Books About Immigration

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The process of leaving the country of one’s birth to settle permanently in another country is a difficult one. Immigrants leave their homes for various reasons. Many are in search of a better life, but others are forced to flee due to political or religious harassment. Inevitably, the adjustment to the new environment takes time. If conditions are right, the newcomers will adapt easily. Often, the inhabitants of the host country find the ways of immigrants abhorrent, and do not welcome them into their communities. The immigrants may not be able to assimilate the culture of their new country. These issues are the subject of the following books.

1. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri Indian immigrants in USA are trying to fit in while still holding on to their cultural roots. Their son is born in USA and cannot always reconcile to his parents’ Indian ways.

2. The Immigrant by Manju Kapur An Indian woman is living with her widowed mother in Delhi. She receives a marriage proposal from an Indian dentist settled in Canada. She decides to accept, and make a new life for herself as a Canadian.

3. An American Brat by Bapsi Sidhwa This is the story of a young girl from Pakistan. She feels stifled by the conservative, gender biased atmosphere in her home country and goes to live with her uncle in USA.

4. My New American Life by Francine Prose The protagonist is an Albanian who is trying to settle in America. When she gets a job, she is elated and thinks her dreams are coming true. But she is approached by some fellow Albanians who want her to undertake some risky work. This story is set in the time just after 9/11 when immigrants were viewed with suspicion.

5. My Antonia by Willa Cather The narrator of this story lost his parents when he was ten. He was sent to live with his grandparents in Nebraska. There he met and befriended Antonia, whose parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Her father is consumed with homesickness for the country of his origin. The author shows the emotional effect of displacement in immigrants and their tenuous position in the social strata of their adopted country.

6. What is the What by Dave Eggers This is the true story of a Sudanese boy who escaped the genocide that was taking place in Sudan. He, along with other orphaned boys, walked to Ethiopia, braving countless hazards. He was finally settled in America, where his story was recounted by the author of this book.

7. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane The author was a journalist. This story addresses the problems that Irish immigrants faced in the late 19th century in New York. The female protagonist was a pretty girl growing up in the slums of New York. She was forced by circumstances to work as a prostitute, and killed herself before she was out of her teens.

8. How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak This is an unusual take on immigration. The protagonist is a Polish immigrant but she would like to pass herself off as a Russian. She is desperate to enter the portals of the glamorous Russian nightclub called The Twin Palms.

9. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth This is the story of Jewish immigrants from Austria. It is told from the perspective of the young son, who grows up in a new and unforgiving environment. He is scared of his father, but close to his mother. The New Yorker has called it “arguably the most distinguished work of fiction ever written about immigrant life.”

10. No-No Boy by John Okada This book is about the internment of immigrant Japanese families in USA during World War II. No- no boys were those who refused to denounce their Japanese heritage and join the US Army. The protagonist has been imprisoned by the US authorities after spending two years in an internment camp.

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