UK Happenings

UPK Launches Book Connecting Africa and Kentucky

Cover detail of "Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky: Migration, Identity and Transnationality"
The compelling narratives reveal why and how the immigrants came to the Bluegrass State and how they connect with and contribute to their home countries as well as to the U.S.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 21, 2020) — The University Press of Kentucky has released a new book, “Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky: Migration, Identity and Transnationality,” co-authored by University of Kentucky Associate Professor Francis Musoni, Bluegrass Community and Technical College Professor and UK alumna Iddah Otieno, UK Professor Emerita Angene Wilson and former Peace Corps volunteer Jack Wilson.

Following historical and theoretical overview of African immigration, the heart of this book is based on oral history interviews with 47 of the more than 22,000 Africa-born immigrants in Kentucky. From a former ambassador from Gambia, a pharmacist from South Africa, a restaurant owner from Guinea, to a certified nursing assistant from the Democratic Republic of Congo — every immigrant has a unique and complex story of their life experiences and the decisions that led them to emigrate to the United States.

The book has already garnered positive reviews. "Born out of individual oral histories, ‘Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky’ expertly explores the complexities and ever-evolving nuances of leaving — though sometimes fleeing, seeking, reevaluating, rebuilding — and ultimately reestablishing what qualifies as home," said Frank X Walker, author and UK Department of English professor. "The lived experiences of the many disparate lives captured in this most compelling of books allow us to begin to better understand America's immigration landscape. This is a must read for anyone seeking the substance behind the newspaper headlines and statistics.” 

Francis Musoni, born and raised in Zimbabwe, is an associate professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at UK. Iddah Otieno was born and raised in Kenya and is a professor of English and African studies at Bluegrass Community and Technical College where she also directs the Kenya Exchange Program.

Angene Wilson is a professor emerita of education at UK, where she was chair of the Secondary Social Studies Program in the College of Education from 1975 to 2004. Jack Wilson spent more than 35 years in public service, first with the U.S. Peace Corps in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Fiji, and then in Kentucky’s Natural Resources and Environmental Cabinet. The Wilsons co-authored “Voices from the Peace Corps: Fifty Years of Kentucky Volunteers,” released by UPK in 2011.

The UK Department of History and International Book Project are partnering with UPK to host a book launch for “Voices of African Immigrants in Kentucky” beginning 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the International Book Project headquarters. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase signed copies of the book and sample African cuisine.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.