The most recommended books about immigration

Who picked these books? Meet our 19 experts.

19 authors created a book list connected to immigration, and here are their favorite immigration books.
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Book cover of Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing

Seth Mallios Author Of The Deadly Politics of Giving: Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown

From my list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown.

Who am I?

I was Site Supervisor at the Jamestown Rediscovery Project in the late 1990s and early 2000s. My fondness for the people involved with the archaeological excavations is only rivaled by my love for the subject matter that involves the collision of cultures as Chesapeake Algonquians, Spanish Jesuits, and English colonists first encountered one another during the 16th and 17th centuries. Though I have been fortunate to write many books, my first book was on Jamestown, and this topic will always hold a special place in my scholarly heart (there is such a thing, I swear!).

Seth's book list on alternate perspectives on Jamestown

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Ilan Stavans’s edited volume, Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing demonstrates how immigration is central to the origin story of the United States. In compiling selections from over 400 years of first-generation immigrant accounts, Stavans is able to shed light on the immigration experience—starting at Jamestown—from the perspective of the immigrant, as opposed to those already living in the destination country.

By Ilan Stavans (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Immigration is the essential American story. From London or Lvov, Bombay or Beijing, Dublin or Dusseldorf, people have come to America to remake themselves, their lives, and their identities. Despite political obstacles, popular indifference, or hostility, they put down roots here, and their social, cultural, and entrepreneurial energies helped forge the open and diverse society we live in. The history of American immigration has often been told by those already here. Becoming Americans tells this epic story from the inside, gathering for the first time over 400 years of writing—from seventeenth-century Jamestown to contemporary Brooklyn and Los Angeles—by first-generation immigrants…


Book cover of Why are Americans like that?: A Guide to American Sayings and Culture

Andrea Nelson Trice Author Of Strong Together: Building Partnerships Across Cultures in an Age of Distrust

From my list on people who want to change the world.

Who am I?

As a faculty member and program evaluator, I’ve spent over two decades exploring questions around cross-cultural dynamics, empowerment, and human flourishing. I care deeply about vulnerable people and the misuse of power, and I find joy in conducting research that can improve people’s lives. I recognize that my early work as a counselor brings a unique perspective to my work, as does my childhood, which was partially spent in the Peruvian rainforest. 

Andrea's book list on people who want to change the world

Andrea Nelson Trice Why did Andrea love this book?

This is a quick read that gives me fascinating insights into the American culture. The authors wrote it for international students who come to the U.S. and find the cultural differences confusing at best.

Reading this book, I feel like I’m observing conversations between Americans and catching insights that I would otherwise miss simply because it’s all so natural and comfortable to me as an American.

Understanding how Americans operate and what we most value is crucial if we are to effectively function in another culture and help to improve vulnerable people’s lives. 

By Stan Nussbaum, Kathleen Webb (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why are Americans like that? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the international student, businessman, immigrant or ESL student, this is an easily readable introduction to American culture. Based on 100 common American sayings, clustered around key cultural values. Sixty "Ask an American" questions as discussion starters. Twelve blank pages for notes. Footnote definitions for ESL students.


Book cover of Flower Grand First

Mary Camarillo Author Of The Lockhart Women

From my list on life in the real Southern California.

Who am I?

My father was transferred to Southern California from Charlotte, North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. I was excited and my friends were jealous. At that point, all I knew about California was the music of the Beach Boys and the Gidget television series. I thought everyone lived on the beach and knew movie stars. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods like Reseda and Anaheim and Fountain Valley, places where people live lives that have nothing to do with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood. California has been my home for more than fifty years. I still find it fascinating and puzzling, and I still feel like an outsider.

Mary's book list on life in the real Southern California

Mary Camarillo Why did Mary love this book?

Flower, Grand, First is a collection of poems about Santa Ana, California and Jalisco, Mexico. The title comes from three streets in Santa Ana, where my husband’s family has lived for more than one hundred years. Hernandez’s poems are about place and displacement and examine what it feels like to be an outsider trying to make sense of life in a strange land, always searching for home. In the wonderful poem “My Father Shows Me Catalina” Hernandez writes: “Smile so you both know it’s okay that you are different. But once-in-a-while, the division is so clean it’ll cut into you.”

By Gustavo Hernandez,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gustavo Hernandez’s debut poetry collection, Flower Grand First, moves through the complex roads of immigration, sexuality, and loss. These poems are points plotted on maps both physical and emotional—the rural landscapes of Jalisco, the glimmering plains of memory, the busy cities of California, and the circular paths of grief. Hernandez’s stunning elegies float along a timeline spanning three decades, honoring family, recording a personal history, and revealing a vulnerable but resilient voice preoccupied with time, place, and what is left behind out of necessity.


