The best books about why immigrants leave their country of origin and the riches they bring to their new country

Barbara Artson Author Of Odessa, Odessa: A Novel
By Barbara Artson

The Books I Picked & Why

Jews Without Money

By Michael Gold

Book cover of Jews Without Money

Why this book?

This is a beautifully told tale about what the first generation of Jews endured on their way to making a new life in the United State told from the sensibility of a young boy whose father becomes disabled trying to make a living as a worker. The book is semi-autobiographical and can be applied to any first-generation whether they be Irish, Japanese, Mexican, or Ukrainian.  Life in the ghetto is hard and yet the immigrant endures.

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The Bread Givers

By Anzia Yezierska

Book cover of The Bread Givers

Why this book?

This historical novel set in the lower East Side, one of my favorites, tells the saga of a gifted young woman, an immigrant, who breaks free from the restricted environment of her Orthodox community to become a school teacher.  Before the word “feminism existed, before women were given the vote, when anti-Semitism was rife in this country, she demanded the right to live a productive and meaningful life. She gave so much to her new country. That is why I love this book. 

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The Triangle

By Katharine Weber

Book cover of The Triangle

Why this book?

This first-person narrative historical novel tells in chilling detail the real-life events of the Triangle shirtwaist fire of 1911 seen through the eyes of one of the few survivors. Over 150 workers, mostly women, died in the inferno due to the management's decision to keep the doors locked so that the workers produced more shirts. You will turn each page feeling the horror, the fear, the rage, the disbelief this tragedy evokes.

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Daniel Deronda

By George Eliot

Book cover of Daniel Deronda

Why this book?

A powerful novel by possibly the finest nineteenth-century writer, that exposes the virulent anti-Semitism prevalent in late nineteenth-century Victorian England. The protagonist, Daniel Deronda, raised in privilege, meets a young Jewish woman and through her, discovers his Jewish identity. In spite of its length, I felt a sadness at having to leave these beautifully drawn characters who had become my best friends.

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Joseph and His Brothers

By Thomas Mann

Book cover of Joseph and His Brothers

Why this book?

Thomas Mann, “puts clothing on the myth” of the biblical story of Joseph in this deeply profound and moving novel that reveals aspects of the human condition: love, greed, ruthlessness, forgiveness, jealousy, and ambition. Joseph and His Brothers remains relevant to the 21st-century reader. If I had to choose one novel to take with me to read on an isolated island, this would be the one I chose.

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