Curated by Jose Antonio Vargas for the I Stand With Immigrants Initiative.
We hope you enjoy this fantastic reading list compiled by journalist, filmmaker and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas. Our friends at I Stand With Immigrants shared the list with us, so we could share it with you!
Hear more important stories and insights from leading writers by exploring our exhibit My America: Immigrant & Refugee Writers Today. More than 30 vital voices share their experiences as immigrant and refugee writers in the United States, both the joy and struggles of that, what it means to be “American,” and much more. Explore the exhibit in person or online at My-America.org.
What books would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
In this graphic novel memoir, Thi Bui shares her family’s exodus from Vietnam and the process of forming a new home and identity in the U.S. This handsomely illustrated story portrays both the universal struggle of trying to provide a good life for your child and the very specific experiences of Bui’s family.
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong’s debut collection of poetry masterfully describes the trauma of violence and separation while also celebrating the individual’s incredible capacity for healing and redemption. Rarely is hope explored through such corporeal and lyrical language.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
A wild and wandering novel that touches on challenges related to emigration and refugee rights through the eyes of a young couple, Saeed and Nadia, who confront the challenges of our world with a dash of magic.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
An incredibly raw, realistic depiction of the immigrant experience and the American Dream captured by the lens of a Cameroonian family trying to make it in New York City. Really made me reflect on the struggles that immigrants went through during the Great Recession of 2008.
The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri
The refugee story is deeper than redemption – this work approaches the depth of complexity that is reflected in the experience, the expectations refugees face and the joys and challenges of that journey.
Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang
A poignant, vulgar, and hilarious collection of interconnected short stories about Chinese American girls growing up in NYC and what their families do to survive.
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
A collection of creative nonfiction pieces about undocumented immigrants who’ve paid a steep price to keep the American dream intact, but without recognition: day laborers, first responders at Ground Zero, people living in churches to keep ICE from detaining them. What really sets this apart is the author’s fierce and uncensored voice and advocacy throughout the narrative; she refuses to hide her cynicism or anger for the reader’s sake.
Kid Quixotes: A Group of Students, Their Teacher, and the One-Room School Where Everything is Possible by Stephen Haff
A beautiful story of belonging, identity, hope, and love of a group of students who come together to share their experiences as children of undocumented parents and their school project of translating the Spanish tale of Don Quixote into English and creating a bilingual musical out of it.
Becoming Kid Quixote: A True Story of Belonging in America by Sarah Sierra
An amazing children’s book spinoff/companion of Kid Quixotes by Stephen Haff, young 10-year-old Sarah narrates her own story of growing up in Brooklyn, NY as part of an immigrant family. I really loved this one even more for its sincerity and New York City realism!
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist At Work by Edwidge Danticat
One of the most powerful immigrant women of color, Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat describes what life was like as an immigrant artist detailing stories of injustice and inequality. Nonfiction literary works like these expand and deepen our understanding of the immigrant experience in America.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
This Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of Frank McCourt, an Irish immigrant born in Brooklyn, NY during the Great Depression is one of the most influential works of literature of my life. Recounting his childhood’s extreme difficulties and obstacles with such wit, grace, and humor, really makes this a literary masterpiece.