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staff picks spring


Novels about the Experience of Immigration

Immigration debates are flooding news sources right now, but the realities experienced by those who flee their homes in search of new opportunities — even political asylum — oftentimes end up shoved to the margins. Though mostly fiction, the following literary works offer up a valuable, varied glimpse into what life is like in America for immigrants and their families.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – Through nine thematically connected stories, this Pulitzer Prize winner juxtaposes life in India, live in America and the experiences of Indian immigrants to America.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi – A powerful, tender story of race and identity spanning Nigerian villages, post 9/11 America and London. Written by the author of Half the Sky, this book won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – The first novel by one of the most celebrated and original authors writing today tells the story of a sweet, but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd, Oscar Wao. Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos – This haunting Pulitzer winner looks back on the highs and lows of two Cuban immigrants, Cesar and Nestor Castillo, as they push towards success as mambo musicians.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – Michael Chabon also earned a Pulitzer for this amazing tale of two cousins — one a Jewish-Czech refugee and the other nestled in his native Brooklyn — who play an integral role in establishing the Golden Age of comics.

What is the What by Dave Eggers – Based on the true story of Valentino Achak Deng of the Lost Boys of Sudan program, What is the What chronicles the separation from his family during the Second Sudanese Civil War, the harrowing trek to Ethiopia’s refugee camps, the troubles once he makes it, the sudden run to Kenya and — eventually — his immigration to the United States.

My Antonia by Willa Cather – This classic novel is Cather’s elegy to American pioneers. It takes place on the plains of Nebraska but beautifully recounts the life of Antonia Shimerda, the daughter of a Bohemian immigrant and a strong and willful woman trying to overcome not only her modest birth but her gender in this new strange country.



Beth Pocock is the Assistant Director.