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The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,021 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Over the past decade, Mary Pipher has been a great source of wisdom, helping us to better understand our family members. Now she connects us with the newest members of the American family--refugees. In cities all over the country, refugees arrive daily. Lost Boys from Sudan, survivors from Kosovo, families fleeing Afghanistan and Vietnam: they come with nothing but the des ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 2002)
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Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-cultural
I spent part of my summer teaching English to Burmese refugees at a local robot-uniform factor (yes, I did say “robot-uniform”! Who knew the intense need for such textiles?!?) They were a delightful bunch, and I loved every minute I spent with them – gleaning from their perseverance while imagining the sorrows they carry. This experience spurred me to read Mary Pipher’s book The Middle of Everywhere: Helping refugees enter the American community.
What I most loved about this book was Pipher’s pr
Many residents of Lincoln, Nebraska may not be aware of the ethnic, linguistic, and cultural diversity within our small city's borders. In a town of under a quarter million people, we have immigrants and refugees who speak over 50 different languages. This book, written by an acclaimed psychologist/author (and Lincolnite), sheds a light on the experiences and often-traumatic back stories of our city's many residents who came here to seek safety from oppression, violence, and fear of death.
Ms. Pi
Apr 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
I had a love/hate relationship with this book. The author, who is a psychologist, claims she is giving everyday people practical advice about working with refugees, and she tells a lot of personal stories about the people that she has worked with, some of which are really beautiful stories. But she doesn't really offer much practical information about global migration and refugee resettlement as a larger issue/system, which to me trivializes her personal stories because I think the larger pictur ...more
Mara Bolingbroke
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow, great book! Everyone needs to read this book, especially if you come across individuals with different ethnic backgrounds/cultures. Mary writes the pros and cons of what America has to offer and currently offers to newcomers; it truly is eye opening and it has broaden my understanding of refugees and those who’s English might be a new language. She focuses on the good that people from other countries offer and how we might become better when we have the mentality of allowing others to enter ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
I work with refugees every day and my eyes and heart have been opened in so many ways and I was interested in the bigger picture of their experience in America as a whole. This book is written by a psychologist in a small town in Nebraska who becomes active in helping the global refugees and also befriends and cares for them deeply and personally. Their stories are heartbreaking and hopeful; and the author’s evaluations have given me insight into my own patients and their experiences in a broade ...more
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thinking of this book again in light of 2016 election. A great read if you want to learn more about the work of assisting refugees in the U.S. Some notes from when I led a book discussion with this book:

• How does globalization, homogenization, effect our communities and our identities? “The local is no longer protected. The unique is vanishing.” (11)
• Thomas Friedman: “There are two ways to make a person homeless—destroy his home or make his home look like everyone else’s.” (11)
• “…I have learn
Emily Koopmann
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book by a local author:

This is a book of stories. Stories of real people -- children, adults, parents, students, co-workers, and so on. There are moments when Pipher gives good advice on how best to be a cultural broker for someone new to America, but mostly this book is to put a name, face, and story behind the newest members of our communities. This book was originally published right after 9/11, yet many of her stories come from years before that. Yet, the content and stories are still rele
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it
There were a lot of good stories, but I started to lose a little interest halfway through because there were almost too many stories. Many of the stories of refugees were extremely similar and everything became very repetetive. Also, I wish I had a nickel for every time the author said something like, "While they were in war, I was drinking coffee" or "While they were being tortured, I was planting a garden". Those aren't real quotes, but you get the point.

Overall, as a resident of Lincoln, NE,
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this for my Diversity class and enjoyed it but it was a "heavy" read. I knew that some people have horrible living circumstances due to war, discrimination, etc. and this book really helped paint that picture for me. I would say that this book is like reading Half the Sky (which also opened my eyes up.)
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. Pipher's analysis was right on, as usual. She made me take a searching look at my own cultures & beliefs. Are there good things? Of course. Are there things I would change? Definitely. I will probably buy a copy & read this one again. ...more
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
It took me months to admit that I'm not going to finish this. But I'm not--I found it disappointing at nearly every turn, and waiting for it to improve didn't work in the slightest.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked up Mary Pipher’s The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community because of the books I’ve been reading in my post-colonial literature class this semester. In this class, we’ve read books about the plight of ethnic groups, such as Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” and Malik Sajad’s “Munnu.”
In general, I liked Pipher’s work, however it a bit dated, as it was published in 2002. Because of this, I think Pipher’s sometimes makes sweeping generalizations about refugees. F
Kathleen Quaintance
Jan 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Come on Dr. Pipher. Seriously? This was nowhere near a book that tells the truth about an issue and weaves together personal stories, such as Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. But this?? There were so many irritating quotes in this that shouted HEY IM A DOCTOR AND IM A THERAPIST AND I LOVE MYSELF AND BEING A WASP IS WHAT I DO AND I DONT SEE COLOR!!!! AND DIVERSITY IS COOL WOW IM A CULTURAL BROKER WOW INCLUSIVE I AM SO WONDERFUL FUCK YEAH LINCOLN NEBRASKA

Really? Please refra
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it
To be fair, I didn't finish the book. But I did love some of the things she pointed out about refugees and the process of integration:

"Refugees may arrive penniless, but they don't arrive resourceless."p. 69

"Refugees who come alone are much disadvantaged. Families work together, share resources, and support each other emotionally. Both tradition and circumstance encourage the closeness of immigrant families. Over and over, family is literally what keeps people alive. Some members are housed, fed

This book is even more relevant that when it was published in 2000. Mary Pipher (author, therapist) gave and “up close and personal” knowledge of refugees striving to make it in her small town of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1999 and 2000 (before 9/11). This book gave an intimate view of actual people, students, parents, and families, their pain, their joys, their obstacles, their triumphs. She quickly learned our ideas about how to deal with pain did not seem relevant to many newcomers. Talk therapy i

