All the books featured in My America: Immigrant and Refugee Writers Today.
We present our reading list of books written by refugees, immigrants, and second-generation immigrants, all of which are included in our newest exhibit My America, which can now also be explored virtually. From poetry collections to memoirs to young adult novels, there is a wide range of genres — and experiences — represented. All of these books are available to read in the exhibit itself, and the authors even bookmarked specific passages to read with a personal note as to its significance. These titles and more are also available for purchase on our page at Bookshop.org, which supports local, independent bookstores.
Becoming Americans: Immigrants Tell Their Stories from Jamestown to Today
edited by Ilan Stavans
Becoming Americans, an anthology edited by Ilan Stavans, brings forth the diverse and complex stories of immigrants spanning 400 years. An immigrant himself, Stavans showcases the experiences of immigrants and how they relate to one another. Each story addresses common themes like physical displacement, language differences, difficulty with assimilation, and split identities in order to bolster the image of America as the “nation of immigrants.”
Best Worst Americans: Stories
by Juan Martinez
Juan Martinez immigrated from Bucaramanga, Colombia and now lives in Chicago, though Las Vegas is the setting of most of the stories in his first book, Best Worst American. Through 24 humorous and absurd tales of exile, displacement and identity, the reader is reminded how big the world actually is, and that it is people — and their stories — that define what it means to be American.
A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption, and L.A.’s Scandalous Coming of Age
by Richard Rayner
Prolific writer Richard Rayner introduces a new side of Los Angeles in this book. In the early 20th century, L.A. was a breeding ground of oil fever, get-rich-quick schemes, celebrity scandals and organized crime. Rayner focuses on two men who were caught up in L.A.’s gilded persona and the journey they took to realize that the city was not what it was cracked up to be.
Check Please! Book One: #Hockey
by Ngozi Ukazu
Ngozi Ukazu grew up in Houston, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. Her recent comic book Check Please! Book 1: #Hockey tells the tale of Eric, a former junior skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and amateur patissier, as he navigates college, plays hockey and has a crush on the hockey team’s captain, Jack. Eric goes on a journey to discover who he is and confront his feelings of being an outsider.
by José Olivarez
José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants, an educator, and an award-winning poet. His debut poetry collection Citizen Illegal is a celebratory look at Latinx life and examines the inconsistencies and intricacies for those caught between the United States and Mexico. Olivarez skillfully invokes everyday language to address complicated issues including race, ethnicity, gender, class, and immigration.
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life
by Yiyun Li
Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter—and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves. From William Trevor and Katherine Mansfield to Søren Kierkegaard and Philip Larkin, Dear Friend is a journey through the deepest themes that bind these writers together. Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live?
by Vu Tran
Vu Tran was born in Vietnam months after the fall of Saigon, which forced his father to flee, but did not escape with his family until he was five years old. After months at a refugee camp in Malaysia, Tran’s father brought them to Tulsa, Oklahoma where Vu was raised. Tran’s short stories have won awards and his debut novel Dragonfish brilliantly melds thriller genre fiction with the immigrant journey.
A Dream Called Home
by Reyna Grande
Born in Iguala, Mexico, Reyna Grande entered the United States as an undocumented child immigrant. Despite having few resources, she later went on to earn a university degree and become an author who has received numerous awards. Her memoir A Dream Called Home shows this journey of making her impossible dreams possible and finding her own place in America.
Each Tiny Spark
by Pablo Cartaya
Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author whose novels focus on young Latinx lives and how they navigate family, community, and culture. His third novel, Each Tiny Spark, tells the story of a girl struggling to regain her relationship with her dad while the community ruptures into conflict with her best friend at the center of it.
by Edwidge Danticat
Multi-award winner Edwidge Danticat delivers eight different stories in Everything Inside, which showcase the emotions that hold people together or drive them apart. These stories take the reader from the U.S. to the Caribbean as love, family, and intimacy intertwine to demonstrate a hard-won wisdom and humanity.
Eye Level: Poems
by Jenny Xie
Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Jenny Xie’s debut Eye Level: Poems wrestles with immigration, travel, and loss. This collection of poems takes the reader on a journey from Phnom Penh to Corfu to Hanoi to New York and other places, combining sensual writing to ask questions about how one sees and is seen. Xie shows the struggle of trying to belong in a seemingly never-ending journey.
Good Morning, Aztlán
by Louie Pérez
Lyrics in music can tell a story as easily as any novel and Louie Pérez’s Good Morning, Aztlán exemplifies that in a collection of songs, poems, and paintings Pérez did himself. His songs display the duality of Chicano culture through the use of Spanish in some lyrics and stories of growing up in a world that seems to be against you.
Good Trouble: Stories
by Joseph O’Neill
Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, Irish-American Joseph O’Neill offers a collection of subversive yet comical stories in Good Trouble Stories. His stories range from a poet being asked to sign a petition to free Edward Snowden to a man seeking solace with a goose at a wedding. Each story looks at life in the twenty-first century through a troubling and sometimes even political lens.
by Amitav Ghosh
Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka before settling in New York. In his latest novel, Gun Island, the main character embarks on a journey of discovery, both inward and outward, while meeting a wide cast of characters along the way. Ghosh incorporates Bengali folklore into this story of displacement and transition while trying to understand a world in crisis.
edited by Jerome Walford
Gwan Anthology, edited by Jerome Walford, features authors and illustrators who are children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. One of these stories, “Going Postal: Redefine,” is based on a true story that shows the pressure immigrants go through in order to fit in a country that doesn’t speak their native language and the fear to ask for help.
