For eight years, journalist Susan Hartman followed three refugees building new lives in the old manufacturing city of Utica, New York: Sadia, a bright, spirited Somali Bantu teenager who rebels against her formidable mother; Ali, an Iraqi interpreter who creates a home with an American woman but is haunted by war; and Mersiha, a Bosnian baker who gambles everything to open a café. We talk about Susan’s new book, City of Refugees, and so much more.

They are part of a remarkable migration: Over the past four decades, thousands of refugees—fleeing persecution and war—have revitalized the small upstate city. They were finding their way in a city that needed them.

For over 20 years, Susan Hartman has been writing intimate stories about people and communities. Her cover stories and profiles have appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday.

She has teamed up with some of the best American photographers, profiling a Belfast boy who needed a break from summer violence; a Chinese immigrant who repairs watches on a Brooklyn street; and Ghanaian live-in home health aides—far from their homes in the Bronx—who are united through a prayer call.

On June 7, 2022, her book, City of Refugees, the Story of Three Newcomers Who Breathed Life into a Dying American Town, was published by Beacon Press.

The author of two books of poetry, Hartman was educated at Kirkland College and received an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she now teaches. She has taught journalism at Yale, NYU, and Barnard College.

She lives outside New York City with her husband. They have a grown son and daughter.

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