Des Moines may not be considered a melting pot of diversity, but it is home to many immigrants. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of 2009, 93.9 percent of the population was white, but two women are bringing notice to the immigrants of Des Moines in their book “Zakery’s Bridge.”
Carol Spaulding-Kruse is a professor at Drake University and the director of the Drake Writing Internship Program. She was the brains behind the idea of “Zakery’s Bridge,” and she found inspiration in her own son to write the book.
“My son might be sitting away from someone in his class and not know how to say ‘hi’ because we don’t know how to respond to different cultures,” Spaulding said.
“Zakery’s Bridge” is a story of nine children, ages 6 to 16, who share their travels from another country and their families’ stories. Each journey begins in a different country: Southern Sudan, Taiwan, Gaza Strip, Israel, Mexico, Laos, India and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“I feel like living in Iowa we do not have enough resources to teach young Iowans about the diversity that is here and the appreciation for diversity in general,” Spaulding said.
Spaulding and her co-author Kay Smith hope “Zakery’s Bridge” is used as a resource for everyone to get to know Iowans that come from different countries and to learn about leaving a former home and resettling in Iowa. The authors also hope readers will be able to see what it is like for immigrants to learn to live in a new culture.
Dau Jok, 18, moved from Sudan during middle school and was approached to be a part of the book in the beginning of eighth grade.
“Ms. Kay and Carol did a great job with my interviews,” Jok said about the process. “They would come to my house after school. They did a good job managing around my time.”
Jok’s favorite part about living in Iowa is meeting new people.
“I am appreciative of the people I have met through things like school and what they have done for my family,” he said.
The idea of “Zakery’s Bridge” is a symbol of all the children in the story. It is also a symbol to help readers cross a cultural bridge. The book is named after Zakery Delilovic and the story he tells of a 400-year-old bridge, destroyed by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The original bridge made of eggs, horsehair, flour and milk represented peace for the town of Mostar. Delilovic grew up hearing stories about the bridge that was bombed in 1993. In 2000 the town rebuilt the bridge and he was finally able to cross it.
“Zakery’s Bridge” was published through a community publishing company, Shrieking Tree. The concept of community publishing is for a group of advocates to work together on behalf of a particular organization.
“Zakery’s Bridge” was published and will be sold to help support the Iowa Council and CultureALL, and to raise awareness of diversity.
CultureALL has a mission to nurture youth to develop skill, readiness and grace in intercultural relations. The Iowa Council for International Understanding was established 80 years ago to assist immigrants fleeing the war in Europe. ICIU now supports international understanding and offers immigrants help in getting established in their new homes.