The best books about immigration

1 authors have picked their favorite books about immigration and why they recommend each book.

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Indivisible

By Daniel Aleman,

Book cover of Indivisible

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.

Indivisible

By Daniel Aleman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There is a word Mateo Garcia and his younger sister Sophie have been taught to fear for as long as they can remember: deportation. Over the past few years, however, the fear that their undocumented immigrant parents could be sent back to Mexico has started to fade to the back of their minds. And why wouldn't it, when their Ma and Pa have been in the United States for so long, they have American-born children, and they're hard workers and good neighbors?

When two ICE agents come asking for Pa, the Garcia family realizes that the lives they've built are…


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.

Against the Wall

By Jenn Budd,

Book cover of Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist

Jenn Budd’s account of her life as a Border Patrol agent is powerful because it comes from a place of self-reflection and growth. She faces up to her previous ignorance and accepts the criticism that goes along with it. This book inspired me because she sees the racism and violence that are endemic to the Border Patrol and then dedicates her life to changing it. 

Against the Wall

By Jenn Budd,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

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

By Reece Jones,

Book cover of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

What is my book about?

Late one July night in 2020, armed men, identified only by the word POLICE written across their uniforms, began snatching supporters of Black Lives Matter off the street in Portland, Oregon, and placing them in unmarked vans. These mysterious actions were not carried out by local law enforcement or even right-wing terrorists, but by the U.S. Border Patrol. Why was the Border Patrol operating so far from the boundaries of the United States? What were they doing at a protest that had nothing to do with immigration or the border?
 
Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States is the untold story of how the Supreme Court has dramatically curtailed the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in service of policing borders. 

Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez,

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

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. 

Migra! A History of the U.S. Border

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…

Who am I?

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.  


I wrote...

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

By Reece Jones,

Book cover of Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States

What is my book about?

Late one July night in 2020, armed men, identified only by the word POLICE written across their uniforms, began snatching supporters of Black Lives Matter off the street in Portland, Oregon, and placing them in unmarked vans. These mysterious actions were not carried out by local law enforcement or even right-wing terrorists, but by the U.S. Border Patrol. Why was the Border Patrol operating so far from the boundaries of the United States? What were they doing at a protest that had nothing to do with immigration or the border?
 
Nobody Is Protected: How the Border Patrol Became the Most Dangerous Police Force in the United States is the untold story of how the Supreme Court has dramatically curtailed the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution in service of policing borders. 

Book cover of Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

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.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

By Laekan Zea Kemp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pasteleria next to her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans -- leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she's been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho's who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she's been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little…


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.

Canada and immigration

By Freda Hawkins,

Book cover of Canada and immigration: Public policy and public concern

This book, which was written when serious questions were being asked about Canadian immigration, is a gold mine of information on this delicate and emotional subject. The research is both extensive and meticulous. Moreover, the author does not just cite and explain facts about events and circumstances, she also provides clues as to what she feels constitutes an immigration policy.

Canada and immigration

By Freda Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Remarkable changes have taken place in Canadian immigration policy, law, and management since this book was first published. A long-awaited new Immigration Act was passed in 1976 and became law in 1978. This marked the beginning of a new, more liberal, and more co-operative era in Canadian immigration. The new Act established clear national objectives in immigration and refugee policy. The new edition of Canada and Immigration takes into account these major changes in Canadian attitudes and policies toward immigration. The author discusses what these changes have meant for Canada, considering the new laws, closer federal-provincial collaboration, more confident and…

Who am I?

I am a Canadian freelance writer, who has a BA in honours history from Smith College, an MA in history from McGill University, and a Bachelor in Journalism from Carleton University. As I have a special interest in Canadian history and Canadian biography, I have authored books in these subject areas. These include an award-winning biography of Sir William Van Horne, a polymath and railway general who pushed through the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Cairine Wilson. Canada’s first woman senator, who was celebrated for her work with refugees in the 1930s and 1940s, and a best-selling survey of Canadian immigration and immigration policy, Strangers At Our Gates.


I wrote...

Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015

By Valerie Knowles,

Book cover of Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015

What is my book about?

Immigrants and immigration have always been central to the development of Canada and to Canadians’ perception of themselves as a country and a society. In this crisply written history, Valerie Knowles describes the different kinds of immigrants who have settled in Canada and the immigration policies that have helped to define the character of Canadian immigration over the centuries. Key policymakers and shapers of public opinion also figure prominently in this colourful story.

