Reading, panel discussion will focus on refugees in Vermont

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) presents a book reading by Sandgate author Brad Kessler followed by a discussion about refugees on Thursday, Nov. 18, at 5:30 p.m. Kessler will read from North, his new novel about the intertwined lives of a Vermont monk, a Somali refugee, and an Afghan war veteran.

The reading will be followed by a panel discussion with Kessler; Laurie Stavrand, of USCRI Vermont; and a Vermonter with a refugee background. Copies of North will be sold.

North follows the journey of Sahro Abdi Muse from her home in Somalia to South America, along the migrant route through Central America and Mexico, to New York City, and finally, on her dangerous attempt to continue north to safety in Canada.

The book also traces the inner journeys of Brother Christopher, a cloistered monk at Blue Mountain Monastery in Vermont, and Afghan war veteran Teddy Fletcher. These three lives are “woven together with intricate threads of home, flight, sanctuary, danger, hope, faith, storytelling and much more,” according to a review in Shelf Awareness.

“I'm excited to talk about this book with fellow Vermonters, many of whom, like myself, arrived in the state from elsewhere, in search of their own sanctuary,” Kessler said in a news release. “What does that mean for others in the world who are seeking the most basic sanctuary: asylum from persecution and climate change?”

USCRI Vermont has received approval from the U.S. Department of State to welcome up to 100 Afghan refugees to Vermont. In addition, the Ethiopian Community Development Council recently proposed Brattleboro as a new refugee resettlement site, and the organization has hired Joe Wiah, a former housing case manager for Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), to direct the Multicultural Community Center it plans to establish in Brattleboro [“Welcoming the newest Vermonters,” News, Nov. 3].

“Given these important developments, this event is especially timely and relevant,” BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld said. “We look forward to a lively and productive conversation.”

Kessler's novel Birds in Fall won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His other books include Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese, Lick Creek, and The Woodcutter's Christmas. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, the Kenyon Review, and BOMB, as well as other publications.

Stavrand is the Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator for the Vermont office of USCRI (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program), whose mission is to protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and support their transition to a dignified life.

In the last 40 years, more than 8,000 refugees have started new lives in Vermont with assistance from USCRI.

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