Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir

Seeing your refugee neighbors in deeper and clearer ways

child with hands covering mouth
doable spiritual practices theme for January 2022

We rarely know the stories of our refugee neighbors. Kao Kalia Yang seeks to change that by sharing a group of stories about different refugees who are now neighbors in the state of Minnesota.  

Six years ago I shared with my parents a haunting documentary movie called “God Grew Tired of Us” about the Lost Boys of Sudan’s experience. I remember getting to the end. My father, a retired dairy farmer, with emotion in his voice said, “If only people knew the stories of our new neighbors, they would treat them differently.”

Kao Kalia Yang tells fifteen haunting and powerful stories of the events that led different refugees to flee from what had been their home. She also shares their hard, dangerous, twisting journeys that brought them to our area.  The stories call us to see our new neighbors with different eyes. They call us to open our lives and communities to receive our refugee neighbors. 

I read one story a night as I had time last spring. The stories deepened my empathy. I look with even deeper compassion at all people who have traveled here from other countries as refugees. I lament whatever threatened people to the point they had to flee their homes. I am amazed and inspired by the resilience of refugees who have to navigate their losses and trauma while building a new life.  

We all long to see the world more clearly and better know our neighbors. I commend “Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir,” by Kao Kalia Yang, to you so that you might see your refugee neighbors in even deeper and clearer ways.  

  • Jon Anderson

    Pastor Jon Anderson serves as Director of Rural Ministry at Luther Seminary. He recently completed eighteen years of service as bishop in the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.

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