Coming to America
America is a melting pot, a nation of immigrants with over 41,000,000 of our 316,497,531 total population identifying as ‘’foreign born’ in 2013. And let’s not forget about all of us who are the children of immigrants and have likely heard stories about how our own families came to this country. Take a journey with these writers all of whom have remarkable stories to tell about coming to America.
(This list contains books for all ages. Ask your librarian for help in finding books about your family’s home county.)
As teenagers, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love in a Nigeria under military dictatorship. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America, where Obinze hopes to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in. Fifteen years later, after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
Arturo and his Mexican-American family and friends share all kinds of experiences living in the barrio of East Los Angeles--reclaiming their names, playing basketball, championing the school librarian, and even starting their own club. (Teen)
A compelling story of two intertwined journeys: a Jewish refugee family fleeing persecution and a young man seeking to reclaim a shattered past. In the twilight of the Cold War (the late 1980s), nine-year old Lev Golinkin and his family cross the Soviet border with only ten suitcases, $600, and the vague promise of help awaiting in Vienna. Years later, Lev, now an American adult, sets out to retrace his family's long trek, locate the strangers who fought for his freedom, and in the process, gain a future by understanding his past. This is a thrilling tale of escape and survival, a deeply personal look at the life of a Jewish child caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Union, and a provocative investigation into the power of hatred and the search for belonging. Lev Golinkin achieves an amazing feat--and it marks the debut of a fiercely intelligent, defiant, and unforgettable new voice.
Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.
An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American. Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she'll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better. Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.
This masterwork of American immigrant literature is set in the 1920s on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and tells the story of Sara Smolinsky, the youngest daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, who rebels against her father's rigid conception of Jewish womanhood. Sarah's struggle towards independence and self-fulfillment resonates with a passion all can share.
At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti--to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.
Follows the fortunes of a German immigrant family through nine generations, beginning in 1845, as they experience American life and play baseball. As in all family histories and all baseball games, there is glory and heartache, triumph and sacrifice. And it ain't over till it's over. (Teens)
A startling and sensuous debut novel set in Saudi Arabia that tells the story of a young immigrant and a veiled girl as they defy strict Muslim laws in their attempt to be together. Unwilling to give up the one thing in their lives that has meaning--each other--Naser and his girlfriend bravely face the consequences of their forbidden love affair, as the novel comes to a terrifying and deeply moving climax.
When ten-year-old Drita and her family, refugees from Kosovo, move to New York, Drita is teased about not speaking English well, but after a popular student named Maxine is forced to learn about Kosovo as a punishment for teasing Drita, the two girls soon bond. (Grades 3-5)
Laurie Fabiano tells a remarkable story of the Italian immigrant experience at the start of the twentieth century. With stories culled from her own family history, Fabiano paints an entrancing portrait of Giovanna Costa, who, reeling from personal tragedies, tries to make a new life in a new world. This intoxicating story follows Giovanna as she finds companionship, celebrates the birth of a baby girl, takes pride in a growing business, and feels a sense of belonging... However, these modest successes are rewarded with the attention of the notorious Black Hand. As the stakes grow higher, Giovanna desperately struggles to remain outside the fray, so she may fight for--and finally save--what is important above all else: family.
A debut novel about a single day in 1953 as lived by six people at an Ohio carnival. A small, incongruous man receives an excruciating piece of news. His son has died in a POW camp in Korea. It is August 15, 1953, the day of a tumultuous street carnival in Elephant Park, an Italian immigrant enclave in Ohio. Against a background of immigration, broken loyalties, and racial hostility, we see everything through the eyes of various characters in the crowds.
You're twelve years old, a month has passed since your Korean Air flight landed at lovely Newark Airport. Your fifteen-year-old sister is miserable. Your mother isn't exactly happy, either. You're seeing your father for the first time in five years, and although he's nice enough, he might be, well--how can you put this delicately?--a loser. You can't speak English, but that doesn't stop you from working at East Meets West, your father's gift shop in a strip mall, where everything is new. Welcome to the wonderful world of David Kim.
Ten unforgettable short stories -- written by award-winning authors for young adults -- reflect the stunning diversity of experience among teenagers from many countries who make the United States their new home. It's hard enough to be a teenager, trying to fit in, trying to get along with your parents, trying to figure out how the world works. Being from a different culture makes everything that much harder. (Teen)
From the acclaimed, award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash comes a new novel that eloquently re-imagines the American immigrant saga. Jin tells the story of the Wu family that sets out on a journey through contemporary America in search of a sense of belonging.
