Spring is a natural time to think of new beginnings. While opening windows, cleaning, painting, and planting, we get a sense of fresh possibilities. It also seems like a good time to read about those who have made a truly courageous start -- a journey to a new country with dreams of a better life. The following are some novels that capture a variety of immigrant experiences:
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) – Julia Alvarez
These fifteen tales vividly chronicle a Dominican family's exile in the Bronx, focusing on the four Garcia daughters' rebellion against their immigrant elders and the difficulties they experience in
House of Sand and Fog (1999) – Andre Dubus
This page-turner explores a struggling Iranian immigrant trying to restore his family’s dignity.
Middlesex (2002) – Jeffrey Eugenides
This tale of Greek immigrants’ daughters coming of age in
also explores questions of gender identity. Grosse Pointe, Michigan
The Namesake (2003) – Jhumpa Lahiri
Calcutta try to become good Americans while dealing with the unavoidable intergenerational conflicts that result from trying to honor tradition in a new world.
(2006) – Anne Tyler America
Anne Tyler gives us a complex story about what it is to be an American; Maryam Yazdan, after thirty-five years in this country, must finally come to terms with her “outsider” status.
What Is the What (2006) – Dave Eggers
In this fictionalized memoir, Valentino Achak Deng, one of the so-called Lost Boys, is forced to leave his village in
Sudan at the age of seven and journey many miles to finally reach freedom. In America, he finds a life full of both promise and challenges.
A Free Life(2007) – Ha Jin
The Wu family fully severs ties with
China in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and begins a new, free life in the United States.
Into the Beautiful North (2009) – Luis Alberto Urrea
After watching “The Magnificent Seven,” Naveli, a young Mexican woman in a town whose men have fled north for better opportunities, travels to El Norte to recruit illegal immigrant men to save her village from gangsters.
Girl in Translation (2010) – Jean Kwok
Intelligent, eleven-year-old Kimberly Chang narrates her story about coming from Hong Kong and working with her mother in an illegal sweat shop in Brooklyn. She must translate for her mother and also try to hide her poverty from classmates as she meets both heartbreak and wild success in her new life.
Buddha in the Attic (2011) – Julie Otsuka
Otsuka combines a unique voice and graceful, poetic language to tell the stories of Japanese mail-order brides who arrive in
California with little idea of the men and experiences awaiting them.
Open City (2011) – Teju Cole
Feeling adrift after ending a relationship, Julius, a young Nigerian doctor living in
New York, takes long walks through the city while listening to the stories of fellow immigrants until a shattering truth is revealed.
All This Talk of Love (2013) – Christopher Castellani
Fifty years after arriving in
America, generations of the Grasso family contemplate a trip back to Italy to visit relatives. Secrets, tragedies, and memories are revealed as the plot progresses. One Library Journal reviewer “defies anyone not to fall in love with the Grassos.”