Join us in launching critically-acclaimed Chicago author Joe Meno's book, Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum. An essential story of humanity and immigration that spans continents and culminates in a snowy, harrowing walk to the Canadian border. Joe will be joined by both Seidu and Razak to discuss their experience and read from the book, as well as take audience questions. Pre-registration is required and can be done so here. A meeting password will be mailed out to attendees.
"The most important book I've read in a long time" - Sigrid Nunez
"A suspenseful account of two Ghanaian refugees' quest for political asylum [...] Readers will be part outraged and inspired by this novelistic account." -Publishers Weekly
"Meno writes deftly, with a finse sense of detail and place, bringing an all-too-common story to life." - Kirkus, starred review
About Between Everything and Nothing: Long before their chance meeting at a Minneapolis bus station, Ghanaian asylum seekers Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal had already crossed half the world in search of a new home. Seidu, who identifies as bisexual, lived under constant threat of exposure and violence in a country where same-sex acts are illegal. Razak's life was also threatened after corrupt officials contrived to steal his rightful inheritance.
Forced to flee their homeland, both men embarked on separate odysseys through the dangerous jungles and bureaucracies of South, Central, and North America. Like generations of asylum seekers before, they presented themselves legally at the U.S. border, hoping for sanctuary. Instead they were imprisoned in private detention facilities, released only after their asylum pleas were denied. Fearful of returning to Ghana, Seidu and Razak saw no choice but to attempt one final border crossing. Their journey north to Canada in the harsh, unforgiving winter proved more tragic than anything they had experienced before.
Based on extensive interviews, Joe Meno's intimate, novelistic account builds upon the international media attention Seidu and Razak's story has already received, highlighting the harrowing journey of asylum seekers everywhere while adding dimension to one of the greatest humanitarian concerns facing the world.
About Joe Meno: Joe Meno is a writer and cultural journalist who lives in Chicago. A winner of the Nelson Algren Literary Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Great Lakes Book Award, and a finalist for the Story Prize, he is the author of seven novels, Marvel and a Wonder, Office Girl, The Great Perhaps, The Boy Detective Fails, Hairstyles of the Damned, How the Hula Girl Sings, and Tender as Hellfire. His short story collections are Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir and Demons in the Spring. His short fiction has been published in the likes of McSweeney’s, One Story, Swink, LIT, TriQuarterly, Other Voices, Gulf Coast, and broadcast on NPR. He is also the creator of Star Witness, a seven part serial on Electric Literature. He was a contributing editor to Punk Planet, the seminal underground arts and politics magazine. His non-fiction has appeared in The New York Times and Chicago Magazine.
About Seidu Mohammed: Seidu Mohammed was born and raised in Accra, Ghana, where he was a celebrated soccer player and entrepreneur. After leaving Ghana in 2014, he worked a variety of jobs, including as a dishwasher and cook in a Vietnamese restaurant, in order to pursue his plea for asylum abroad. He is now an interpreter living in Winnipeg, Canada, where he is an outspoken advocate for refugee and LGBT rights.
About Razak Iyal: Razak Iyal is from the Nima neighborhood of Accra, Ghana, where he was a successful electronics business owner and highly respected member of his community. After running afoul of a Ghanaian member of parliament, he fled his homeland in 2012 to seek asylum in the West. Iyal faced nearly two years of unjust detention in a U.S. facility. While he awaited the results of his asylum appeal, he lived and worked in New York City before traveling to Canada, where his appeal for refugee status was finally accepted. He speaks frequently on matters of the refugee experience and is currently employed in the hotel service industry in Winnipeg, Canada.