The best YA novels about immigration

Marcia Argueta Mickelson Author Of Where I Belong
By Marcia Argueta Mickelson

Who am I?

My family came to the United States as undocumented immigrants from Guatemala. There is a lot of negative rhetoric being shared about undocumented immigrants. There are many reasons why people make the impossible decision to leave their native countries and travel to the United States. Reading books about these experiences creates empathy, compassion, and understanding.


I wrote...

Where I Belong

By Marcia Argueta Mickelson,

Book cover of Where I Belong

What is my book about?

Guatemalan American high school senior Milagros “Millie” Vargas has lived in Texas ever since her parents sought asylum there when she was a baby. Millie devotes herself to school and caring for her younger siblings while her mom works as a housekeeper for the wealthy Wheeler family.

Mr. Wheeler, a U.S. Senate candidate, mentions Millie’s achievements in a campaign speech about “deserving” immigrants. It doesn’t take long for people to identify Millie’s family and place them at the center of a statewide immigration debate. Faced with journalists, trolls, anonymous threats, and the Wheelers’ good intentions—especially those of Mr. Wheeler’s son, Charlie—Millie must confront the complexity of her past, the uncertainty of her future, and her place in the country that she believed was home.

The books I picked & why

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Indivisible

By Daniel Aleman,

Book cover of Indivisible

Why this book?

Indivisible tells the story of Mateo Garcia and his little sister. Their parents are picked up by immigration officials. His school life is interrupted by this terrible event. Mateo has to help take care of his sister while not knowing what is going to happen to his parents. As a daughter of immigrants, I felt very drawn to the story. I understand what a difficult decision it is for parents to make to leave behind their home countries to try to make a better life for their children.


Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

By Laekan Zea Kemp,

Book cover of Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Why this book?

In Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, Penelope Prado has a dream of opening a bakery. While working in her father’s restaurant, she meets Xander, a good-looking boy whose immigration status leaves him in jeopardy. This book really resonated with me because Xander is dealing with a consequential issue of facing deportation. That’s a very scary thing to face at such a young age, and I think a lot of youth are in similarly precarious situations.


The Sun Is Also a Star

By Nicola Yoon,

Book cover of The Sun Is Also a Star

Why this book?

In The Sun is Also a Star, we meet Natasha who loves science and is hours away from being deported. On what is possibly her last day in the country, she meets Daniel. They spend the day together all the while, Natasha travels around the city trying to get legal help for her possible deportation. This book really stood out to me because that is a lot of stress put on a young woman. It also shows a very broken immigration system that isn’t fair to many families.


Esperanza Rising

By Pam Muñoz Ryan,

Book cover of Esperanza Rising

Why this book?

Esperanza Rising is a story that takes place after the Mexican Revolution. Esperanza and her mother must flee Mexico, and they go to California. Esperanza and her mother were wealthy in Mexico, so they are not used to the hard work they must now do. She and her mother struggle as farmworkers in California. I recommend it as a great middle-grade read that gives readers an understanding of the difficulties many migrant families faced.


We Are Not from Here

By Jenny Torres Sanchez,

Book cover of We Are Not from Here

Why this book?

We Are Not from Here tells the story of three young people- Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña who are fleeing gang violence in Guatemala. They are forced to leave due to gang threats. Their struggle to reach the United States is a heart-breaking one. This book gives a good understanding of the impossible choices so many people are facing even today.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in immigrants, Mexican Americans, and undocumented immigrants?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about immigrants, Mexican Americans, and undocumented immigrants.

Immigrants Explore 84 books about immigrants
Mexican Americans Explore 17 books about Mexican Americans
Undocumented Immigrants Explore 11 books about undocumented immigrants

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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