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Wal-Mart led to diversity in region, new book says.

In her new book "Boom Town: How Wal-Mart Transformed an All-American Town Into an International Community," Marjorie Rosen describes Bentonville as a microcosm of America's social, political and cultural changes.


Rosen, a journalist and professor, said she was first attracted to Bentonville by an article in The New York Times on June 20, 2006.

The article, "In Wal-Mart's Home, Synagogue Signals Growth," was about a small group of Jews who had migrated to Bentonville to work in Wal-Mart's home office.

Rosen said that once she started learning more about Bentonville, she found there were growing groups of Hindus, Muslims and Laotians as well as Hispanics and Marshall Islanders who had settled in the once rural and predominately Christian community.

In her visits to northwest Arkansas over the course of two and a half years, Rosen interviewed more than 150 residents about the cultural transformation occurring in the area.

In a single generation, Rosen points out, "Bentonville transformed from a rural town of 2,900 white Christians to a metropolis of 30,000 people of every color and faith."

She talks about the challenges associated with a shifting cultural environment, devoting a chapter to Rogers Mayor Steve Womack and his strong stance against illegal immigration.

The mayor is described as being open about his hostility toward undocumented workers. He is quoted in the book saying, "If these people are trying to escape another culture and do something better for themselves, please don't bring that culture with you, because it creates conflict for us. If you're trying to get away from something, then why are you so adamant about re-creating that culture here?"

There are similar stories of resistance toward the influx of other cultures, but there are also success stories like Fadil Bayyari, a Palestinian immigrant who became a multimillionaire contractor.

Bayyari is helping to build the Temple Shalom, the first Jewish synagogue in Fayetteville, by contributing free labor and materials.

Rosen documents the struggles and successes of immigrants trying to make a home in northwest Arkansas while also pointing out the profound impact on the community.

"Without Wal-Mart, Bentonville would most likely be a white, Christian, emphatically homogenous Ozarks town of little distinction," she said.
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Title Annotation:NW Journal: A Look at News From Northwest Arkansas
Author:Patton, Susannah
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 26, 2009
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