Immigrants & Refugees

This compilation of study guides features the personal histories of immigrants and refugees from countries around the globe, including Haiti, Mexico, Syria, Rwanda, and others. Readers will learn more about the melding of cultures through these diverse stories: a perilous escape from Communist-ruled Vietnam; one woman’s journey through seven African countries to America; and memoirs about crossing the US-Mexico border. Common themes in this collection focus on identity, the dehumanization of refugees, and the struggle to find belonging in a new home.

Publication year 2010Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Society: Economics, Society: Globalization, Society: Nation, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Justice & InjusticeTags Politics / Government, Business / Economics, Education, Class, Finance / Money / Wealth, Food, History: World, Immigration / Refugee, Leadership/Organization/Management, Military / War, Poverty, Social Justice, Sociology, Technology

Publication year 2018Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: Immigration, Relationships: Family, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Immigration / Refugee, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Parenting, Arts / Culture

A Dream Called Home is a memoir published in 2018 by the award-winning Mexican American author, Reyna Grande. The book is the sequel to her bestselling 2012 memoir, The Distance Between Us, which addresses Reyna’s experiences crossing the US-Mexico border as a child. The title alludes to the American Dream while also gesturing to varied concepts of home. This summary refers to the 2018 English-language edition published by Atria Books.Plot SummaryReyna divides her memoir into... Read A Dream Called Home Summary

Publication year 2015Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Class, Identity: Gender, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: ColonialismTags Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2020Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: Immigration, Society: CommunityTags Immigration / Refugee, History: U.S., Politics / Government, Race / Racism, Social Justice, Trauma / Abuse / Violence

Publication year 2017Genre Biography, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee, History: Middle Eastern

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is a 2017 book by Melissa Fleming, telling the true story of a young girl named Doaa who fled the Syrian civil war. Made a refugee by the conflict, she travels to Egypt and then attempts to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. The book has won numerous awards.Plot SummaryThe story opens with Doaa Al Zamel floating in the sea amid the wreckage of a ship. Her husband is... Read A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Graphic Memoir , NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Identity: Race, Relationships: Mothers, Self Discovery, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Society: CommunityTags Immigration / Refugee, Race / Racism

Publication year 1998Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Daughters & SonsTags Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Gender / Feminism, Immigration / Refugee, Women's Studies (Nonfiction)

Esmeralda’s family relocates from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn in 1961, when Esmeralda is 13 years old. On the cusp of womanhood, Esmeralda receives warnings from her family members, and especially her mother, Mami, to watch out for the many algos or dangers lurking in the city. Struggling to adjust to city life in Brooklyn, Esmeralda misses Puerto Rico, and she dreams of the day when she will return. Initially put into remedial classes because she... Read Almost a Woman Summary

Publication year 2019Genre Novel, FictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Love, Society: Immigration, Values/Ideas: FateTags Historical Fiction, Gender / Feminism, Class, Immigration / Refugee, Latin American Literature

Publication year 1993Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags History: U.S., Sociology, Immigration / Refugee

Always Running is the autobiography of Luis J. Rodriguez, a Mexican-American former gang member who grew up in dangerous East Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s. Luis’ family moved to Los Angeles from Mexico after Luis’ father was accused of theft, and Luis spends his early years in Watts, a particularly crime-ridden LA neighborhood. Luis’ father struggles to find work, and the family struggles to find adequate shelter and food. After they are evicted... Read Always Running Summary

Publication year 1998Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Nation, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Society: ImmigrationTags Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 1922Genre Essay / Speech, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee

Anzia Yezierska introduces her immigration story by outlining why she came to America—to find hope, romance, and freedom to express herself. When she arrives, she says her body is strong and her “heart and soul pregnant with the unlived lives of generations clamoring for expression” (Paragraph 4). This is not to be, at least immediately. She needs money but cannot find work in factories, so her only options are to work in a kitchen or... Read America and I Summary

Publication year 2006Genre Graphic Novel/Book, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: ImmigrationTags Allegory / Fable / Parable, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Bullying, Race / Racism, History: Asian, Immigration / Refugee, Chinese Literature

American Born Chinese is a graphic novel published in 2006 by the American author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang. Through three interweaving stories that span from the 16th century to the present, the novel explores issues of Chinese American identity, anti-Asian racism, and assimilation. American Born Chinese is the first graphic novel to be nominated for a National Book Award. The novel also won both the Printz Award from the American Library Association and the... Read American Born Chinese Summary

Publication year 2018Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Society: Immigration, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Humor, Immigration / Refugee, Diversity, Race / Racism

Publication year 2018Genre Essay Collection, NonfictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Immigration, Society: CommunityTags Immigration / Refugee

