Cambodian Refugees and Michigan Sponsors
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How to Cite

Yin, C. (2024). Cambodian Refugees and Michigan Sponsors: One Story of Non-Kin Relationships in Refugee Resettlement. American Studies, 62(4).


This autoethnographic essay recounts my mother’s harrowing journey out of Cambodia, a multiyear, multicountry trek spanning two continents, ultimately terminating in California. The penultimate destination was a rural, farming community in mid-Michigan, where, for one year, my family resettled as Cambodian refugees with the help of church sponsorship. Threading together their Michigan memories, I provide readers a glimpse into how my family coped with living in a new country after facing trauma. This includes personal accounts about their relationship with the Michigan sponsors who helped them adapt to their new life. I reflect on my own childhood and upbringing in California and contrast it with my imaginings of what Michigan was like based on my mother’s stories about her time there. When I finally move to Michigan as an adult to pursue a PhD, I discuss my own relationship with my mother’s sponsors and finally hear their side of the sponsorship story. In sharing my family history, I want to shine a light on Michigan’s little-known role in refugee sponsorship, question preconceived notions people might have about the Midwest, and inspire others to do more research on refugee-sponsor relationships. I end with suggestions on how these personal narratives might inform—and even challenge—current approaches in critical refugee studies, ethnic studies, area studies, and regional studies.

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