PR for People® Reviews:
As we christen this new year, both the possibilities and the perils can seem daunting. That’s why I’d like to offer you the literary equivalent of comfort food: “Our Table of Memories” is about tradition, food and memories of home.
This extraordinary anthology of poems and recipes was created by refugees and immigrants living in Tukwila, Washington. Most of them are students in Carrie Stradley’s English Language Learners class at Foster High School, which is one of the most language-diverse high schools in the United States. Mentored by poet and teaching artist Merna Ann Hecht, these young people gained self-confidence and language skills while crafting poems about the homes and families they’d left behind, and the difficult journeys that brought them to the United States.
The other contributors to this book are refugee and immigrant women who are enrolled in a job skills program called Project Feast, also located in Tukwila. This training program gives participants practice in speaking English while also teaching them how to translate the cuisines of their native cultures into sustainable employment in the local food industry.
As Somali student Malaak Abdallah muses in his poem, How Is It Possible?, “I don’t know / how it is possible / that we have one universe, / 7 oceans, and 195 countries, / but food tastes different / from land to land….”
This book project demonstrates that the United States, if not a melting pot, is certainly a smorgasbord of rich traditions.
“Our Table of Memories” has helped these talented cooks and young poets begin to heal from the traumas that prompted their departures from their homelands – Burma, Guatemala, Somalia, Iraq, and so many more – while still honoring their heritage. And in the process of this collaboration, they’ve created meaningful intercultural and intergenerational bonds in this new country they are learning to call home.
Barbara Lloyd McMichael is our ground reporter in South King County, Wash., and author of the syndicated book review column “The Bookmonger.” Her PR for People® Book Review is written exclusively for The Connector.
Connecting food, poetry, and stories
By Barbara Lloyd McMichael
Our Table of Memories
– ed. Merna Ann Hecht
Chatwin Books – 212 pp - $25