Immigration Fiction

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

Call# Fiction Castillo

"How many lives fit in a lifetime? When Hero De Vera arrives in America--haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents--she's already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn't ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter--the first American-born daughter in the family--can't resist asking Hero about her damaged hands. An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history. With exuberance, grit, and sly tenderness, here is a family saga; an origin story; a romance; a narrative of two nations and the people who leave one home to grasp at another"--

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Call# Fiction Cummins

"Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even though she knows they'll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with four books he would like to buy-two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia's husband's tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride La Bestia-trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier's reach doesn't extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?" -- Front and back jacket flaps.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Call# Fiction Adichie

"A young woman from Nigeria leaves behind her home and her first love to start a new life in America, only to find her dreams are not all she expected"--Provided by publisher.

Behold the Dreamers : a Novel by Imbolo Mbue

Call# Fiction Mbue

At the intersection of "Americanah" and "The Help" comes a riveting debut novel about two marriages - one immigrant and working class, the other from the top 1% - both chasing their version of the American Dream. In the fall of 2007, Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Their situation only improves when Jende's wife Neni is hired as household help. But in the course of their work, Jende and Neni begin to witness infidelities, skirmishes, and family secrets. Then, with the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, a tragedy changes all four lives forever, and the Jongas must decide whether to continue fighting to stay in a recession-ravaged America or give up and return home to Cameroon.

The House of Broken Angels : a Novel by Luis Alberto Urrea

Call# Fiction Urrea

"In Urrea's exuberant new novel of Mexican-American life, 70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz is dying, and he wants to have one last birthday blowout. Unfortunately, his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, so funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart. The entire contentious, riotous de la Cruz clan descends on San Diego for the events. High rollers and college students, prison veternaos and welfare mothers, happy kids and sad old-timers and pinches gringos and all available relatives. Not to mention figurative ghosts of the departed and an unexpected guest with a gun. Taking place over the course of two days, with time out for an extended flashback to Big Angel's journey from La Paz to San Diego in the 1960s, the narrative follows Big Angel and his extended familia as they air old grievances, initiate new romances, and try to put their relationships in perspective. Of the large cast, standouts include Perla, Big Angel's wife, the object of his undimmed affection; Little Angel, his half-Anglo half-brother, who strains to remain aloof; and Lalo, his son, trailing a lifetime of bad decisions. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows"--Publisher's weekly.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Call# Fiction Tan

Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who’s “saying” the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. “To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable.” Forty years later the stories and history continue.

With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties.

The Leavers : a Novel by Lisa Ko

Call# Fiction Ko

"One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. Set in New York and China, the Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he's loved has been taken away--and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past"--

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Call# Fiction Luiselli

"From the two-time NBCC Finalist, a fiercely imaginative novel about a family's summer road trip across America--a journey that, with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity, probes the nature of justice and equality in America today. A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo--and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera--the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an "inventory of echoes" from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate. But as the family drives farther west--through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas--we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure--both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations. Told through the voices of the mother and her son, as well as through a stunning tapestry of collected texts and images--including prior stories of migration and displacement--Lost Children Archive is a story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. Blending the personal and the political with astonishing empathy, it is a powerful, wholly original work of fiction: exquisite, provocative, and deeply moving"--

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Call# Fiction Lahiri

When his Indian immigrant parents give him an odd name, a boy must struggle towards manhood suffering the burdens of this name as well as the conflicting loyalties of his heritage.

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Call# Fiction Lalami

"From the Pulitzer Prize finalist, author of The Moor's Account--a timely and powerful new novel about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant that is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story, all of it informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture. Nora Guerraoui, a jazz composer, returns home to a small town in the Mojave after hearing that her father, owner of a popular restaurant there, has been killed in a suspicious hit-and-run car accident. Told by multiple narrators--Nora herself, Jeremy (the Iraq war veteran with whom she develops an intimacy), widow Maryam, Efrain (an immigrant witness to the accident who refuses to get involved for fear of deportation), Coleman (the police investigator), and Driss (the dead man himself), The Other Americans deftly explores one family's secrets and hypocrisies even as it offers a portrait of Americans riven by race, class, and religion, living side by side, yet ignorant of the vicissitudes that each tribe, as it were, faces" --

