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SOMALIA: Spreading love and compassion: Author’s tale of Somali refugee promotes understanding

A message of love and understanding was spread Saturday in the kid’s section at Barnes and Noble in St. Cloud. Author Tammy Wilson and artist Jill Dubbledee Kuhn signed copies of “Through My Eyes” and read from the book.

The story follows a Somali girl who comes to St. Cloud as a refugee. Along the way, she experiences culture shock, biases and stereotyping. Nor does she know how she fits into her new hometown.

Wilson was inspired by the experiences of students who attend Discovery Community School, where she is principal. She found Dubbledee Kuhn to illustrate the book. The book was released about a year ago and has been well received.

Wilson is already planning two more to complete the trilogy, following the characters into high school and adulthood. She printed 1,000 copies of the book and sold out in months. She hopes the next one to be out this summer.

“This has taken me on this journey. Right now I’m out speaking at schools, and empowering my students as well,” Wilson said.

She’s getting interest from outside Central Minnesota. It’s even on the reading list of a children’s literature class at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.

“She’s doing this book for all the right reasons,” Dubbledee Kuhn said. “To spread that message of giving a voice to the Somali population, having people understand what it is to be a refugee and how again, all of us as human beings, want the same things. We want love. We want to belong. We want to be accepted.”

Discovery principal becomes an author

The book has made an impact on people, especially in Wilson’s position as principal at Discovery Community School. She is in a position to be that cultural mediator for Somali and non-Somali students and families. She knows that we all miss out on something if we don’t push past that fear to meet people who are different from us.

“There’s comments from staff, but it depends on the chapter of the book,” Wilson said.

For example, in one chapter a boy has to go to the back of the line for lunch because he budged. But back in the refugee camps, if he didn’t, he might not get any food. A lunch monitor said that opened her eyes and helped her understand why some kids were behaving the way they were.

“Others have said I read your book and it really helped me understand,” Wilson said. “And it’s beyond understanding, it’s compassion.”

“That’s ultimately what our purpose on Earth is as humans,” Dubbledee Kuhn said.

“To spread love and compassion,” Wilson said. “And that’s the theme of this book.”
In that vein, Wilson started a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to help people suffering from hunger and famine in Somalia. She hopes to raise $100,000. Wilson also plans to travel to Somalia this summer, so she can understand more about the culture.

Wilson’s new book is called “Rise Above Fear.” As Dubbledee Kuhn said, the opposite of love is note hate. It’s fear.

Wilson’s new book includes real-life incidents, such as the Orlando shooting in June 2016 and the knife incident at Crossroads Center Mall in September 2016.

“There’s real-life events happening, and with these characters too. So it’s very real,” Wilson said. “The message of this is be authentic to yourself. Speak your truth, not what society thinks you should be.”

“It’s internal fear … like not know what to say so you pullback. It’s fear of judgment,” Wilson said. “But it’s fear on both sides.”

“It’s a lot easier to fear than it is to love,” Dubbledee Kuhn said.

“We need to educate people on how not to generalize,” Wilson said. “And how to get to know each other as individuals.

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