Capturing the Immigrant Experience
September 2017

As Franklin Roosevelt once famously reminded the DAR: “Remember, remember always that all of us . . . are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” Here are some wonderful—but very different kinds of—novels that can help us understand what it is like being an immigrant, ranging from an introspective and highly individualized view to a panoramic and global viewpoint.

  • One person’s story: Chemistry by Weike Wang. Short, intense, and funny memoir-like novel about a Chinese graduate student dealing with intense parental pressure, appreciating the elegance of science, and living with uncertainty and indecision.
  • Four people’s stories: Still Here by Lara Vapnyar. The intertwined lives of four Russian friends who are immigrants in New York facing mid-life, death, the digital age, ambition, and the grass is always greener.  See also…
  • Two families’ stories: Digging to America by Anne Tyler. The story of two Korean orphans adopted by very different American families, exploring themes of home and homesickness, belonging and individual freedom.
  • Panoramic story of Los Angeles: The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar. The story of a Mexican immigrant housekeeper and her rich employers. Grand sweep of Los Angeles and the problems of immigration, somewhat reminiscent of Bonfire of the Vanities.
  • Panoramic story of the U.S.: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A big knockout of a novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. So many different genres: coming-of-age novel, romance, comic novel of social manners, up-to-the-minute meditation on race, as well as the immigrant saga.  See also…

There are so many good books on this topic.  What are some of your favorites?

And remember to check out for many more book recommendations on many more topics.