Immigration Nonfiction

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Call# 813.54 Dan

From the age of four, award-winning writer Edwidge Danticat came to think of her uncle Joseph as her “second father,” when she was placed in his care after her parents left Haiti for America. And so she was both elated and saddened when, at twelve, she joined her parents and youngest brothers in New York City. As Edwidge made a life in a new country, adjusting to being far away from so many who she loved, she and her family continued to fear for the safety of those still in Haiti as the political situation deteriorated.

In 2004, they entered into a terrifying tale of good people caught up in events beyond their control. Brother I’m Dying is an astonishing true-life epic, told on an intimate scale by one of our finest writers.

Dear America : Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Call# 921 Vargas

"The movement of people--what Americans call 'immigration' and the rest of the world calls 'migration'--is among the defining issues of our time. Technology and information crosses countries and continents at blistering speed. Corporations thrive on being multinational and polyglot. Yet the world's estimated 244 million total migrant population, particularly those deemed 'illegal' by countries and societies, are locked in a chaotic and circular debate about borders and documents, assimilation and identity. An issue about movement seems immovable: politically, culturally and personally. Dear America: Notes Of An Undocumented Citizen is an urgent, provocative and deeply personal account from Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who happens to be the most well-known undocumented immigrant in the United States. Born in the Philippines and brought to the U.S. illegally as a 12-year-old, Vargas hid in plain-sight for years, writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country (The Washington Post, The New Yorker) while lying about where he came from and how he got here. After publicly admitting his undocumented status--risking his career and personal safety--Vargas has challenged the definition of what it means to be an American, and has advocated for the human rights of immigrants and migrants during the largest global movement of people in modern history. Both a letter to America and a window into Vargas's America, this book is a transformative argument about migration and citizenship, and an intimate, searing exploration on what it means to be home when the country you call your home doesn't consider you one of its own"--

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

Call# 921 Enrique

Enrique’s Journey recounts the unforgettable quest of a Honduran boy looking for his mother, eleven years after she is forced to leave her starving family to find work in the United States. Braving unimaginable peril, often clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains, Enrique travels through hostile worlds full of thugs, bandits, and corrupt cops. But he pushes forward, relying on his wit, courage, hope, and the kindness of strangers.

The Guarded Gate : Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America by Daniel Okrent

Call# 344.73 Okr

A forgotten, dark chapter of American history with implications for the current day, The Guarded Gate tells the story of the scientists who argued that certain nationalities were inherently inferior, providing the intellectual justification for the harshest immigration law in American history. Brandished by the upper class Bostonians and New Yorkers—many of them progressives—who led the anti-immigration movement, the eugenic arguments helped keep hundreds of thousands of Jews, Italians, and other unwanted groups out of the US for more than 40 years. A work of history relevant for today, The Guarded Gate is an important, insightful tale that painstakingly connects the American eugenicists to the rise of Nazism, and shows how their beliefs found fertile soil in the minds of citizens and leaders both here and abroad.

Last Boat Out of Shanghai : the Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution by Helen Zia

Call# 951.042 Zia

"The dramatic, real-life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China's 1949 Communist Revolution--a precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today. Shanghai has historically been China's jewel, its richest, most modern and westernized city. The bustling metropolis was home to sophisticated intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and a thriving middle class when Mao's proletarian revolution emerged victorious from the long civil war. Terrified of the horrors the Communists would wreak upon their lives, citizens of Shanghai who could afford to fled in every direction. Seventy years later, the last generation to fully recall this massive exodus have opened the story to Chinese American journalist Helen Zia, who interviewed hundreds of exiles about their journey through one of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. From these moving accounts, Zia weaves the story of four young Shanghai residents who wrestled with the decision to abandon everything for an uncertain life as refugees in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U.S. Young Benny, who as a teenager became the unwilling heir to his father's dark wartime legacy, must choose between escaping Hong Kong or navigating the intricacies of a newly Communist China. The resolute Annuo, forced to flee her home with her father, a defeated Nationalist official, becomes an unwelcome young exile in Taiwan. The financially strapped Ho fights deportation in order to continue his studies in the U.S. while his family struggles at home. And Bing, given away by her poor parents, faces the prospect of a new life among strangers in America" --

