African refugee who grew up in Maine inspires youth book

Terry Farish, who published a children's book that she co-authored with a refugee from Africa, is seen in this Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, photo, at River Run Bookstore, in Portsmouth, N.H. (Olivia Falcigno/ Herald via AP)
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Associated Press

KITTERY, Maine (AP) — An African refugee collaborated on a children’s book that draws from his experience growing up in Maine’s largest city.

Terry Farish, of Kittery, wrote the book with OD Bonny, who provided the inspiration for “A Feast for Joseph.” It tells the story of a young refugee who adapts to a new life in Portland.

Despite finding a better life, Joseph still longs for the family and friends — and food — he left behind at a refugee camp.

“He still has good friends there, so he’s missing all the people, how they used to cook and the music, and that’s what he’s homesick for,” Farish told WMTW-TV.

In the book, Joseph makes a friend and they cook an African feast that brings together the community.

“I think friendship is one of the most important things to come from this book, but personally, for me my favorite is tradition and the food,” said Bonny, whose family fled South Sudan. The family ended up at Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Uganda before coming to Maine. Bonny has since moved to Nebraska.

After the two met in 2013, Bonny performed a rap he’d created about a young-adult novel Farish wrote about a Sudanese immigrant who settled in Maine, she told

The new book is aimed at elementary school-aged children. It was published in September by Toronto-based Groundwood Books.

It was illustrated by Canadian Ken Daley, himself the son of immigrants, who said the story about being homesick and the connection to culture and food resonated with him, as well. “My parents emigrated from Dominica to Canada, so yes I drew on my family experience to help illustrate the story,” he told The Associated Press.

Maine is the nation’s whitest state, but it’s home to a growing population of immigrants and refugees from Africa.

There is a population from Somalia that numbers more than 10,000, mostly based in Portland and in Lewiston. There have been significant numbers of immigrants from other African countries as well.