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Through Kimberly's story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about.
In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola's strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family's journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Terry Farish's haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant's struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures. (Teen)
When Hua Wu arrives in New York City, her life seems destined to resemble that of countless immigrants before her. She spends her hectic days in a restaurant in Chinatown, and her lonesome nights in a noisy, crowded tenement. But one day Hua meets Jane Templeton and her daughter, Lily, a two-year-old adopted from China. Eager to expose Lily to the language and culture of her birth country, Jane hires Hua to be her nanny. Jane, a museum curator of Asian art, and her husband, a theater critic, are cultured and successful. They pull Hua into their circle of family and friends until she is deeply attached to Lily. But when cracks show in the family's perfect façade, what will Hua do to protect the little girl who reminds her so much of her own past?
Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero. Told in a series of vignettes - sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous - it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.
The Garcías belong to the uppermost echelon of Spanish Caribbean society, descended from the conquistadores. Their family compound adjoins the palacio of the dictator's daughter. So when Dr. García's part in a coup attempt is discovered, the family must flee. They arrive in New York City in 1960 to a life far removed from their existence in the Dominican Republic. Acclaimed writer Julia Alvarez's brilliant and buoyant first novel sets the García girls free to tell their most intimate stories about how they came to be at home--and not at home--in America. (Teen)
Inspired by the author's childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child's-eye view of family and immigration. (Grades 4-6)
A homemade quilt ties together the lives of six generations of the author's immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith, in a moving story which has been updated to include the author's children. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours. With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream. Brando Skyhorse, in his debut novel, gives voice to one neighborhood in Los Angeles with an astonishing and unforgettable lyrical power.
Everything's new for Mariama after a long journey by car, train, boat, and plane from Africa. She's going to discover a world where the streets, her school, and the food are all different. But what about the people? A story about identity, the process of integration, and solidarity. (Pre-school-Grade 2)
Yoon's name means Shining Wisdom, and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn't sure that she wants to be YOON. (Grades K- 2)
Lula, a twenty-six-year-old Albanian woman living surreptitiously in New York City on an expiring tourist visa, hopes to make a better life for herself in America. When she lands a job as caretaker to Zeke, a rebellious high school senior in suburban New Jersey, it seems that the security, comfort, and happiness of the American dream may finally be within reach. But things take a more sinister turn when Lula's Albanian "brothers" show up in a brand-new black Lexus SUV. Hoodie, Leather Jacket, and the Cute One remind her that all Albanians are family, but what they ask of her is no small favor. Set in the aftermath of 9/11, My New American Life offers a vivid, darkly humorous, bitingly real portrait of a particular moment in history, when a nation's dreams and ideals gave way to a culture of cynicism, lies, and fear.
In The Namesake, Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection, Interpreter of Maladies, an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans.
Farah, a young Muslim immigrant, feels alone, even when surrounded by her classmates. She listens and nods but doesn't speak. It's hard being the new kid in school, especially when you're from another country and don't know the language. Then, on a field trip to an apple orchard, Farah discovers there are lots of things that sound the same as they did at home, from dogs crunching their food to the ripple of friendly laughter. As she helps the class make apple cider, Farah connects with the other students and begins to feel that she belongs. (Grades 1-4)
A debut novel about a Russian immigrant family living in Brooklyn and their struggle to learn the new rules of the American Dream. In this account of two decades in the life of an immigrant household, the fall of communism and the rise of globalization are artfully reflected in the experience of a single family. Ironies, subtle and glaring, are revealed: the Nasmertovs left Odessa for Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with a huge sense of finality, only to find that the divide between the old world and the new is not nearly as clear-cut as they thought.
As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.'s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant. With senior year of high school kicking into full swing, M.T. sees her hopes for a "normal" future unraveling. Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience to tell a story that is timely, relevant, and universally poignant. (Teen)
This intricately woven tapestry of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny follows star-crossed lovers Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who, after their first meeting in the Italian Alps, find their destinies inexplicably entwined as they build their lives in America.
A young girl describes her family's bittersweet experience in the United States after their emigration from Korea. Four years old on the flight to California, Young Ju concludes that America is heaven. But when they arrive, they are weighed down by the difficulty of learning English, their insular family life, and the traditions of the country they left behind. (Teen)
Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity. In this first volume of her much-praised, bestselling trilogy, Santiago brilliantly recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.
List created by:
Library Services Director, BCCLS