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco (Essayist) Cantú

Call# 363.285 Can

""A beautiful, fiercely honest, and nevertheless deeply empathetic look at those who police the border and the migrants who risk - and lose - their lives crossing it. In a time of often ill-informed or downright deceitful political rhetoric, this book is an invaluable corrective."--Phil Klay For Francisco Cantú the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners are posted to remote regions crisscrossed by drug routes and smuggling corridors, where they learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Cantú tries not to think where the stories go from there. Plagued by nightmares, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the whole story. Searing and unforgettable, The Line Becomes a River makes urgent and personal the violence our border wreaks on both sides of the line"--
"A former Border Patrol agent's haunting experience of an unnatural divide and the lives caught on either side, struggling to cross or to defend it"--

No Human Is Illegal : an Attorney on the Front Lines of the Immigration War by J.J. Mulligan Sepúlveda

Call# 325.73 Mul

"For author Mulligan Sepúlveda, the son and husband of Spanish-speaking immigrants, the battle for immigration reform is personal. Mulligan Sepúlveda writes of visiting border detention centers, defending undocumented immigrants in court, and taking his services to JFK to represent people being turned away at the gates during Trump's infamous travel ban"--

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide : the Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang

Call# 325.73 Yan

"A sweeping history of the legislative battle to reform American immigration laws that set the stage for the immigration debates roiling America today. The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is today so pervasive, and seems so foundational, that it can be hard to believe Americans ever thought otherwise. But a 1924 law passed by Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing immigration from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning people from nearly all of Asia. In a compelling narrative with a fascinating cast of characters, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how a small number of lawmakers, activists, and presidents worked relentlessly for the next forty years to abolish the 1924 law and its quotas. Their efforts established the new mythology of the United States as "a nation of immigrants" that is so familiar to all of us now. Through a world war, a global refugee crisis, and a McCarthyist fever that swept the country, these Americans never stopped trying to restore the United States to a country that lived up to its vision as a home for "the huddled masses" from Emma Lazarus's famous poem. When the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, one of the most transformative laws in the country's history, ended the country's system of racial preferences among immigrants, it opened the door to Asian, Latin American, African, and Middle Eastern migration at levels never seen before-paving the way for America's modern immigration trends in ways those who debated it could hardly have imagined"--

Undocumented : a Dominican Boy's Odyssey From a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Call# 305.868 Pad

A Princeton University salutatorian describes his experiences as an undocumented immigrant youth in New York City, relating his efforts as a scholarship student in a private school that sharply contrasted with his street life in East Harlem.

The Ungrateful Refugee : What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri

Call# 362.87 Nay

In her first work of nonfiction, winner of the 2018 UNESCO City of Literature Paul Engle Prize Dina Nayeri--an author whose "exploration of the exile's predicament is tender and urgent" (The New Yorker)--examines what it means to be a refugee through her own story of childhood escape from Iran, and through the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers.

Immigration Young Adult

Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

Call# Y O'Neill

FROM THE WINNER OF THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR AWARD. It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there. She doesn't know why she's in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don't want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town's heroes ...

Bamboo People : a Novel by Mitali Perkins

Call# Y Perkins

Chiko isn't a fighter by nature. He's a book-smart Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. When Chiko is forced into the army by trickery, he must find the courage to survive the mental and physical punishment meted out by the training facility's menacing captain. Tu Reh can't forget the image of the Burmese soldiers burning his home and the bamboo fields of his oppressed Karenni people, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma. Now living in a Karenni refugee camp on the Thai border, Tu Reh is consumed by anger and the need for revenge. He can't wait to join his father and the Karenni resistance in the effort to protect their people. Chiko and Tu Reh's stories come to a violent intersection as each boy is sent on his first mission into the jungle. Extreme circumstances and unlikely friendships force each boy to confront what it means to be a man of his people.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer

Call# Y Col

"Ebo is alone. His brother, Kwame, has disappeared, and Ebo knows it can only be to attempt the hazardous journey to Europe, and a better life, the same journey their sister set out on months ago. But Ebo refuses to be left behind in Ghana. He sets out after Kwame and joins him on the quest to reach Europe. Ebo's epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his family"--Provided by publisher.

