Mid-Americana explores the history and identity of the Greater Midwest through the lives and stories of individual people. Our second season, Immigration, features eight stories from people who left their native countries to make a new home in the Greater Midwest. We ask our guests what pulled them from their homelands, what challenges they faced while making a home in the Heartland, and how they contribute now to a changing Midwest. Find transcripts, illustrations, and show notes at midamericana.com, where you can also join our email list and suggest ideas for a future episode or season.
Journey into the New: Dominique Serrand
Dominique Serrand was born and raised in Paris. While studying at the Jacques Lecoq School for international theatre, Dominique forged a special bond with classmates from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Together they founded Theatre de la Jeune Lune, or Theatre of the Young Moon. The young drama company moved to Minneapolis in 1981 and closed in 2008. Later that year, Dominique and a few of his partners from Jeune Lune formed The Moving Company, which continues to produce new work in the Twin Cities.
Conversations with America: Abdirizak Abdi
At age six, Abdirizak Abdi fled civil war in his native Somalia. He lived in a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya, then in the capital city of Nairobi, and as a teenager moved to the United States. Today, he is the principal of Humboldt High School in St. Paul Minnesota, one of the first Somali-American school leaders in the country.
I Reached for Books: Hem Rizal
Hem Rizal was born in Bhutan and migrated to Nepal with his family when he was just a year old. He grew up in the Gold Hap Refugee Camp in Nepal and later settled with his family in Seattle. Hem is a graduate of the University of Washington and taught briefly in the Des Moines Public Schools with AmeriCorps before joining the Teach for America program for four years on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He is presently an M.A. candidate in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Always in the Gray Areas: John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas
All his life, Guatemalan-American John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas has lived in the gray areas between worlds. This has made him skillful at building bridges between white Midwesterners and immigrants in the Heartland, a calling that has been both risky and rewarding.
America Looks Like Scotland!: Zoe Bouras
Zoe Bouras is a Communications and Development AmeriCorps VISTA with the Immigration Project in Bloomington, Illinois. She emigrated with her mother from northern England to rural Illinois when she was eight years old, and has called Arthur, Illinois, home since then. Zoe began her path to American citizenship just last year. She hopes to be naturalized in 2021.
Stick to Your Roots: Pavel Polanco-Safadit
As a kid in the Dominican Republic, Pavel Polanco-Safadit pounded away for hours perfecting his technique as a classical pianist. This passion led him to the U.S., and eventually to the Midwest, where he has rediscovered his Latin Jazz roots and the Indiana roots of American Jazz.
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So many inspiring personal stories lifted up in this podcast. It’s a solid one.
Very heartfelt, honest relevant interviews. Well presented, letting the subject express themselves in warm unabridged biography.
I guess I am one of those "flyover guys" from the east coast, as most of my midwest travel through my first 60 years was for business, with the only local flavor being unique restaurants and conversations with the locals in conjunction with business meetings. I just didn't experience the small towns, with travel exclusively from airports to local offices, car dealers, factories and chain hotels. These podcasts do a great job of describing Iowa charm and uniqueness, and why people remain loyal to their roots. I hope that through the political process, there can be more of a national voice for the midwest, especially the farmers and small town business owners. These were well done interviews with very thought provoking questions. I look forward to the next installment.