The House of Broken Angels
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea is a Mexican-American poet, novelist, and essayist. Urrea has received critical acclaim for his work and NPR referred to him as a “master storyteller with a rock and roll heart.” He is a prolific writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss, and triumph in his newest book House of Broken Angels.
Houston Astros: Armed and Dangerous
by Jose de Jesus Ortiz
Sportswriter Jose de Jesus Ortiz has covered Major League Baseball for more than two decades, working as a beat writer and columnist. In his 2006 book Houston Astros: Armed and Dangerous, he chronicles the two historic seasons the Astros faced in the early 2000s, a turbulent time for the team as they lost players, endured the firing of a manager, and changed the national pastime.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Erika L. Sánchez has often challenged the concept of borders in her work. Her young adult novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter similarly confronts societal, cultural, and familial expectations of Mexican-Americans, and protagonist Julia’s emotional coming-of-age story offers a nuanced depiction of the Latina experience.
by R. O. Kwon
R. O. Kwon is an award-winning author born in South Korea and raised in the United States. Her debut novel The Incendiaries is a love story within the context of grief and loss and individuals ultimately drawn into a world of extremism while just trying to belong.
La Misma Luna [Under the Same Moon]
by Ligiah Villalobos
The bond between a mother and son can never be broken, no matter the distance. This is what screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos captures in the 2007 film La Misma Luna [Under the Same Moon]. It tells the story of a mother working illegally in the United States while her son was left behind. During their journey they both go through challenges and obstacles yet never lose the hope of seeing each other again.
My Name on His Tongue
by Laila Halaby
Intensely personal and marked with a trenchant wit, these poems form a memoir following PEN Award winner Laila Halaby’s life as they explore the disorientation of exile, the challenge of navigating two cultures, and the struggle to shape her own creative identity. Rooted in her Middle Eastern heritage, these poems illuminate the Arab American experience over the last quarter century.
The Other Americans
by Laila Lalami
Pulitzer Prize finalist Laila Lalami presents a story of being othered in a society suffering from hypocrisy and hate for those who are “different.” The Other Americans tells the story of the mysterious death of a Moroccan immigrant, in a story that is at once a family saga, murder mystery and love story.
by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi’s young adult debut Pet explores a community reckoning with its past when a young transgender girl, Jam, accidentally summons a creature “called by blood” to hunt monsters. It tells her this monster lurks in her best friend’s house, setting the two children questing for truth in a world that refuses to acknowledge the existence of evil.
by Dipika Mukherjee
Poet, writer, editor, and teacher Dipika Mukherjee is an award-winning author born in New Delhi, India. She holds a PhD in sociolinguistics and her academic interests include Language Shift in Diasporic Communities, and especially women in the Indian diaspora. Mukherjee’s second novel Shambala Junction is a coming of age story amidst the cultural clash of east and west.
Silver, Sword, and Stone: Three Crucibles in the Latin American Story
by Marie Arana
Latin America has been plagued with three major themes for the past millennium: exploitation, violence, and religion. In Silver, Sword, & Stone, award-winning Peruvian-American author Marie Arana grapples with each of these themes through three contemporary Latin Americans, combining the past with the present. Arana demonstrates the connection between those that have been “othered” and the ones who caused it.
Someone Like Me
by Julissa Arce
In Someone Like Me, Julissa Arce recounts the difficulties of learning a new language and overcoming the cultural barriers of her new home as she worked to earn a scholarship to college, and eventually an executive position on Wall Street, all while being an undocumented immigrant.
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen, born in Vietnam and raised in America, won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Sympathizer, which is a confession from a communist double agent that powerfully shows him as an outsider in his home country and in his refugee community in Los Angeles.
Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America
by Gustavo Arellano
Gustavo Arellano’s book Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America tells the story of how something as simple as food crossed the border and has become a quintessential part of American cuisine and culture.
This Time Will Be Different
by Misa Sugiura
Sometimes life takes one on an unexpected journey, which can lead to standing up for what’s right. CJ from Misa Sugiura’s This Time Will Be Different goes through that journey by finding her passion and fighting against those who want to take everything away from her family. Sugiura references her Japanese-American heritage and the history of what Japanese-Americans faced during World War II.
The Ungrateful Refugee
by Dina Nayeri
In her first nonfiction work The Ungrateful Refugee, Dina Nayeri narrates her own story as a refugee while weaving other stories of refugees and asylum seekers. Nayeri challenges stereotypical views about immigrants in this country, speaking from personal experience and that of those she has interviewed. She describes the journey it took to come here while also making readers rethink the refugee crisis.
What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth
by Rigoberto González
Prolific Mexican-American writer Rigoberto González tells a personal and heart-wrenching story in his memoir What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth. González narrates a story of brotherhood where the close relationship he had with his brother saves them both from being consumed by their inner demons.
by Joe Ide
Joe Ide’s third novel in the IQ series, Wrecked, tackles the theme of belonging through its main character, Isaiah Quintabe (IQ). IQ has become a bit of a celebrity in his hometown due to his successful investigations, but the fame has been isolating and IQ craves human connection. Little does he know that it could lead him to some unforeseen threats.