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Call# Y Abdelfattah

Michael's parents are leaders of a new anti-immigrant political party called Aussie Values which is trying to halt the flood of refugees from the Middle East; Mina fled Afghanistan with her family ten years ago, and just wants to concentrate on fitting in and getting into college--but the mutual attraction they feel demands that they come to terms with their family's concerns and decide where they stand in the ugly anti-Muslim politics of the time.

The Radius of Us by Marie F. Marquardt

Call# Y Marquardt

After being mugged, seventeen-year-old Gretchen is still struggling to deal with her fears when she meets Phoenix, an eighteen-year-old immigrant from El Salvador.

Immigration DVD Recommendations

Beatriz at Dinner

Call# DVD Comedy Bea

Beatriz, an immigrant from a poor town in Mexico, has drawn on her innate kindness to build a career as a spiritual health practitioner in Los Angeles. Doug Strutt is a cutthroat, self-satisfied billionaire real estate developer. When these two opposites meet at a dinner party, their worlds collide and neither will ever be the same.

Brooklyn

Call# DVD Drama Bro

An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Collisions

Call# DVD Drama Col

When twelve-year-old Itan, straight-A-smart, comes home from school in San Francisco, she is stunned to find their furniture up-ended, and no trace of her mother, Yoana. Child Protective Services dumps Itan and her six-year-old brother Neto with their estranged uncle Evencio, a big rig truck driver. Itan can't stand him. He's arrogant, unreliable, and probably criminal. After a desperate search, Itan locates Yoana in an immigration detention center in Arizona and convinces Evencio to take them t

Documented : a Film by an Undocumented American

Call# DVD 364.137 Doc

"In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in the New York Times Magazine. Documented chronicles his journey to America from the Philippines as a child; his journey through America as an immigration reform activist; and his journey inward as he re-connects with his mother, whom he hasn't seen in person in over 20 years"--Container.

Half Brothers

Call# DVD Comedy Hal

Renato, a successful Mexican aviation executive, is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. The two very different half-brothers are forced on a road journey together masterminded by their ailing father, tracing the path their father took as an immigrant from Mexico to the US.

The Immigrant

Call# DVD Drama Imm

Ewa Cybulski and her sister sail to New York from their native Poland in search of a new start and the American dream. When they reach Ellis Island, doctors discover that Magda is ill, and the two women are separated. Ewa is released onto the mean streets of Manhattan while her sister is quarantined. Alone, with nowhere to turn and desperate to reunite with Magda, Ewa quickly falls prey to Bruno, a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution.

A Most Violent Year

Call# DVD Action Mos

The tale of an immigrant and his family trying to live the American Dream and expand their business amidst rampant violence, urban decay, and corrupt city officials during one of the most dangerous years in the city's history.

Separated : Children at the Border

Call# DVD 305.23 Sep

Examines immigration policy under both the Trump and Obama administrations, investigates the origins of zero tolerance, and reveals the journeys and voices of children who were separated from their parents.

More Immigration Recommendations

Resources

Podcasts

  • Broadcast from the Border is a podcast exploring U.S. immigration and border issues, featuring interviews, narrative pieces, and creative audio storytelling. This podcast is the brainchild of journalists working on the publication, Stories from the Border. Created by Jess Eng (producer, editor) and Meena Venkataramanan (host).

  • The Immigrant Hustle is a podcast hosted by emcees B Magic & Noyz. They bring together creatives from the worlds of music, film, fashion, education, food, and sports to talk about their stories of migration and artistic discovery.

  • REDIRECT: Immigration Laws and Perspectives is a weekly dive into the world of immigration law and its human consequences.