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New wave of immigrants reshaping Maine

Each immigrant has their own story, and these stories are increasingly making up the fabric of Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — Every immigrant has his or her own story. Prosper Ishimwe’s is harrowing.

In 1994, as a wave of genocide gripped Rwanda, Ishimwe escaped from his village, fleeing soldiers who attacked that community and many others, slaughtering people as they marched across the countryside.

That’s the story told in the new book, “Dear Maine: The Trials and Triumphs of Maine’s 21st Century Immigrants.

Ishimwe, on the run from marauding soldiers, found his way to his grandfather’s house. It offered no refuge. Soldiers shot Ishimwe’s grandfather and three-year-old cousin. Ishimwe, who was eight years old at the time, ran for his life and got away.

The book’s co-authors, Reza Jalali and Morgan Rielly, profiled immigrants from 18 different countries. 

In many instances, they arrived in the U.S. with little more than a dream of a better life, and they found it. 

“Today, they are small business owners, artists, activists, public servants, and students,” the book states. “These Mainers help make our state and our country exceptional, give us hope, and provide ongoing examples of the promise of both Maine and America.”

Jalali and Rielly spoke about how they found these people and why they felt their stories needed to be shared. 

Watch the interview to learn more. 

 “They inspire us,” the authors wrote. “And we hope they inspire you as well.”

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