Mar 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my new favorites. The Middle of Everywhere gave me a different perspective on immigrants and especially refugees. Mary Pipher lives in a large Midwestern town which has recently been overrun by refugees from several countries all over the world. Pipher is a therapist, and one of her jobs is to help these refugees adjust to their new lives in the United States. I can only imagine how overwhelming this culture would be to someone who has never seen a television or a highway! She tri ...more
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
"The United States is a series of paradoxes for newcomers. Every plus is married to a minus. It is the land of opportunity and yet the opportunity is often to work in a meatpacking plant. Newcomers have fled war zones for the safety of our country but, in the United States, they often find themselves in our most dangerous neighborhoods. They are in a country with sophisticated health and mental health care but often cannot afford even the most basic treatments. They come for our wonderful educat ...more
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
"The worst thing about America is its exclusivity, and the best thing about America is its lack of exclusivity."

This book is a collection of stories about refugees who have been resettled in Lincoln, Nebraska, about their culture shock, about their own cultures, about cultural differences and ultimately, how very much the same we all are at our cores.

However dated this book is, having been written pre-9/11 and 9/11 being an event that would very likely have had a major effect on the stories, t
Shaeley Santiago
This book about and for refugees covers a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds based on the author's experiences in the midwestern college town of Lincoln, NE, a haven for refugees to this day.

As a mental health professional, Pipher's book describes how western beliefs about medicine and mental health in particular may not be the best solution for refugees. Instead, she calls on Americans to serve as "cultural brokers" for refugee families. By doing so, we may learn more about "the stren
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended! Phenomenal read.
Apr 23, 2017 added it
This book took a long time to finish. It was a good read and worth the time. In this harsh climate of difficulty for refugees it was good to get a look at some in our own backyard. I am sure Nebraska is probably one of the worst places for a refugee to find themselves. The weather is extreme.
After 9/11 "Bintu and I fear we have brought the war from Sierra Leone to America. We thought America was safe. Now we don't know where to run."
"Leda disapproved of public displays of affection and th
Marcia Van Camp
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and it has given me a lot to think about. The author discusses her experience working with refugees who have been relocated to Lincoln Nebraska and the challenges they face. What can we do to help refugees and what they can do to be successful are explored for children, teens, and adults. There are some beautiful quotes and many incredible stories. This book has made me feel very grateful and also made me want to find ways to volunteer within the community again.

I foun
Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
This was a really fascinating picture of refugees in the United States. Not only do the stories Pipher tells give me a glimpse at someone else's life and culture, but they also challenge the way I perceive my own. The experiences of these refugees from all over the globe and the new challenges they face in the US offer something of a reflection of our own culture, changing as it is with globalization. My only problems with this book are the first and last chapters-- the author gets a little prea ...more
Jun 20, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was an interesting peek into the lives of refugees in America through the eyes of psychologist and "cultural broker," Mary Pipher. I liked her stories about her personal relationships and experiences with refugees and their families. I also enjoyed learning about how Lincoln, Nebraska, has turned into an unlikely (or at least unexpected) multicultural hub in the U.S.

The last third of the book was a bit dull and seemed to lack a specific point ("racism is bad," "home is where the heart
May 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Psychologist Mary Pipher (a fellow Lincolnite!) delves into the local refugee populations and the difficulties they face in integrating into American communities. We so rarely consider what newcomers have had to go through to get here, or the overwhelming cacaphony of changes they face once they arrive -- new language, new laws, new standard of living, new cultural expectations ... If you've traveled at all, spending a week whipping out a phrasebook to ask the simplest question (and returning th ...more
Sharon Denomme
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book took me places I had never been before -- inside the heads and hearts of individuals and families whose lives have run out of options and they find themselves in the totally foreign (to them) terrain of a US city. The most fascinating pages were those that list the many questions the author was asked in her role of cultural broker. So many things we grow up knowing or we take for granted! Plus the stress of learning English, going to school, finding employment--all the while missing ol ...more
Polly Karis
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have such great respect for Mary Pipher and this book was a gift for me. I have scribbled notes in the margins throughout my own copy; there are tabbed stickies for easy access to specific topics - a sign of a true reference book. I'd just begun mentoring Burmese refugees when I came across this gem. Mary Pipher refers to working with refugees as being a cultural broker. She uses stories from her own mentoring experiences and tells us about what refugees are up against - the stuff that's not s ...more
Karen C
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
I reviewed the book as "OK" because of my expectations. I was expecting more of a story about people but felt it was written more as a "lesson" type. Felt it would be good to read in a classroom. I did learn a lot and am so grateful that both sets of my grandparents came over to the USA so that I had the privilege of being born here. At least my grandparents on my father's side spoke English (they were from Ireland) but my mother's parents came from Lithuania so can only imagine how hard that mu ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book for a college course called "Families and Cultural Diversity". Mary Pipher helped me see things in a new way. This book is great to start the conversation about helping and working with refugees. It makes one think and look at the way one fits into the diverse world we live in. She tells lots of stories and shares experiences that are real. Though educated, Pipher is vulnerable enough to learn about other people and write down what she thinks are the needs in our society in rega ...more
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is full of heart-breaking and uplifting stories about refugees resettling from their war-torn countries to Lincoln NE, an unlikely location but increasingly "the middle of everywhere". This book as functioned as a touchstone and guide in my own interactions with the refugee population in Fargo. I lifted a phrase to start my own manuscript; refugees, Pipher tells us, move "from fire to fire". Life in America comes with its own tremendous challenges and risks. She also taught me "that gi ...more
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