Luke Wilcox of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project told TCDP about the January 24 reception for U.S. vets and Iraqi refugees who told their stories through the Veterans Book Project. The reception will be 7-9 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, Schulze Hall Atrium, 1000 LaSalle Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
Iraqi immigrants living in Minnesota and U.S. veterans of the Iraq war told their stories in books and videos, through the Veterans Book Project.
How did this project start?
The director of the Veterans Book Project, Monica Haller, a local artist — she and I had conversations with visiting Iraqi artists who were participating in an art exhibit that IARP organized in 2010 in Minneapolis.
These visiting Iraqi artists said they did not think Iraqis had a voice in American media or consciousness — the stories of just ordinary Iraqis were not being heard by Americans.
Monica’s project — the Veterans Book Project — had been creating books with veterans. She and I decided to expand that project to add Iraqi voices, to include both Iraqis and American veterans to tell how the war had impacted, affected and changed lives.
So we applied for a grant and got some funding through the Minnesota State Arts Board to work with local Iraqis. Some had been here a while, some grew up here — a variety of Iraqi voices here, who had experienced war in different ways. Some had very graphic, gruesome stories of seeing family members killed or murdered in explosions. One of the authors was kidnapped for months by al Qaeda early in the war.
We thought this was an important part of the Iraq war story that hadn’t been told to Americans — a personal side of the story that is more than the TV news had been telling.
What should people expect at the January 24 reception?
There will be about 30 minutes of reading and an informal reception from 7-7:30 with Iraqi and American authors and filmmakers. The books will be available for viewing. There will be an opportunity to interact with the filmmakers and there will be light refreshments.
About 7:30 there will be some remarks. At 7:45, we will screen the four short videos made by Minnesota Iraqis, and then maybe 20 minutes of Q&A with local filmmaker Nathan Fisher, who worked with these four Iraqis to make the films, and with some of the Iraqis who told their stories in the films.
How are the books and films made available?
The books are available for viewing or to download for free, or to purchase a hard copy, at iraqiartproject.org/bookmaking-and-videomaking
The short videos are also available for free.
View videos on TC Daily Planet:
Iraq-Minnesota connections: Alice’s story
Iraq-Minnesota connections: Mohamed Miran: aircraft engineer and refugee
Iraq-Minnesota connections: Jamela Hasoon’s story — and how U.S. is losing out medical professionals
Iraq-Minnesota connections: Naser Amin: “Not all immigrants are uneducated”
Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.