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures (2018) is an essay collection edited by actress and activist America Ferrera with E. Cayce Dumont. The collection contains essays from notable individuals in movie and TV entertainment, food, publishing, public service, comedy, music, and self-help content creation. These first-person accounts all address the often troublesome question of what it means to be American, especially when growing up between different cultures. American Like Me is a New... Read American Like Me Summary

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Publication year 1927Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Relationships: Friendship, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Loyalty & Betrayal, Society: ClassTags Classic Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Action / Adventure, Satire, Class

Publication year 2006Genre Book, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee, History: African

An Ordinary Man is 2006 the autobiography of Paul Rusesabagina, the manager of a Belgian-owned Rwandan hotel. Rusesabagina’s story, written with the aid of journalist Tom Zoellner, centers on the struggles Rusesabagina and his family overcame to survive the inhumane, racially motivated genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994—a story later turned into the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. The narrative uses a conversation tone, unembellished language, and an unostentatious style. After describing Paul's past and... Read An Ordinary Man Summary

Publication year 1982Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Identity: Gender, Relationships: MothersTags Historical Fiction, Gender / Feminism, Immigration / Refugee, British Literature, Japanese Literature

A Pale View of Hills (1982) is Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel. Born in Nagasaki in 1954, Ishiguro immigrated with his family to the United Kingdom when he was five years old. Despite his family’s Japanese origins, the author frequently states in interviews that his experience with Japanese culture is very limited, as he spent all his adult life in England. Simultaneously, however, growing up in a Japanese family developed in Ishiguro a different perspective compared... Read A Pale View of Hills Summary

Publication year 1999Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Society: Class, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Values/Ideas: Truth & LiesTags Indian Literature, Immigration / Refugee

“A Real Durwan” is the fourth story in Jhumpa Lahiri’s debut short-story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Hemingway Award. The story recounts the daily lives of the stair-sweeper, Boori Ma, and the families who share a building of flats in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) after the Partition of India in 1947. An English-born American author raised by Bengali parents, Lahiri is known for her characters’... Read A Real Durwan Summary

Publication year 1971Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Society: Immigration, Society: ClassTags Immigration / Refugee, Race / Racism

Barrio Boy is a memoir by Ernesto Galarza that narrates the author’s journey from a small village in Mexico to a barrio in the United States. Considered a founding text in ethnic studies, the book was originally published in 1971 and was reissued as a 40th anniversary edition in 2011. Barrio Boy follows the author from his birth in the small town of Jalcocotán in 1905 up until high school. Galarza, who went on to... Read Barrio Boy Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Life/Time: Coming of Age, Society: Immigration, Identity: Language, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Identity: Race, Natural World: Food, Society: Education, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Chinese Literature, Immigration / Refugee, Poverty, American Literature, Education

Publication year 1997Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags History: European, History: U.S., Immigration / Refugee

Peter Balakian’s Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir (1997) tells the story of the author’s path to embracing his Armenian identity and understanding the legacies of a dark history. Born into the comfortable and consumerist suburbs of mid-century American suburbia, Balakian experienced the vestibules of his family’s Armenian culture mostly through the influence of his maternal grandmother. As he grew up, he caught other glimpses of the family’s heritage; in particular, home rituals in their... Read Black Dog of Fate Summary

Publication year 1925Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Fathers, Society: Immigration, Values/Ideas: Equality, Values/Ideas: Religion & SpiritualityTags Historical Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Jewish Literature

Bread Givers is a 1925 novel by Anzia Yezierska. As a Jewish-American who emigrated to America from Poland, Yezierska uses her life experience growing up in New York as a basis for the novel. The novel follows Sara Smolinsky, a Jewish-American girl, as she grows up in New York in the 1920s with her sisters. Sara pushes the bounds of her father Reb Smolinsky’s patriarchal belief system as she pursues an education and career. The... Read Bread Givers Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: Immigration, Relationships: FamilyTags Immigration / Refugee, Afro-Caribbean Literature

Brother I’m Dying is a family memoir by Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, originally published in the United States in 2007. Alternating between the author’s past in Haiti and present in the US, this memoir combines personal histories with sociopolitical contextualization to pay homage to Danticat’s father and uncle as well as give voice to Haitian people in their struggle for a peaceful life. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award, was a finalist... Read Brother, I'm Dying Summary

Publication year 2006Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Identity: Sexuality, Relationships: Family, Society: ImmigrationTags LGBTQ, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2019Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Historical Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Vietnam War, Asian Literature

Publication year 2013Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: LonelinessTags Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2018Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee

Dear America—Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is a collection of essays written by Jose Antonio Vargas, published in 2018. The book relates the author’s struggle of coming to the United States from the Philippines in an illegal manner and growing up in America without the full documentation that would have made him a legal immigrant.As a 12-year-old boy in the Philippines, the author is surprised by his mother one morning. She rushes him to the... Read Dear America Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Society: Politics & GovernmentTags Realistic Fiction, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 1984Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Identity: LanguageTags Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 1979Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Identity: RaceTags Immigration / Refugee, Colonialism / Postcolonialism

Publication year 2005Genre Biography, NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Relationships: Mothers, Society: ImmigrationTags Politics / Government, Social Justice, History: U.S., Immigration / Refugee

Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother is a best-selling nonfiction book by Sonia Nazario, an American journalist best known for her work on social justice. Originally published in 2006, the book is based on Nazario’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Enrique’s Journey” series, which was written in six parts and published in The Los Angeles Times.The book, which has been published in eight languages and adapted for young adults in... Read Enrique's Journey Summary

Publication year 2012Genre Biography, NonfictionTags Asian Literature, Immigration / Refugee, History: Asian, Korean Literature

Escape from Camp 14 is the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, who is the only known person to have been born in and escape from a North Korean labor camp. The book’s author, Blaine Harden, interviewed Shin many times and has also spoken with former camp guards and North Korean traders. His book details Shin’s life both inside and outside the camp, as well as the political landscape in North Korea.As Shin was born in the... Read Escape from Camp 14 Summary

Publication year 2007Genre Novel, FictionThemes Values/Ideas: Good & Evil, Identity: Race, Values/Ideas: Order & ChaosTags Immigration / Refugee, African Literature, Black Lives Matter, Business / Economics

Nigerian author Teju Cole’s Every Day Is for the Thief is a work of autofiction originally published in Nigeria in 2007 and published in the US in 2014. The novel unfolds in picaresque style from the first-person perspective, as a narrator who closely resembles the author returns to Nigeria after 15 years in the US to reckon with Nigerian national identity and his own legacy. Surprised to find that he feels less comfortable in his... Read Every Day Is for the Thief Summary

Publication year 2021Genre Short Story Collection, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Identity: Language, Society: CommunityTags Immigration / Refugee, Relationships

Everything Inside (2019) is a short story collection by Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat. The eight stories in this collection, which focus primarily on the lives of Haitian people living across the Caribbean, are connected by their interest in loss and the search for identity. Like many of her characters, Danticat immigrated to the United States from Haiti at a young age; her love for Haiti and its history is evident throughout the collection, despite... Read Everything Inside Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Relationships: Family, Values/Ideas: Religion & Spirituality, Society: Immigration, Natural World: Place, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Relationships: Siblings, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Fathers, Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Natural World: Animals, Life/Time: The Past, Emotions/Behavior: Love, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: Education, Relationships: Marriage, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Society: Politics & Government, Society: Nation, Values/Ideas: Truth & Lies, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Emotions/Behavior: Hope, Emotions/Behavior: Loneliness, Relationships: GrandparentsTags Auto/Biographical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, History: Middle Eastern

Publication year 2011Genre Book, NonfictionThemes Emotions/Behavior: Determination / Perseverance, Identity: Femininity, Identity: Language, Identity: Race, Relationships: Teams, Society: Class, Society: Community, Society: Economics, Society: Immigration, Society: Politics & Government, Values/Ideas: Power & Greed, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Natural World: PlaceTags History: U.S., Immigration / Refugee, Social Justice

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy (2011) is a historical nonfiction book intended for an audience of young readers. It was written by Albert Marrin, a former history professor and author of dozens of historical nonfiction books. Marrin, whose academic focus was on liberty under the law, wrote often about times of suffering and movements for liberation, including The War for Independence: The Story of the American Revolution (1988), Years... Read Flesh and Blood So Cheap Summary

Publication year 2003Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Society: Immigration, Relationships: Fathers, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Humor, Creative Nonfiction, Immigration / Refugee

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up in America is a 2003 book by Firoozeh Dumas in which she describes her experiences as an Iranian immigrant to the US. The narrative follows a non-linear time structure, and Dumas often moves between different eras of her life, including the time of writing, when she is an adult. Much of her work centers on what life was like for her as a child who came to... Read Funny In Farsi Summary

Publication year 1990Genre Novel, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Identity: Masculinity, Life/Time: Coming of AgeTags Action / Adventure, Historical Fiction, Immigration / Refugee, Race / Racism, American Literature

Publication year 2007Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionThemes Relationships: FamilyTags Military / War, Immigration / Refugee, History: African