The Promised Land

By Mary Antin,

Book cover of The Promised Land

When we think of the memoirs, especially immigrant memoirs, contemporary literature pops out —Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior.  But long before their families came to America, more than a hundred years ago, another immigrant family, this one Jewish, landed in Boston. In 1912, at the age of thirty, Mary Antin told their story. Her tale of flight from the land of oppression to the land of freedom has remained in print for over a century, the quintessential memoir of the world opened to a young child who thirsted to learn and to live.

The Promised Land

By Mary Antin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Promised Land is a compelling account of one woman's journey from Polotsk to Boston and her attempts to embrace a new culture and identity. Author Mary Antin highlights the old values and contemporary views that shaped her immigrant experience.



In The Promised Land, Antin recounts the many obstacles she encountered before and after emigrating to the U.S. Arriving in 1894, she details the years in Boston where she attempted to assimilate while facing religious, political and financial challenges. Despite hidden pitfalls and social barriers, Antin continued to make strides towards her American dream.

Although it centers a specific experience,…

Who am I?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.


I wrote...

America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

By Pamela S. Nadell,

Book cover of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

What is my book about?

What does it mean to be a Jewish woman in America? In a gripping historical narrative, Pamela S. Nadell weaves together the stories of a diverse group of extraordinary people--from the colonial-era matriarch Grace Nathan and her great-granddaughter, poet Emma Lazarus, to labor organizer Bessie Hillman and the great justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to scores of other activists, workers, wives, and mothers who helped carve out a Jewish American identity.

The twin threads binding these women together, she argues, are a strong sense of self and a resolute commitment to making the world a better place. Nadell recounts how Jewish women have been at the forefront of causes for centuries, fighting for suffrage, trade unions, civil rights, and feminism, and hoisting banners for Jewish rights around the world. Informed by shared values of America's founding and Jewish identity, these women's lives have left deep footprints in the history of the nation they call home.

Australia

By W.K. Hancock,

Book cover of Australia

A classic written on the eve of the Great Depression on the political culture of the British settlers in the great south land, with its commitment to egalitarianism, to bureaucratic process, and to protection all round, with restricted immigration and protective tariffs building ring-fences around ordinary workers’ standard of living. Hancock does not wholly approve of the result, which he sees as encouraging mediocre conformity. Written with verve and a sardonic eye.

Australia

By W.K. Hancock,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I'm a political historian who writes for my fellow citizens and I have chosen books by writers who do the same. Books which are written with passion and purpose: to shift political understanding, to speak truth to power, to help people understand their country and the world, and to inspire a commitment to improving them.


I wrote...

From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

By Judith Brett,

Book cover of From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

What is my book about?

Australia is the only English-speaking democracy to make voting compulsory. Australians do not see this as a contradiction of democracy but its embodiment, that the government is selected not just by the majority of people who turn out but the majority eligible to vote, and turnouts are regularly above 90%. Compulsory voting is accompanied by compulsory voter registration, preferential voting, the non-partisan administration of elections and voting on Saturdays, with barbeques and cake stalls at polling stations, and election night parties that spill over into Sunday morning. The benefits are immense. Compulsory voting brings to the polls the poor and marginalised, young people and new citizens, and busy people with no axes to grind who dilute the impact of polarising zealots and moral crusaders.

The Triangle

By Katharine Weber,

Book cover of The Triangle

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.

The Triangle

By Katharine Weber,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I barely knew my grandparents who came to this country in 1905 and spoke only Yiddish. Because my mother refused to speak of her life in Odessa I was totally unaware of the persecution she and her family witnessed and experienced. As a psychoanalyst who helps people understand their own family’s history to better understand themselves, my historical novel, Odessa, Odessa helped me piece together what little I knew of my family’s history, and what I gleaned from my research and reading of novels, to render this portrait. Thomas Mann describes, in writing Joseph and His Brothers, putting clothing on the myth. I put the clothing on the history of my mother’s life story. So relevant today!


I wrote...

Odessa, Odessa: A Novel

By Barbara Artson,

Book cover of Odessa, Odessa: A Novel

What is my book about?

Henya, wife of Rabbi Mendel Kolopsky, considers an unexpected pregnancy and the hardships ahead for the children she already has. Soon after the child is born, Cossacks ransack the Kolopskys's home, severely beating Mendel. In the aftermath, he tells Henya that, contrary to his brother Shimshon's belief that socialism is their ticket to escaping the region's brutal anti-Semitic pogroms, he still believes America holds the answer. Henya, meanwhile, understands that any future will be perilous: she now knows their baby daughter, who has slept through this night of melee, is surely deaf.