Book cover of Australia

Judith Brett Author Of From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia Got Compulsory Voting

From my list on politics in Australia.

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.

Judith's book list on politics in Australia

Judith Brett Why did Judith love this book?

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.

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.


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.

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.  

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 Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Marcia Argueta Mickelson Author Of Where I Belong

From my list on YA about immigration.

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.

Marcia's book list on YA about immigration

Marcia Argueta Mickelson Why did Marcia love 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.

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. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

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…


Book cover of Learning to Belong in the World: An Ethnography of Asian American Girls

Hoda Mahmoudi Author Of Children and Globalization: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

From my list on childhood and globalization.

Who am I?

I've been interested in children’s lives for as long as I can remember. I think my own childhood experiences provoked my curiosity about the world as observed and perceived by children. My own childhood was affected by globalization in the broadest sense. When I was a child, my family moved to the United States from Iran. I grew up in Utah where I encountered a different way of life than the one I left behind. The shift from one culture to another was thrilling and scary. The encounter with a new world and a different culture has taught me important lessons about children’s creativity, strength, and curiosity as well as their fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities.  

Hoda's book list on childhood and globalization

Hoda Mahmoudi Why did Hoda love this book?

Growing up, I moved from one culture to another, and I know being a teenager can be difficult. The lives of teenage girls are complex, even more so for the children of Asian immigrants, who not only face the pressures of school and society but also serve as cultural mediators, negotiators, community builders, and bridges between the many worlds they grow up in. His book looks at the lives of Asian American girls and their roles in globalization and boundary crossing as they struggle, dream, grow, and thrive. As an immigrant myself, I connected to many of the ideas in this book.

By Tomoko Tokunaga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Learning to Belong in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides a complex and intricate portrayal of Asian American high school girls - which has been an under-researched population - as cultural meditators, diasporic agents, and community builders who negotiate displacement and attachment in challenging worlds of the in-between. Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork, Tomoko Tokunaga presents a portrait of the girls' hardships, dilemmas, and dreams while growing up in an interconnected world. This book contributes a new understanding of the roles of immigrant children and youth as agents of globalization and sophisticated border-crossers who have the power and agency to construct belonging and identity across…


Book cover of Indivisible

Marcia Argueta Mickelson Author Of Where I Belong

From my list on YA about immigration.

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.

Marcia's book list on YA about immigration

Marcia Argueta Mickelson Why did Marcia love 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.

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. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

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…


Book cover of Triangle

Barbara Artson Author Of Odessa, Odessa: A Novel

From my list on why immigrants leave their country of origin.

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!

Barbara's book list on why immigrants leave their country of origin

Barbara Artson Why did Barbara love 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.

By Katharine Weber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By the time she dies at age 106, Esther Gottesfeld, the last survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, has told the story of that day many times. But her own role remains mysterious: How did she survive? Are the gaps in her story just common mistakes, or has she concealed a secret over the years? As her granddaughter seeks the real story in the present day, a zealous feminist historian bears down on her with her own set of conclusions, and Esther's voice vies with theirs to reveal the full meaning of the tragedy.

A brilliant chronicle of the event…


Book cover of Annals of the Famine in Ireland, in 1847, 1848, and 1849

Jean Reinhardt Author Of A Pocket Full of Shells

From my list on genuinely reflect the time they are set in.

Who am I?

I’m deeply interested in the lives of my ancestors including the times they lived through so in researching our family tree I took into account the historical events they witnessed. This is what led me to read and write historical fiction. One branch of my family where survivors of the Great Hunger so I have done a lot of research on this dark period of Irish history. During WW1 my husband’s great uncle died in the trenches as an Irishman fighting in the British Army while at the same time my English grandfather and his two brothers were imprisoned as conscientious objectors, one of them dying as a consequence.

Jean's book list on genuinely reflect the time they are set in

Jean Reinhardt Why did Jean love this book?

This is an eyewitness account of the Great Hunger in Ireland for the years 1847-1849, written by an American woman who felt pity for the poor Irish immigrants fleeing their native land. Her first trip to Ireland was just before the Great Hunger and although conditions were bad then, they were much worse on her second visit. Her accounts allow the reader to see what takes place through her eyes and they are harrowing at times. Not only does the author inform us of the dire situation of the poor but she also pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the struggle to help others. This was one of the books I used as a reference while writing my own series.

By Asenath Nicholson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Annals of the Famine in Ireland, in 1847, 1848, and 1849 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Annals of the Famine in Ireland" is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the effects and contributing causes of the Great Famine. But it is not a history. It does not merely trot out facts and figures. Rather, it is a personal and emotional response from an eye-witness to the calamity. Histories are generally detached from the events that they record but, in this account, the reader will experience an immediacy to the situation as though transported back to the very time and place. The anecdotal nature of the testimony allows it to be so.

The author, Asenath…