The best recent novels featuring voices of immigrants

Roxana Arama Author Of Extreme Vetting
By Roxana Arama

Who am I?

I’m a Romanian American author who arrived in the US with a job in software development. In more than twenty years as an immigrant, I’ve struggled with the same problems these novels explore: how to build a home in a new land, away from my family; how to fit in or make my peace with not belonging; how to be the parent of American-born children whose culture is different from my native one. I’m familiar with the US immigration system from my yearslong citizenship application, and I also interviewed an immigration lawyer extensively for my thriller.


I wrote...

Extreme Vetting

By Roxana Arama,

Book cover of Extreme Vetting

What is my book about?

An immigration lawyer fights to keep her client from being deported to the country where his family was murdered many years ago. Then she finds out the killers are coming here—for both of them.

Seattle, Washington, 2019. Attorney and single mom Laura Holban is an immigrant herself. Her client Emilio Ramirez was arrested at his sons’ high school and thrown in detention. When Laura files for his asylum, false criminal charges prevent his release. Someone is following his family, and an ICE prosecutor threatens to revoke Laura’s US citizenship. None of it makes sense—until Laura uncovers a deadly conspiracy involving ICE, stolen data, and human trafficking. Which puts her daughter and Emilio’s sons in imminent danger.

The books I picked & why

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How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water

By Angie Cruz,

Book cover of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water

Why this book?

Cara Romero’s unique and vibrant voice stayed with me long after I finished the book. Like all immigrants, she’s caught between two worlds. She’s bound to the parents she left behind in her native Dominican Republic, and she cares for her family and friends in Washington Heights, New York. She’s a flawed character who grows during the story because, as she explains, she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. As a parent, I felt for Cara and her estranged son Fernando, separated by vast cultural differences. This is a heartwarming story, where Cara’s compassionate voice is juxtaposed with the bureaucratic lingo of government forms, emphasizing her humanity and the complex lives of immigrants everywhere.

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water

By Angie Cruz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Write this down: Cara Romero wants to work.

Cara Romero thought she would work at the factory of little lamps for the rest of her life. But when, in her mid-50s, she loses her job in the Great Recession, she is forced back into the job market for the first time in decades. Set up with a job counselor, Cara instead begins to narrate the story of her life. Over the course of twelve sessions, Cara recounts her tempestuous love affairs, her alternately biting and loving relationships with her neighbor Lulu and her sister Angela, her struggles with debt, gentrification…


The Other Americans

By Laila Lalami,

Book cover of The Other Americans

Why this book?

This riveting whodunit captures the tension between native and naturalized citizens, something I’m familiar with. A Moroccan American man is killed in a hit-and-run in a small desert town in California. His daughter Nora returns home to the Mojave, determined to find the killer. The story is told through multiple voices, some of them immigrants: Nora’s mom, who still dreams of her old life in Casablanca; an undocumented man who witnessed the incident but is afraid to come forward; and the victim himself in the days before dying, when his future looked bright. The secrets Nora discovers about her family and her town, heartbreaking as they are, help her find love and also a sense of home that immigrants like me spend our entire lives trying to reach.

The Other Americans

By Laila Lalami,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Other Americans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Finalist for the National Book Award 2019 An Observer, Literary Review and Time Book of the Year 'One of the most affecting novels I have read. Subtle, wise and full of humanity' The Times Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters, deeply divided by race, religion and class. As the characters tell their stories and the mystery unfolds, Driss's family is forced to confront its secrets, a town faces its…


Red Thread of Fate

By Lyn Liao Butler,

Book cover of Red Thread of Fate

Why this book?

The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Tam is on the phone with her husband when he is killed in traffic. Their last conversation is about the little boy they were going to adopt from China. Mia, an undocumented Chinese immigrant with an American-born daughter, tells the other half of the story. Reading about Chinese orphanages in the 90s—and now—was heartbreaking. It was also moving because of the way some nannies cared for the abandoned children. In Chinese mythology, the red thread of fate unites through love. Drawing from the author’s Taiwanese culture and her experience adopting her son from China, this is a story about love: between parents and children, friends who help each other, caretakers and orphans—and even unexpected romance.

Red Thread of Fate

By Lyn Liao Butler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Thread of Fate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the wake of a tragedy and fueled by guilt from a secret she's kept for years, a woman discovers how delicate the thread that binds family is in this powerful novel by Lyn Liao Butler.

Two days before Tam and Tony Kwan receive their letter of acceptance for the son they are adopting from China, Tony and his estranged cousin Mia are killed unexpectedly in an accident. A shell-shocked Tam learns she is named the guardian to Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. With no other family around, Tam has no choice but to agree to take in the girl she…


Infinite Country

By Patricia Engel,

Book cover of Infinite Country

Why this book?

This story spoke to my frustration with harsh immigration policies separating families. Talia is American-born, but her Columbian parents, Elena and Mauro, are undocumented. Her sister is also undocumented, while her brother is an American citizen who hopes to secure his family’s future—somehow—when he's 21. Mauro’s life was destroyed when he was deported away from Elena and the children. Talia, who lives with her grandmother in Colombia, ends up in a correctional facility. She escapes, hoping to return to the US. This family belongs together, but for now their dream is kept alive by Andean myths of condors flying free. A moving story of love and danger about parents and children struggling to build normal lives that are always just out of reach.

Infinite Country

By Patricia Engel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Infinite Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A knockout of a novel...we predict [Infinite Country] will be viewed as one of 2021's best." --O, The Oprah Magazine

"An exquisitely told story of family, war, and migration, this is a novel our increasingly divided country wants and needs to read." --R.O. Kwon, Electric Literature

I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get…


Miracle Creek

By Angie Kim,

Book cover of Miracle Creek

Why this book?

In this gripping courtroom drama, an explosion in Miracle Creek, Virginia, destroys the business of South Korean immigrants Pak and Young Yoo and puts their daughter Mary into a monthslong coma. As arguments mount against the woman accused of starting the fire, Young struggles with a question many immigrants must face. Maybe she shouldn’t have brought her child to the US, where Mary struggles as a teenager and where she was almost killed. The tension between the two generations resonated with me as a parent and immigrant. As Young hopes to discover who caused the explosion that killed two other people, she must also help Mary imagine a future in their adoptive country.

Miracle Creek

By Angie Kim,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Miracle Creek as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'That wonderful, brilliant sort of book you want to shove at people as soon as you've finished so they can experience it for themselves' Erin Morgenstern

A thrilling debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng about how far we'll go to protect our families - and our deepest secrets.

In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine - a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for "dives", used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in family secrets, undocumented immigrants, and immigrants?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about family secrets, undocumented immigrants, and immigrants.

Family Secrets Explore 111 books about family secrets
Undocumented Immigrants Explore 13 books about undocumented immigrants
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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