In Is Mike Huckabee right that refugees from hot countries hate Minnesota? An investigation, Vox's Dara Lind looks at recent refugee resettlement in Minnesota and discovers that people from hot countries actually do like Minnesota.
Mike Huckabee said in an interview on John Gibson's Fox News Radioshow today that the United States shouldn't be taking in Syrian refugees because it is cold in Minnesota. . . .
The best thing about this statement is that it refutes itself. Minnesota is actually one of the most welcoming states in the country when it comes to refugees. In the 1980s, the Minneapolis–St. Paul area became the top destination in the US for Hmong refugees from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War. And starting in the 1990s, Minnesota has been one of the leading destinations for Somali refugees as well. . . .
Those of us fortunate enough to have been born in Mankato, home of children's author Maud Hart Lovelace, know that there's nothing new in people from hot places coming to live in Minnesota and liking it.
Lovelace loosely fictionalized her own childhood in Mankato in the "Betsy, Tacy" books, transforming the lovely Minnesota River Valley town into "Deep Valley, Minnesota."
Take the residents of "Little Syria" in Lovelace's 1942 book, "Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill." The blog, 100 Books That Every Child Should Read Before Growing Up summarizes the book in a post:
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill includes the added richness of a foreign culture set down in rural Minnesota. During a picnic, Betsy and her friends happen upon Naifi, a lively Syrian girl who is out herding her goat. With black braids, earrings, a long skirt and longer pantaloons, she could not be more exotic. Her lunch is a chunk of cheese and round flat bread, her grandfather smokes a narghile, her grandmother pounds lamb for kibbee, her father writes Arabic from right to left. She lives in Little Syria, a ramshackle community of unassimilated immigrants who fled their country because of religious persecution. Now in Minnesota, they encounter prejudice of a different kind. Betsy, Tacy, and Tib come to Naifi’s aid when she is set upon by a nasty mob of boys taunting her with “Dago! Dago!” Lovelace does not belabor this zenophobia, neither does she whitewash it.
The Diary of An Eccentric Bookworm blog notes in Review: Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace:
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill is the third book in the Besty-Tacy series and was originally published in 1942, but the story takes place in 1902. Betsy, Tacy, and Tib each turn 10 years old in the beginning of the book, and hitting the double digits is a big deal for the girls. . . .
While Besty, Tacy, and Tib dream up ways to make Tib queen, Betsy’s older sister, Julia, has plans to become Deep Valley’s summer queen on account of a song she sang at school. A signature drive to allow the residents of Deep Valley to choose the queen leads to Betsy, Tacy, and Tib going over the big hill to a neighborhood known as Little Syria for its large population of Syrian immigrants. The girls learn that the things they’d heard about the residents of Little Syria are not all true, and they discover a new culture and new friends. But their trip over the big hill causes the fight between Betsy and Julia to grow bigger than before, and they must think about whether crowning a queen is more important than their relationship.
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill is the first book in the Betsy-Tacy series to have a plot that creates tension and lasts more than a few pages. At age 10, the girls are growing up, and of course, with growing girls there’s bound to be drama. Maud Hart Lovelace’s characters seem so real, and getting to watch them grow up and evolve over the course of the series makes them feel like friends. When I’m reading the Betsy-Tacy books, I feel like a kid again, and I lose myself in Betsy, Tacy, and Tib’s adventures. Lovelace keeps the story light, though she touches upon a heavy topic — discrimination. Young readers can learn a lot from Betsy, Tacy, and Tib’s willingness to stand up for the young Syrian girl they met on a trip up the Big Hill. Lovelace describes the Syrian immigrants’ desire for the American dream and their hopes for the younger generation, and she shows how taking the time to get to know someone and not brush them off because they are different can create long-lasting relationships.
Now, the "Syrians" in Mankato were in fact Lebanese, and they were not so much refugees as economic immigrants. See Claudia Mills' 2004 article in Children's Literature, Diversity in Deep Valley: Encountering the "Other" in the Betsy-Tacy Series, for a more scholarly reading of the book.
Our Grandfather Sorensen went to Americanization School with a number of Lebanese fellows, promptly learning enough Arabic to haggle at Mocol's grocery (not exactly what the American Legion had in mind with the classes, but these things happen).
Whatever the details--and Lovelace's fictionalizing--people from the Middle East and other hot places came to Minnesota. They liked it and one of the Mocol family became a much-loved mayor of Mankato.
Image: An illustration from Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill.
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