Jeff Libman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jeff Libman 

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"Excuse me, where are you from?" Amadou Tandina, who came to the U.S. from Burkina Faso in 1997, tried everything to get people to stop asking him that question. He wore a suit, read the Wall Street Journal on the train, slipped into a dark sports bar to catch a Bulls game. Nothing worked. "I don't really still understand why people still think that I'm from a different country," he told interviewer Jeff Libman, who teaches English as a second language at Truman College. "It's not written on my head." Tandina and 19 other immigrants--all former students of Libman's--tell their stories in An Immigrant Class: Oral Histories from Chicago's Newest Immigrants (Flying Kite). He lets them talk, providing a minimum of context and eschewing follow-up questions. The immigrants are happy to be here, but their love isn't blind. "I don't know if I want my child to be raised in this society where they have no respect for parents," says Tibetan Tenzin Jamyang. Pilar Landa recalls that in Cuba, "when you are sick, your neighbor bring you soup or a pills or a medicine. . . . If I would be here alone [without her husband], I can die here and the people [are only] going to know when they smell." Tue 5/31, 7:30 PM, Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, 773-769-9299, $10 donation benefits Literacy Works. Thu 6/2, 5:30 PM, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Authors Room, 400 S. State, 312-747-4080. At press time Libman was making arrangements for some of his students to join him at both events.

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