New Book Celebrates Immigrant, First Generation And Bicultural Iowans

Jul 15, 2019

In the past year, seven different Iowan writers with very different backgrounds participated in the second BiCultural Iowa Writers Fellowship, hosted by the Iowa Writers House in Iowa City. "We the Interwoven- Volume 2" is the second collection of original stories that celebrates the diversity of the state from the perspective of immigrant, first generation, and bicultural Iowans.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with three of the contributing authors of  the anthology. She also speaks with Andrea Wilson, the director of the Iowa Writers House about how this project started, and the importance of sharing these stories.

"I started the fellowship to give voice to the wonderful people who are coming to our state every year and making a home here in Iowa with us," says Wilson, who edited the collection.

Each of the seven authors featured in the anthology has a different nationality and background that translates to distinct and personal stories about their experience.  

Anthony Mielke, a Professor at Mt. Mercy University and practicing therapist shares his story of connecting with his biological father in 2016, and discovering a Puerto Rican heritage he barely knew.

"You know, its weird, I had this idea that I wouldnt be welcome, like somehow I didn't belong, and that has just been the complete opposite of my experience with my family." Says Mielke "It was crazy, cause I belonged in that world and I had no idea."

Author Sarah Elgatian's paternal grandparents came to the United States after escaping the Armenian genocide. Her Armenian heritage was both a key part of her family story growing up, and a space of uncertainty and mystery.

"Something I think that's well known among Armenians in the diaspora is that, those who experienced it dont talk about it." Along with the lack of recognition of the genocide, Elgatian says, "It's symbolic of great loss, the Armenian identity is one of having to prove you exist, having to prove you're real." 

At age six Antonia Rivera crossed the Mexican-American border with her mother and younger sister to escape her abusive father. Rivera's essay in the anthology details her journey into the U.S. and the emotional toll that goes along with being undocumented in America. 

After years of living as an undocumented immigrant and advocating for political change, Rivera recieved a temporary work permit through DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Like the many other DACA recipients, Rivera lives with the anxiety of knowing her legal status is only temporary.

"Its more like a state of mind, when you're undocumented you have this fear of having to watch over your shoulder, just for the simplest thing like driving." Rivera says. "DACA was used to defer deportation orders, so say that deferred action period ends, ICE can come an pick you up if you have a deportation order while your waiting for your renewal come through."