57 books like The Undocumented Americans

By Karla Cornejo Villavicencio,

Here are 57 books that The Undocumented Americans fans have personally recommended if you like The Undocumented Americans. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Open City

Ted Pelton Author Of Malcolm & Jack: And Other Famous American Criminals

From my list on historical 2000s novels that aren’t all the same.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of American literary history. Still, as an undergraduate, I studied with a charismatic, postmodern French-American fiction writer, Raymond Federman, who, in a theatrical accent, called me by my last name, “Pel-tone.” Atop the Kurt Vonnegut I’d read in high school that gave me my taste for crazy, socially-conscious novels that I have tried myself also to write, I imbibed the books Federman sent my way: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett. In years since, I’ve championed innovative novels through my own small press, Starcherone Books. I am an artist whose greatest passion is discovering writing that makes me see in new ways.

Ted's book list on historical 2000s novels that aren’t all the same

Ted Pelton Why did Ted love this book?

All that happens throughout most of this book is that a Nigerian grad student in psychiatry nightly wanders end-to-end the streets of New York City, observing. And yet I couldn’t put this book down, riveted by this angry mind on fire and the differences in the landscape he sees from the one I thought I knew so well.

Author Teju Cole is highly visual, as one would expect from one whose other job as he wrote this was as photography editor of the New York Times Magazine. But then, as you get to the ending of his narrator’s musings, as you feel you have a handle on this plotless novel, the trap is sprung so that you cannot but reevaluate everything that has come before. This book is a stunner!

By Teju Cole,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Open City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling debut novel from a writer heralded as the twenty-first-century W. G. Sebald.

A haunting novel about national identity, race, liberty, loss and surrender, Open City follows a young Nigerian doctor as he wanders aimlessly along the streets of Manhattan. For Julius the walks are a release from the tight regulations of work, from the emotional fallout of a failed relationship, from lives past and present on either side of the Atlantic.

Isolated amid crowds of bustling strangers, Julius criss-crosses not just physical landscapes but social boundaries too, encountering people whose otherness sheds light on his own remarkable journey…


Book cover of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

Much of “the line,” as Border Patrol agents and migrants sometimes call the border, is far from big cities and curious journalists. And a lot of what happens there, happens under cover of darkness or behind the secured doors of Border Patrol stations.

As a former Border Patrol agent, Cantú saw what happened when no one else was looking. His memoir shares it with the rest of us.

By Francisco Cantú,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Line Becomes a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019, an electrifying memoir from a Mexican-American US Border Patrol guard

'Stunningly good... The best thing I've read for ages'
James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

Francisco Cantu was a US Border Patrol agent from 2008 to 2012.

In this extraordinary account, he describes his work in the desert along the Mexican border. He tracks humans through blistering days and frigid nights. He detains the exhausted and hauls in the dead. The line he is sworn to defend, however, begins to dissolve. Haunted by nightmares, Cantu abandons the Patrol for civilian…


Book cover of Lost Children Archive

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

At times, immigration policies are so ludicrous that only fiction can tell a credible story of what’s happening.

In Luiselli’s novel, modern asylum policies in the United States get the storytelling they deserve through the lens of one New York family struggling with the ordinary challenges of life only to learn, bit by bit, just how close their lives are to the migrants attempting to navigate the extraordinary demands of immigration policies along the US-Mexican border.

By Valeria Luiselli,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lost Children Archive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR • “An epic road trip [that also] captures the unruly intimacies of marriage and parenthood ... This is a novel that daylights our common humanity, and challenges us to reconcile our differences.” —The Washington Post

In Valeria Luiselli’s fiercely imaginative follow-up to the American Book Award-winning Tell Me How It Ends, an artist couple set out with their two children on a road trip from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. As the family travels west, the bonds between them begin to fray: a fracture is growing between…


Book cover of My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

On the ground in courtrooms and jail cells when the Trump administration began separating migrant families, Efrén Olivares’s memoir is more than just the story of a lawyer fighting for his clients.

Olivares is also a migrant who knows what it’s like to have his family split apart by immigration laws. Read it for the play-by-play account of family separation in 2018 but enjoy it because in Olivares the future of migration breathes, walks, and fights back.

By Efrén C. Olivares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Boy Will Die of Sorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARD WINNER - The Raul Yzaguirre Best Political/Current Affairs Book

This deeply personal perspective from a human rights lawyer—whose work on the front lines of the fight against family separations in South Texas intertwines with his own story of immigrating to the United States at thirteen—reframes the United States' history as a nation of immigrants but also a nation against immigrants.

In the summer of 2018, Efrén C. Olivares found himself representing hundreds of immigrant families when Zero Tolerance separated thousands of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Twenty-five years earlier, he had been separated…


Book cover of Threads: From the Refugee Crisis

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

In Calais, France, on Europe’s northern edge, migrants from across the Middle East and Africa settled, hopeful that they would eventually make it across the English Channel.

