Summer Reading List: Immigrant Authors

Open book on a wooden table in a garden, sunny summer day, reading in a vacation concept

We asked our staff to share their favorite fiction book or memoir written by an immigrant author and they delivered! Support immigrant authors by adding a few of these books to your summer reading list and let us know which ones we missed. 

Share a book by YOUR favorite immigrant author on social media and use the hashtag #WelcomingWorks!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Andrea Boozer, Director of Administrative Services – “I love this book because at its heart it’s a love story but it has so many intricate layers from looking at immigration in two different countries to looking at race and identity in one’s homeland and adopted country. I saw parts of myself in the lead character’s struggle with her identity in America and Nigeria. For me, it made me think about what it truly means to me to be an African American woman and how I want to show up in all areas of my life. The bonus for me is that the lead character goes to the University of Pennsylvania and parts of the book took place in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.”

 

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Lina Duffy, Director of Communications – “Brick Lane centers around a young woman who moves from Bangladesh to London for an arranged marriage with an older man. It is about her journey towards finding her voice as an immigrant woman and offers contrasting experiences of different characters across generations, gender, and background. I highly recommend it!”

 

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Nina Chen, Special Projects Consultant – “It is an amazing work of historical fiction that begins in 1939 in Franco’s Spain and ends in Pinochet’s Chile.  It’s a story about hope, exile and belonging, and one that sheds light on the way we live now. It’s warm, funny, optimistic, and thoroughly engrossing.”

 

Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Andrea Boozer, Director of Administrative Services – “To be honest, before I read this book, I really knew nothing about immigration in this country and what obstacles immigrants had to face to be here. This is such a beautiful story about the love of being raised by two great men, the author’s father and uncle, and being torn between the two of them just as she was torn between the two countries she loves, Haiti and America. This book really touched me because I had no idea truly of the sacrifices families make to come here. Also, it was surprising to me that even within immigration there can be prejudices and biases toward other people and their treatment just because of where they were born. Being African American, I know what it means to be judged by my outward appearance, but I was naive in thinking that these judgments did not also extend to immigrants.”

 

Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Elizabeth Jones, Director of Program Development – “A powerful story of two cousins from India, one who eventually moves to the US.  This modern story weaves themes of unfulfilled desires, family obligations, and sacrificial love, as the girls each suffer deep loss in order to show their love for the other, in the midst of the constant struggle of old caste family systems and new cultural norms. Divakaruni is a powerful, award-winning writer, whose narrative is gorgeous and compelling.  Apparently, this book was made into a movie, but I have never seen it. I was desperately sad when I came to the end of this book.”

 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Mariam Nek, Director of Workforce Development – “The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It’s set in the backdrop of the history of Afghanistan in the last 30 years of the 20th century.”

 

Call Me American: A Memoir by Abdi Nor Iftin

Ben Goebel, Program Manager – “This book is fantastic because the author mixes the story of Somalia, a country I didn’t know much about, and his love for America. He fell in love with this country from movies and used it as his way to escape mentally and finally physically. He ends his book by likening his story with the one of Arnold Schwarzenegger and how he came from a war-torn country to becoming Governor of California. Must read!”

 

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Robert Sheppard, Instructor – “It’s been quite a while since I read this book, but it made a strong impression on me and made me aware of some details of the immigrant experience that I would otherwise have never been aware of. Lahiri is very attuned to small details, and she shows how the smallest things can surprise you or enchant you or confound you in your new home. She also describes the experience of watching from a distance as your native country undergoes dramatic changes, even to the point of becoming a new nation.”

 

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee

Peter Gonzales, President and CEO – “This book immediately comes to mind for a variety of reasons. It was published in 1996, the same year that I lived in South Korea and was immersed in the language and culture of the protagonist’s family.  Beautifully written, it is a story of one immigrant’s struggle with identity, exploring assimilation versus integration, and testing his allegiance to his family’s heritage as he strives for acceptance in the U.S.”

 

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Bryce Bayer, Director of Education and Training – “It’s is an epic story which follows a Korean family through multiple generations, with the timeline spanning from the Japanese occupation of Korea to the late 1980s. It’s a story of life in all of its complexity: loss, connection, love, fear, hope, and grappling with deep questions of identity and one’s place in the world. An absolute beauty that I couldn’t help but devour in a matter of days. Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again.”

 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Kathryn Dumas, Grant Writer – “It tells the story of 2 families intertwined during the 2008 financial crisis- the Jonga family, recently immigrated from Cameroon, and the family of Clark Edwards, an executive for Lehman Brothers, with whom Jende Jonga gets a job as a personal chauffeur. I enjoyed the book’s complex relationships and its critical look at the idea of the American dream.”

Noteworthy titles by international and 2nd generation authors:

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

Rochelle Cooks, Director of Employer Engagement – “It is a powerful, first-hand account about the impact and threat of deportation where the youngest child in the family is a US citizen.”

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Nikki Pumphrey, Deputy Director – “This book resonates with me because it is deeply personal – a memoir on identity that masquerades as a book on running. Murakami captures so beautifully in words what I have felt for years as a runner: the blissful silence and struggle of using your feet to work through what’s in your head.”

 

Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano

Janek Kubik, Program Manager – “His writing style in this is close to “In Cold Bold” by Capote in that he takes real-life instances and puts a sort of his own narrative behind them. It’s an incredibly detailed account of the ways the Italian mafia infiltrates almost all aspects of Italian society and economy.”

About The Author

Welcoming Center