So begins a beautifully told story that unfolds over decades of the 20th century - a story in which two families, joined in tradition and parted during persecution, will remain bound by their fateful decision to leave Odessa.

Invisible Immigrants

By Marilyn Barber, Murray Watson,

Book cover of Invisible Immigrants: The English in Canada since 1945

Although the English are among the largest immigrant groups contributing to the development of modern Canada, their story remained, for the most part, untold until the publication of this book in 2015. In this carefully researched work of popular history, Marilyn Barber and Murray Watson recount the personal experiences of English immigrants who elected to come to Canada between the 1940s and 1970s, England’s last major wave of emigration. Most of these postwar English immigrants thought they were going to a country whose language and culture would be familiar. Instead, like other immigrants, they contended with separation from loved ones back home while adapting to a new landscape and culture. Moreover, although they did not appear visibly different from their neighbours, these newcomers were immediately labelled “foreigners” as soon as they started to speak.

Invisible Immigrants

By Marilyn Barber, Murray Watson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Despite being one of the largest immigrant groups contributing to the development of modern Canada, the story of the English has been all but untold. In Invisible Immigrants, Barber and Watson document the experiences of English-born immigrants who chose to come to Canada during England's last major wave of emigration between the 1940s and the 1970s. Engaging life story oral histories reveal the aspirations, adventures, occasional naivete, and challenges of these hidden immigrants. Postwar English immigrants believed they were moving to a familiar British country. Instead, like other immigrants, they found they had to deal with separation from home and…

Who am I?

I am a Canadian freelance writer, who has a BA in honours history from Smith College, an MA in history from McGill University, and a Bachelor in Journalism from Carleton University. As I have a special interest in Canadian history and Canadian biography, I have authored books in these subject areas. These include an award-winning biography of Sir William Van Horne, a polymath and railway general who pushed through the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Cairine Wilson. Canada’s first woman senator, who was celebrated for her work with refugees in the 1930s and 1940s, and a best-selling survey of Canadian immigration and immigration policy, Strangers At Our Gates.


I wrote...

Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015

By Valerie Knowles,

Book cover of Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-2015

What is my book about?

Immigrants and immigration have always been central to the development of Canada and to Canadians’ perception of themselves as a country and a society. In this crisply written history, Valerie Knowles describes the different kinds of immigrants who have settled in Canada and the immigration policies that have helped to define the character of Canadian immigration over the centuries. Key policymakers and shapers of public opinion also figure prominently in this colourful story.

My America 1928-1938

By Louis Adamic,

Book cover of My America 1928-1938

I grew up listening to my elders about the 1930s. I’ve read dozens of books about that decade,  and this is the best in terms of the documentation of average Americans. We absolutely must understand the 1930s to deal with what faces us in the nation and world in the 2020s. Adamic was an immigrant who believed in the potential of America, and about half of this book is his reporting around America, with a focus on the working class. The other half is memoir. The reporting is deep, the writing beautiful. 

My America 1928-1938

By Louis Adamic,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My America 1928-1938 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

How I grew up in Ohio informs my work: my raging war-ravaged father dreams of being his own boss; in our basement he grinds steel tools on massive iron machines, a side business after his day job in a factory; as a teen, I begin grinding with him; Dad is hit by a drunk driver and he cannot work for months; I am not old or skilled enough as a machinist to save the business; our mother who drives a school bus feeds our family with charity food. I fear I will grow up to be a blue-collar worker facing all the precarity that comes with this existence.


I wrote...

Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s

By Dale Maharidge,

Book cover of Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s

What is my book about?

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dale Maharidge has spent his career documenting the downward spiral of the working class. Poverty is both reality and destiny for increasing numbers of people in the 2020s and, as Maharidge discovers spray-painted inside an abandoned gas station in the California desert at the height of the pandemic, it is a fate often handed down from birth. Motivated by this haunting graffito—“Fucked at Birth”—Maharidge explores the realities of being poor in America in the coming decade, as economic crisis and social revolution up-end the country. Part raw memoir, part dogged, investigative journalism, Fucked At Birth channels the history of poverty in America to help inform the voices Maharidge encounters as a narrative long-form documentarian. 

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