative media reports about resettlement or their own stories about discrimination, rip up the paper and use the scraps to make new paper. In others, collaborators learned book-binding by creating their own books or learned about calligraphy by writing poems on the paper they made.
Social Justice and Social Practice in Book Arts
“I learned a lot about invisible violence hearing these stories. The US is often seen as heroic for taking in refugees, but my impression from interviewing the resettlers is that it’s more much about creating the next underclass. The refugees who are “allowed” in are in debt the second they get off the plane. Everything that’s paid for them to resettle here is simply a loan.”