Each year, I look forward to the most recent collection of poetry and art from The Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project. Since 2009, Merna Ann Hecht, founder and co-director, and Carrie Stradley, co-director, have worked with teens in the Seattle schools.
This year’s collection is called The Voice of My Heart: Unforgettable Memories in an Unforgettable Year. I cannot express my admiration for this book any better than the foreword does:
“This visionary project serves our community with a peace-making ambassadorship. Over the course of its years, since 2009, the Stories of Arrival Project has created a community of poets, readers and listeners to bear witness to the unfathomable stories of young refugees touched by the scourge of war and displacement.
“Merna Hecht and Carrie Stradley have opened a way for enduring transformations by holding the space between grief and rebirthing that honors the identity and reality of these young poets. What a joy it is to witness how the redemptive magic of poetry reveals the resilience of the spirit of these young people, many who have arrived here from unimaginably difficult circumstances.” (Shahrzad Shams, assisting teaching professor, Persian and Iranian studies, University of Washington in Seattle)
Merna Hecht writes, “Hope for a better world speaks and sings through the voices of these young poets. It is the hope for the future they deserve and it is the world they can create should their voices reach far and wide.”
Please read my interview with Merna Hecht about the 2017 edition of this project to gain a full grasp of their work.
My favorite way of reading a book of poetry is to swoop here and there among the pages, absorbing one, then opening the book to another page. The Voice of My Heart works well that way … but I often find myself caught up in the expressions of love and longing, moving from one poem to the next, contemplating, learning, feeling.
I hope you will acquire several copies of this book to place on your library shelves, to share with all of your students, to begin your own project in your schools, to further your commitment to peace-making, to gain an understanding of the immigrant and refugee experience in your heart of hearts. This is an important book, a vital project, and I am filled with esteem and wonderment for the work of the teachers, yes, but also the work and commitment of the students and everyone involved in publishing these books.
The Voice of My Heart: Unforgettable Memories in an Unforgettable Year
edited by Merna Ann Hecht
introduced by Merna Ann Hecht and Carrie Stradley
foreword by Shahrzad Shams
published by Chin Music Press, 2022
order your book(s) directly from the publisher
Poetry and Art from the 2021-2022 Stories of Arrival: Refugee & Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project