Whether your family immigrated from Ireland, Sweden, Mexico, or anywhere in between, everyone has a story about how they landed in St. James.

Through a grant for $7400 from the Minnesota Humanities Center a variety of these stories will soon be in a book available to community stakeholders.

The book titled “ Your Story, My story, Our story” will be a free book showcasing different immigration stories that community members have in the St. James community.

Through the book the goal is to not only showcase different stories but also show that even though families or individuals may have come from different places in the world, their stories have similarities and differences that make each individual story a unique one.

Additionally, the book and conversations will give people in the community a chance to reflect on their own story of how their family came to America.

While the book will be published in English, there will also be supplementary text in Spanish. The group putting the book together  is also hopeful they will also be able to make an audio version in English and in Spanish as well as having some interviews recorded on camera for community group viewing and roundtable discussion.

Anyone in the community also has the chance to fill out a short questionnaire about their family immigration story which may be used in the book.

These forms are available at the Watonwan County Library in St. James until the end of August.

Once the book is completed there  will be a book release party in the fall.

The conversations for the book will be conducted by members of the community.

The following are excerpts from the grant application. 

St. James is a small rural community with more than 6,000 residents in its school district. Over the past twenty-five years a major shift in demographics has occurred due to the prevalence of food processing as the major industry. Labor shortages in the food industry have attracted immigrant populations to the area, thereby changing the community from one of predominantly northern European ancestry to a diverse community with 25% of the residents and more than 50% of school students of primary Latino heritage. This change in demographics has presented the community with new challenges while also bringing unexpected gifts.

In the summer of 2017, the Region 9 Economic Development Commision, along with other regional partners, facilitated the Forum on Race community conversation in St. James. An outcome of that community meeting, which was attended by over eighty people, was to continue discussion and work towards cultural unity within the St. James community. La Convivencia, an active local Latino group, together with other interested community members, organized as Uniting Cultures/Uniendo Culturas. The mission statement of Uniting Cultures/Uniendo Culturas is: “ To create a community where acceptance and belonging, community pride and ownership, and celebration of diversity and how we are together. “

Projects born of this Uniting Cultures/ Uniendo Culturas group include an annual multi-cultural festival.(first one held in the fall of 2017), establishment of a support group for Spanish speaking senior citizens, public forums highlighting immigration and DACA stories, Culture Through Cuisine events sharing food and culture, and publishing a book of immigration stories of those who came to this country years ago as well as our newest immigrants.

With funding from the Minnesota Humanities Center Mini-Grant program, we will interview 30-40 residents and publish a book of their immigration stories. The book will highlight the personal narratives of each individual’s immigration experience, how it affected them, and what ideas they have for using their experience to better our community and world. What lessons have been learned, what issues we still face, and how we can build community are themes that will be addressed both in the book and in public presentations to various community groups and organizations.

The Minnesota Humanities Center  in a press release stated that the following.

“Our role at MHC is to bring the humanities into the lives of all Minnesotans,” says Minnesota Humanities Center President & CEO, David O’Fallon. “Part of that is supporting the exemplary humanities work around the state that is working toward our mission to build a more thoughtful, literate, and engaged society. We are honored to be able to support the work of these 26 organizations to help bring people together using the power of the humanities.”

About the Minnesota Humanities Center

Founded in 1971, the Minnesota Humanities Center is a statewide nonprofit organization and full service event center located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Humanities Center offers a new way to think about our future, grounded in the humanities, and collaborates with organizations and individuals to develop programs that facilitate and frame conversations and strengthen connections. The Humanities Center works to bring into public life the authentic voices of all people, especially those that have been absent or marginalized. The Humanities Center is a resource for the state of Minnesota and is affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities.