Author of The Good Braider
“Tom Haines, international reporter for the Boston Globe wrote about his work, “I have sought to document intimate moments of humanity…By writing about such scenes I hope readers might find not difference of land and lives, but a more personal understanding of our common experience.” The I’m Your Neighbor, Portland books also document intimate moments about the lives of newcomers to Maine. My hope is that a community reading these books will feel curiosity and begin to imagine each other’s lives with interest and feel safe with one another.” –Terry Farish on I’m Your Neighbor, Portland
I’m Your Neighbor, Portland could not be a success without our Immigrant Literacy Adviser Terry Farish. She is also the author of featured book The Good Braider which follows a refugee named Viola in her journey from her village in South Sudan to Portland, Maine. Here Farish talks about her experience and inspiration in writing The Good Braider.
VISIT Farish’s blog “The Good Braider” for more about South Sudan and her research on the book.
JOIN US at the Portland Public Library on July 11th to celebrate the title.
On Writing The Good Braider
Terry Farish’s involvement with the Sudanese community began at the Reiche Branch Library in Portland, Maine, where she worked in 2001. She worked with families from countries around the world including children and teens from Sudan. She remembers talking with one boy from Sudan and asking him about the food that he ate and instead of trying to describe it, he invited her over for dinner where his mother could cook for her and she could experience it for herself.
Farish originally started out researching and writing a non-fiction book about Sudanese teens in the U.S. but after many years of writing nonfiction, she turned to fiction, after beginning to write scenes in verse. After talking to people in the Sudanese community, she saw that the parents worried about their children who became Americanized quickly while the parents wanted them to keep their cultural identity.
Farish researched the history of Sudan and neighboring countries, including the impact of colonialism. She also researched the civil war that was taking place in Sudan. Some of her sources included The Shadow of the Sun, The White Bone, Me Against My Brother, and Voices of the African Ancestors. For more resources, see Farish’s “The Good Braider” blog under Researching South Sudan.
To understand the Sudanese culture, Farish turned to the Sudanese community in Maine. It was in their living rooms and kitchens where she collected oral histories of the families. She saw the expectations a family has for the daughters, and the power of the mother in the family – all of which helped her create the mother-daughter relationship between her character Viola and her mother. She witnessed the ritual of braiding and learned the significance of the braids to the girl as part of her identity and culture. She also used specific details that were real for many Maine immigrants, such as the experience of going to an ESL class and working at Barber Foods in Portland.
Remember to save the date for I’m Your Neighbor, Portland’s celebration of The Good Braider!