Portraits of Immigrant VoicesPortrait’s of Immigrant Voices features the stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond, Virginia from around the world to become our neighbors. They are the stories of our city. The author proceeds will benefit Afghan and Asian refugees who have settled in Virginia in a fund set up and managed by The Asian American Society of Central Virginia, a non-profit charitable 501(c)(3) organization.

By Joe Kutchera
Portraits by Alfonso Pérez Acosta
Designed by Tida Tep

The Asian American Society of Central Virginia (AASoCV) graciously facilitated the book’s publication to honor its 24th Annual Asian American Celebration. Many thanks to the AASoCV for sponsoring the book and making it happen.


“There is no one story of Richmond. That’s what makes our city vibrant. I’m so grateful we’ve been able to partner with such talented local creatives to give all of us a more complete understanding of the experiences of our neighbors.”


Where to Purchase

You can buy our book at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, VMFA Bookstore, or at Shelf Life Books RVA in the Carytown neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. You can also purchase it directly from the Asian American Society of Central Virginia. And in the meantime, you can read the introduction to the book on my blog and write a review of it on Google Books

Portraits of Immigrant Voices Book RVA

About the Project

Our project initially began in an organic way. In August 2020, I received a call from Karla Almendarez-Ramos, who manages the City of Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE). She asked me if I would be interested in and available to write profiles of immigrants as a celebration for National Immigrants’ Day on October 28, 2020. Richmond-based Colombian artist, teacher and muralist, Alfonso Pérez Acosta, had pitched the idea to Karla after crafting his initial computer-drawn portraits.

I immediately told her yes, that I would love to work on the project. I have written about and reflected on the subject of immigrants’ journeys previously, both interviewing recent immigrants and reflecting on my own family’s migration from Eastern Europe to the United States. My wife, Lulu, who is from Mexico City, and I first moved to Richmond in 2013.

National Immigrants’ Day has been celebrated since 1986, but mostly in places like New York City. We wanted to bring this celebration to Richmond, Virginia to highlight the diversity of its community and the variety of languages spoken (in addition to English). With the support of a grant from Virginia Humanities, we unveiled the portraits on October 28th, National Immigrants Day, on RVAStrong.org/portraits and published updates regularly through Thanksgiving, to honor our subject’s themes of gratitude. The exhibit’s social media campaign ran through December 18th, which the United Nations has named International Migrants Day as a testament to humanity’s “will to overcome adversity and live a better life.”

Alfonso Perez

Photo by Alexa Welch Edlund for The Richmond Times-Dispatch
Used with permission from Lee Enterprises


Video Conversations About Our Project

Alfonso and Joe discuss Portraits of Immigrant Voices with Surabhi Lal on her SIPS & Leadership video series


And watch our virtual author talk at Richmond Public Library here:

Table of Contents

12 Foreword
14 Introduction
16 Process
18 Peace Be Upon You
22 Living the American Dream
26 Breaking Out of My Comfort Zone
30 Fostering Peace and Building Bridges
34 Serving Our Country, Serving Those in Need
38 A New Name
42 Urgent Request for The Neighbors
46 Sensory Scientist
50 An Adventure
54 Positive Economic Impact
58 Persistence
62 Bridging the Gaps
66 Honorable Princess
70 From Hardship Comes Strength
74 A Place to Call Home
78 A Beautiful Life
82 Culture Shock
86 Let Virginia Remain a Welcoming State
90 The Pen Is Mightier Than the Sword
96 Career Pivot
100 Diversity, Equality and Harmony
104 To Go to America
111 Acknowledgements
113 About Us
114 Designer Notes

ISBN 978-0-578-39572-2

Free Sample Chapters

Click here for free sample chapters of Portraits of Immigrant Voices.

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