Noorani brings national book tour to Dorchester

Ali Noorani

Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum is returning to Dorchester for a reading from his new book “There Goes the Neighborhood: How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration.”

Noorani, who served as the director of Public Health at DotHouse Health and Codman Square Health Center in the mid-2000s, will appear at the Black Box Theatre in Codman Square on Tuesday, May 9 at 2 p.m. The event will be hosted by the Codman Square Health Center.

A California-native and son of Pakistani immigrants, Noorani recalls how his walks between the two neighborhood
health centers served as formative experiences for his work in immigration.

“To go down Dot Ave,” Noorani said, “is to circle the world.”

During these walks, Noorani noticed how the neighborhood welcomed waves of new immigrants, political figures, and policies.

Dorchester—an amalgamation of Haitian, African, Irish, Cape Verdean and Vietnamese, to name just a few—contains similar dynamics to other neighborhoods and cities Noorani has seen across the country, he said.

His time spent working for DotHouse and Codman Square were pivotal years, said Noorani. “These organizations really understood what health centers meant to places that were changing in such dramatic ways,” he said.

Noorani received his Master’s in Public Policy from Boston University and is also a graduate of the University of California, Berkley. After his stint working in Dorchester, Noorani shifted his focus from public health to immigration and refguee issues, serving as the director of the Boston-based Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition. He left MIRA in 2008 to take the helm at the National Immigration Forum and is now a familiar face.

The heightened tension of the presidential campaign served as the backdrop for “There Goes the Neighborhood.” Noorani was writing the book between May and September of last year. The book dives deep into how people and organizations from Republican sheriffs in Texas to Mormon Churches in Utah view immigrants and refugees as extensions of their community.

Noorani says that he was already in close contact with 60 or so law enforcement and business leaders that he interviewed for the book, but conducting these interviews allowed him to ask the more pertinent questions.

“I got to sit down and say: why do you really care about this issue?”

Noorani is now in the middle of a national book tour.

“People have been incredibly generous during the research and writing, as well as the sharing of the book’s message. So we’ll see what comes next,” he said.

Noorani is never too far from Dorchester, rolling through the neighborhood once or twice a year. “Some places look very different,” he said, “and others look exactly the same. Only when you’ve been to Dorchester do you really understand the beauty of it.”

Along with his appearance at the Codman Square Health Center on May 9, Noorani will be speaking at the Congregation Beth Shalom of the Blue Hills in Milton on Sunday, May 7th at 4 p.m. The event will be sponsored by the synagogue’s Solidarity Committee and free to attend.

In order to attend the Codman Square event, residents should RSVP at