While they waited, they built lives, relationships, and the ramshackle edifices that poverty permits—the ingredients of communities. Only to be attacked, sometimes by neighbors, other times by police. In this graphic novel, Evans brings Europe’s refugees to life in their humor, hope, and despair.

By Kate Evans,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR BOOKS 2018**

In the French port town of Calais, famous for its historic lace industry, a city within a city arose. This new town, known as the Jungle, was home to thousands of refugees, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, all hoping, somehow, to get to the UK. Into this squalid shantytown of shipping containers and tents, full of rats and trash and devoid of toilets and safety, the artist Kate Evans brought a sketchbook and an open mind. Combining the techniques of eyewitness reportage with the medium of comic-book storytelling, Evans has…


Book cover of The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move

Glenda R. Carpio Author Of Migrant Aesthetics: Contemporary Fiction, Global Migration, and the Limits of Empathy

From my list on migration, migrant lives, and how they shape our common world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I embody the “American Dream” mythology: I came to the United States as a child who did not speak English and had few means. And now I am the Chair of the English Department at Harvard. But I am the exception, not the rule. So many migrants die on perilous journeys or survive only to live marginal lives under surveillance. Yet we don’t always ask why people risk their lives and those of their children to migrate. And when we do, we don’t often go beyond the first layer of answers. The list of books I recommend allows us to think deeply about the roots of forced migration.

Glenda's book list on migration, migrant lives, and how they shape our common world

Glenda R. Carpio Why did Glenda love this book?

Drawing on a wide range of research, Shah counteracts the common assumption that contemporary human and nonhuman migrations represent an unprecedented global crisis.

She reframes migration as a biological and cultural necessity that has been a crucial part of human history and shows how it has been fueled by such factors as economic inequality, politics, nationalism, colonialism, etc. I learned so much from this meticulously researched, yet highly readable book.

I love how it asks readers to consider migration and its history from multiple perspectives and that it can help us think and prepare for an increase of migration due to climate change.

By Sonia Shah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Finalist for the 2021 PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
A Library Journal Best Science & Technology Book of 2020
A Publishers Weekly Best Nonfiction Book of 2020
2020 Goodreads Choice Award Semifinalist in Science & Technology

A prize-winning journalist upends our centuries-long assumptions about migration through science, history, and reporting--predicting its lifesaving power in the face of climate change.

The news today is full of stories of dislocated people on the move. Wild species, too, are escaping warming seas and desiccated lands, creeping, swimming, and flying in a mass exodus from their past habitats. News media presents this scrambling…


Book cover of This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto

Glenda R. Carpio Author Of Migrant Aesthetics: Contemporary Fiction, Global Migration, and the Limits of Empathy

From my list on migration, migrant lives, and how they shape our common world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I embody the “American Dream” mythology: I came to the United States as a child who did not speak English and had few means. And now I am the Chair of the English Department at Harvard. But I am the exception, not the rule. So many migrants die on perilous journeys or survive only to live marginal lives under surveillance. Yet we don’t always ask why people risk their lives and those of their children to migrate. And when we do, we don’t often go beyond the first layer of answers. The list of books I recommend allows us to think deeply about the roots of forced migration.

Glenda's book list on migration, migrant lives, and how they shape our common world

Glenda R. Carpio Why did Glenda love this book?

This is a heart-felt but infinitely well-researched book that asks us to go beyond the usual answers one might give to the question of why migrants risk everything and leave their homes (i.e., gang violence, climate change, war, hunger).

Instead, Mehta shows how colonial and neo-colonial forces have and continue to cause migration flows. People migrate, Mehta says, “because the accumulated burdens of history have rendered their homelands less and less habitable.”

As someone who had to leave a country that was thrust into a four-decade-long civil war because of American intervention (the CIA), I appreciate the clear-eye and convincing argument Mehta makes about contemporary migration: it is directly due to American and European political interests (i.e., the Cold War) and their extraction and theft of gold, silver, cash crops, and human beings from the Global South. And it is fueled by black market demands for drugs and arms that…

By Suketu Mehta,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Land Is Our Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An impassioned defence of global immigration from the acclaimed author of Maximum City.