God Grew Tired of Us, published in 2007, is a Christian memoir that chronicles John Bul Dau’s 1,000-mile journey from his home village of Duk Payuel in Sudan to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. This study guide refers to the 2008 first paperback printing edition.In the Introduction Dau states that although he is just one of thousands of Lost Boys, he wanted to tell his story in hope of using his education and experiences... Read God Grew Tired of Us Summary

Publication year 1987Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Gender, Society: Colonialism, Identity: FemininityTags Colonialism / Postcolonialism, Immigration / Refugee, Gender / Feminism, Indian Literature

“Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies,” a short story written by Salman Rushdie, was first published in The New Yorker in 1987 and then reprinted in East, West, a collection of Rushdie’s short stories published in 1994. This anthology divides the stories into three sections: “East, “West,” and “East/West.” “Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies” can be found in the “East” section. Most of this story takes place in a shantytown next to the British... Read Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies Summary

Publication year 2019Genre Graphic Memoir , NonfictionThemes Relationships: Family, Identity: Race, Relationships: Daughters & Sons, Relationships: Friendship, Relationships: Mothers, Relationships: Siblings, Relationships: Marriage, Relationships: Fathers, Society: Community, Emotions/Behavior: Memory, Life/Time: The Future, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: LonelinessTags Race / Racism, Politics / Government, September 11 Attacks, Relationships, LGBTQ, Grief / Death, Parenting, Social Justice, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2018Genre Novel, FictionThemes Life/Time: Childhood & Youth, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Values/Ideas: MusicTags Realistic Fiction, Diversity, Immigration / Refugee, Race / Racism, Bullying

Jacqueline Woodson's 2018 middle grade novel, Harbor Me, tracks the bonds of friendship that develop across six fifth-graders when they are given a unique opportunity to get to know each other. Amari, Esteban, Tiago, Ashton, Holly, and Haley Shondell McGrath (the narrator) are students with special learning needs in a Brooklyn school. Each friend has fears and frustrations that they share with each other over the year, and by opening up, they discover a collective... Read Harbor me Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Society: Immigration, Society: Class, Values/Ideas: Safety & Danger, Emotions/Behavior: Hate & Anger, Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Emotions/Behavior: Fear, Values/Ideas: Justice & Injustice, Emotions/Behavior: ConflictTags Historical Fiction, Politics / Government, Immigration / Refugee, Social Justice, September 11 Attacks, Auto/Biographical Fiction, Race / Racism, History: U.S., Class

Publication year 2005Genre Novel, FictionTags Immigration / Refugee

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits is a work of fiction written by Moroccan native Laila Lalami and published in 2005. The narrative is comprised of nine stories involving the lives of four major characters, all of whom attempt to emigrate illegally from Morocco to Spain in order to have better lives. Despite the fact that these stories are separate from one another, the book does not represent a short story collection in the classic sense;... Read Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits Summary

Publication year 2020Genre Novel, FictionThemes Natural World: Appearance & Reality, Relationships: Family, Identity: RaceTags Chinese Literature, Asian Literature, Historical Fiction, Western, Race / Racism, Immigration / Refugee

Publication year 2020Genre Short Story, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Society: Education, Relationships: Family, Society: Community, Life/Time: Coming of Age, Identity: Language, Emotions/Behavior: Shame & Pride, Society: Class, Society: ImmigrationTags Immigration / Refugee, Asian Literature, Coming of Age / Bildungsroman, History: Asian

Publication year 1981Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee

Richard Rodriguez (b. July 31, 1944) is a prominent public intellectual, author, and essayist whose writing is especially concerned with education, minority identity, and language. He earned a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. from Columbia University, and studied at the doctoral level at the University of California, Berkeley. In his memoir, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982), Rodriguez explores how his education shaped him. Across a prologue and six chapters... Read Hunger of Memory Summary

Publication year 1986Genre Poem, FictionThemes Identity: Race, Emotions/Behavior: Nostalgia, Relationships: Family, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Lyric Poem, Immigration / Refugee, Mythology

Publication year 2009Genre Autobiography / Memoir, NonfictionTags Immigration / Refugee

I Love Yous are for White People is a memoir by Vietnamese-American Lac Su, published in 2009 by HarperCollins. This guide refers to the first US edition. The title paraphrases Pa, the author’s emotionally distant and abusive father, who rebuffs his son’s declaration of love at the age of 14. Su writes in simple prose and organizes the material chronologically, relying on the power of his experiences as a young immigrant in Los Angeles to... Read I Love Yous are For White People Summary

Publication year 1977Genre Poem, FictionThemes Society: Politics & Government, Emotions/Behavior: Conflict, Emotions/Behavior: Determination / PerseveranceTags Narrative / Epic Poem, Immigration / Refugee, Social Justice, American Literature