Summer Reading Kickoff: 9 Books About the Immigrant Experience


As the school year winds down, it’s time to start thinking about the summer months ahead. For many of us, summertime means kicking back, getting some beach (or pool) time, and relaxing with a good book.

I decided to kick off the “it’s almost summer” weekend with a list of books about people who have come to America, sometimes under extraordinary circumstances.

We need stories about immigrants, especially today. We need these stories because they are also our stories. No matter where you come from, there is probably something in each of these stories that you can relate to.

So here are nine different books (a list of 10 would be so cliche) about the immigrant experience.

Ghana Must Go: This is the story of a Ghanian family whose patriarch Kweku Sai dies. After his death, his four children travel to Ghana from New York, London, Boston, and New Haven to come to terms with the things that have driven them apart. 

The Book of Unknown AmericansAlma Rivera and her husband emigrate from Mexico to Delaware, mostly to give their daughter, Maribel, access to a special needs school. This book, especially the ending, will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve finished.

AmericanahA Nigerian woman moves to the United States while her childhood sweetheart goes to London, overstaying his visa and living as an undocumented immigrant. Americanah is a love story and a political commentary of American race relations. You will not be able to put it down, and you will (hopefully) love the ending.

The Namesake: A couple moves from Calcutta, India to Cambridge, Massachusetts and the novel focuses on their son, Gogol, who struggles with his identity as an Indian being raised in America. The writing is absolutely gorgeous, and when you’re done, do yourself a favor and watch the movie.

We Too Sing America: The title is taken from Langton Hugh’s poem “I, Too Sing America.” It’s a much needed examination of the ongoing racism directed towards brown and black people in America. This book mixes personal accounts with research and also shows how activities are fighting back

Behold the Dreamers It’s an Oprah Book Club Selection, so you already know it’s going to be good! The novel is about two families, an immigrant family from Cameroon and their wealthy employers in Manhattan. It centers around the downfall of Enron and questions The American Dream.

Undocumented This is a memoir from a Dominican author, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, whose mother decides to stay in New York, overstaying their visas. The family ends up homeless, but with the help of a homeless shelter volunteer, Dan-el enrolls in private school and eventually attends Princeton.  

Under the Same Sky This is another powerful memoir. Joseph Kim escapes North Korea and the The Great Famine and is brought to the United States as a refugee. Kim thrives in the US, mastering English, and attending college.

Bird of Paradise: The last book is also a memoir. When Raquel Cepeda’s estranged father almost dies from heart disease, she decides to find out more about her ancestry using the science of DNA.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these titles or if you have other books about the immigrant experience that you can recommend.  Happy Reading!

[this post may contain affiliate links, which help support my blog]

4 Replies to “Summer Reading Kickoff: 9 Books About the Immigrant Experience”

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