Book & Film Club: Jessica Goudeau, After the Last Border

Dr. Jessica Goudeau, discussing her book "After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America" with the HIAS Book and Film Club.

In October, we were honored to welcome Dr. Jessica Goudeau, author of "After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America." Dr. Goudeau shared everything from how she came to form a relationship with the two women whose stories her book featured to the role of faith in her advocacy for refugees. She also discussed the ethics of telling refugee stories and the disconnect between the American dream and the reality of American refugee and asylum policy. 

“In my research into the history of refugee resettlement, and in more than a decade of friendships with former refugees, no organization comes up more often than HIAS,” Dr. Goudeau said. “For generations, they have led the charge to welcome and come alongside people who have been displaced by persecution or war. This film and book club is just another example of how HIAS elevates and serves those who are too often overlooked in our reactive news cycle.”

In May 2020, HIAS launched our first national Book and Film Club. Like so many organizations we were forced to move much of our programming online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But I am pleased this new approach allows us to connect people all over the United States for important conversations about the global refugee crisis through the lens of stories.

Books and films about refugee issues cover a wide variety of stories and lessons. Our club has explored a documentary about Rohingya youth writing and staging a play about their experiences fleeing violence in their homeland, as well as a history of refugee resettlement in the U.S. told through the personal experiences of two recently resettled refugees. Those works have given rise to nuanced conversations, often drawing connections between Jewish history and the experiences of today’s refugees. The Book and Film Club has been both a place for those new to HIAS’ work to explore this issue and for those who have supported HIAS in other ways to deepen their connection.

Dr. Emily Stier Adler, who has supported HIAS financially, said she joined the Book and Film Club because she had not had an opportunity to engage with HIAS in other ways. “Being home a lot because of COVID, I thought I would find it interesting to read books on this important topic,” she said. “I would not have chosen these books on my own.”

The meetings have been a mix of small-group conversations as well as larger “Meet the Author/Filmmaker” events to both give participants a chance to build relationships with one another and to hear from writers and artists directly. 

Upcoming meetings will include a discussion of The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives on December 18 and a discussion of episode 5 (“The Right Way”) of Netflix’s Immigration Nation on January 26. Registration information can be found at the HIAS @ Home page

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