Read Local: The Stunning Images and Moving Testimony of McSweeney's Refugee Hotel

New York City might be home to the big houses, but this scrappy city just happens to be the epicenter of publishing on the Best Coast. Join Alexis Coe every Wednesday for Read Local, a series on books produced in the Bay Area.

Weary of another buffet at a conference in Minnesota, I ventured off-campus, entering the interstitial space that exists between an institution of higher learning and a city going about its business. I thought I knew this terrain well, and the standard fare that awaited me (bohemian coffee shop, pizza parlor, brew pub, and pan-Asian take-out), but I was wrong. Almost every establishment, whether it was a bank or a salon, was staffed by Ethiopians, each buttressed by a business specifically catering to Ethiopians. They were all around, mostly groups of men, with music blaring out of storefronts, singing in a language I could not decipher.

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