Drawing on his family's own experience emigrating from India to Britain and America, and years of reporting around the world, Suketu Mehta subjects the worldwide anti-immigrant backlash to withering scrutiny. The West, he argues, is being destroyed not by immigrants but by the fear of immigrants. He juxtaposes the phony narratives of populist ideologues with the ordinary heroism of labourers, nannies and others, from Dubai to New York, and explains why more people are on the move today than ever before. As civil strife and climate change…


Book cover of Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times

Glenda R. Carpio Author Of Migrant Aesthetics: Contemporary Fiction, Global Migration, and the Limits of Empathy

From my list on migration, migrant lives, and how they shape our common world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I embody the “American Dream” mythology: I came to the United States as a child who did not speak English and had few means. And now I am the Chair of the English Department at Harvard. But I am the exception, not the rule. So many migrants die on perilous journeys or survive only to live marginal lives under surveillance. Yet we don’t always ask why people risk their lives and those of their children to migrate. And when we do, we don’t often go beyond the first layer of answers. The list of books I recommend allows us to think deeply about the roots of forced migration.

Glenda's book list on migration, migrant lives, and how they shape our common world

Glenda R. Carpio Why did Glenda love this book?

In this book, Stoler rightly warns us against assuming that colonial violence existed only in the past. But she also shows that it is hard to grasp the effects of colonial power in our contemporary world.

This is because that power wraps “around contemporary problems,” including “toxic dumping in Africa, devastated ‘waste lands,’ precarious sites of residence, ongoing dispossession, or pockets of ghettoized urban quarters,” as well as migration crises the world over.

Imperial formations of power have transformed, adhering “in the logics of governance,” plaiting “through racialized distinctions,” and holding “tight to the less tangible emotional economies of humiliations, indignities, and resentments that manifest in bold acts of refusal to abide by territorial restrictions.”

Empires, old and new, intentionally conceal and silence their brutality, failures, and disorderliness and thus keep us in the dark while making us complicit in their violence.

By Ann Laura Stoler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How do colonial histories matter to the urgencies and conditions of our current world? How have those histories so often been rendered as leftovers, as "legacies" of a dead past rather than as active and violating forces in the world today? With precision and clarity, Ann Laura Stoler argues that recognizing "colonial presence" may have as much to do with how the connections between colonial histories and the present are expected to look as it does with how they are expected to be. In Duress, Stoler considers what methodological renovations might serve to write histories that yield neither to smooth…


Book cover of Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

Reece Jones Author Of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

From my list on US Border Patrol.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first came face to face with the expansive and unchecked authority of the Border Patrol about a decade ago when I was stopped five times in less than an hour while driving on a Texas country road. Could the Border Patrol really stop any vehicle they want without any reason whatsoever deep inside the United States? That day set me off on a journey through the borderlands and into the history of the Supreme Court in order to tell the untold story of how the Border Patrol became the most dangerous police force in the United States.  

Reece's book list on US Border Patrol

Reece Jones Why did Reece love this book?

This one takes us back to the founding of the Border Patrol to look at its Wild West origins. The first agents were plucked from frontier law enforcement and the Texas Rangers, whose earlier tasks included slave patrols and the violent removal of Native Americans. Lytle Hernandez shows how those racist and violent origins shaped the practices of the early Border Patrol. 

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Migra! A History of the U.S. Border as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the untold history of the United States Border Patrol from its beginnings in 1924 as a small peripheral outfit to its emergence as a large professional police force. To tell this story, Kelly Lytle Hernandez dug through a gold mine of lost and unseen records stored in garages, closets, an abandoned factory, and in U.S. and Mexican archives. Focusing on the daily challenges of policing the borderlands and bringing to light unexpected partners and forgotten dynamics, "Migra!" reveals how the U.S. Border Patrol translated the mandate for comprehensive migration control into a project of policing Mexicans in the…


Book cover of The Leavers

D. Dina Friedman Author Of Immigrants

From my list on books portraying the human side of the immigration “crisis”.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2019 I spent several days on a ladder witnessing children who were locked in a detention center in Homestead, and in early 2020, I traveled to the Brownsville/Matamoros border, where the stories people told me broke my heart. Often, it was not threats to their own lives but to their children’s lives that triggered their decision to flee. I wrote Immigrants and an accompanying book of poetry (Here in Sanctuary–Whirling) not to make political points, but to tell some of these stories and highlight the gaps between our human propensity toward kindness and the way we fall into the trap of “othering” those who are not exactly like us.  

D.'s book list on books portraying the human side of the immigration “crisis”

D. Dina Friedman Why did D. love this book?

This was one of the most sensitive portrayals of the effects of deportation on families that I’ve ever read.

I resonated even more strongly because it was set in New York City (my hometown), and the descriptions of different neighborhoods really came to life. I also appreciated the dual point of view narration (the story is told from both the mother and son’s perspective), and I could relate to both characters, even when they made difficult choices that ended up being hurtful. 

By Lisa Ko,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One morning, Deming Guo's mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an "all-American boy." But far away from all he's ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in undocumented immigrants, immigration, and immigrants?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about undocumented immigrants, immigration, and immigrants.

Immigration 23 books
Immigrants 174 books