Somali Immigration to Lewiston, Maine: Background information when reading The Burgess Boys

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The Burgess Boys

By Elizabeth Strout

The Burgess Boys
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2013,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2014,
    352 pages.

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Beyond the Book:
Somali Immigration to Lewiston, Maine

Years ago, when we were vacationing in Maine, we drove through the city of Portland and I spotted a lady holding a child by the hand. She was dressed in an extremely colorful hijaab and that riot of color really stood out in my mind – I was reminded of that flash of color after I put down The Burgess Boys.

Somali women in Lewiston, MaineThe civil war that wracked Somalia for much of the early '90s meant an increasing number of refugees fleeing the country to distant places, including the United States. While large urban areas such as Atlanta attracted the first wave of Somalis, in the early 2000s, Somali immigrants started making their way into Maine, initially to Portland. Because the city of Portland had very limited affordable housing options, the Somalis moved north, to the city of Lewiston, the second largest city in Maine. The fictional town of Shirley Falls in The Burgess Boys might well be modeled after Lewiston.

A thriving mill town up until the '70s, by 2000 the city was in steep decline with an...

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