We Thought It Would Be Heaven: Refugees in an Unequal America

Blair Sackett has recently co-authored a book discussing the challenges encountered by refugees who have been resettled in the United States.

Watson Postdoctoral Fellow Blair Sackett recently co-authored a book titled "We Thought It Would Be Heaven: Refugees in an Unequal America" published by the University of California Press.

Resettled refugees in America face a land of daunting obstacles where small things—one person, one encounter—can make all the difference in getting ahead or falling behind.

Fleeing war and violence, many refugees dream that moving to the United States will be like going to Heaven. Instead, they enter a deeply unequal American society, often at the bottom. Through the lived experiences of families resettled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Blair Sackett and Annette Lareau reveal how a daunting obstacle course of agencies and services can drastically alter refugees’ experiences building a new life in America.

In these stories of struggle and hope, as one volunteer said, “you see the American story.” For some families, minor mistakes create catastrophes—food stamps cut off, educational opportunities missed, benefits lost. Other families, with the help of volunteers and social supports, escape these traps and take steps toward reaching their dreams. Engaging and eye-opening, We Thought It Would Be Heaven brings readers into the daily lives of Congolese refugees and offers guidance for how activists, workers, and policymakers can help refugee families thrive.