We Thought It Would Be Heaven: Refugees in an Unequal America (Paperback)
Fleeing war and violence, many refugees dream that moving to the United States will be like going to Heaven. Instead, they enter a deeply unequal American society, often at the bottom. Through the lived experiences of families resettled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Blair Sackett and Annette Lareau reveal how a daunting obstacle course of agencies and services can drastically alter refugees’ experiences building a new life in America.
In these stories of struggle and hope, as one volunteer said, “you see the American story.” For some families, minor mistakes create catastrophes—food stamps cut off, educational opportunities missed, benefits lost. Other families, with the help of volunteers and social supports, escape these traps and take steps toward reaching their dreams. Engaging and eye-opening, We Thought It Would Be Heaven brings readers into the daily lives of Congolese refugees and offers guidance for how activists, workers, and policymakers can help refugee families thrive.
Annette Lareau is Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Unequal Childhoods and Home Advantage.
how refugee families in America navigate complexly interrelated institutions. . . . Refugee families . . . are astonished to learn how unequal and, at times, unjust America can be.”
— Ethnic and Racial Studies
"This is a beautifully written and clear book about the sometimes-ugly issues and often confusing situations which many refugees experience as they arrive in the United States and seek to make their lives there. . . . It is also an inspiring book, vividly relaying the views and feelings of members of families from the Democratic Republic of the Congo during their initial years in the US."
— Process North