21 Must-Read Books about Immigration
Check out this list of inspiring and insightful books about immigration and immigrants, curated by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. From novels and nonfiction books about migrants and Dreamers, to Young Adult literature about the immigrant experience, there is a great read waiting for every book lover below!
P.S. If you’re in the mood for a movie night, we also have a list of 27 movies about immigrants!
Books about Immigration from our Virtual Author Series
We interviewed the authors of each of the below books about immigration as part of our Virtual Book Series. Watch the free replay to learn more about their work!
SEPARATED: Inside an American Tragedy
Jacob Soboroff, author of Separated: Inside an American Tragedy spent two years reporting the many strands of the Family Separation Crisis, developing sources from within the Trump administration who share critical details for the first time. He also traces the dramatic odyssey of one family from Guatemala to seek asylum at the U.S. border, where they were separated—the son ending up in Texas, and the father thousands of miles away, in the Mojave desert of central California. Finally, he joins the heroes who emerged on the ground to reunite parents with children.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
One Mighty and Irresistible Tide
Jia Lynn Yang
Framed movingly by her own family’s story of immigration to America, Jia Lynn Yang’s book is a sweeping history of the twentieth-century battle to reform American immigration laws that set the stage for today’s roiling debates. A deeply researched and illuminating work of history, “One Mighty and Irresistible Tide” shows how Americans have strived and struggled to live up to the ideal of a home for the “huddled masses,” as promised in Emma Lazarus’s famous poem.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
After The Last Border
Jessica Goudeau is the author of “After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America.” This book about immigration is an intimate look at the lives of two women as they struggle for the twenty-first century American dream, having been resettled as refugees in Austin, Texas.
After the Last Border situates a dramatic, character-driven story within a larger examination of not just how America’s changing attitudes toward refugees have influenced policies and laws, but also the profound effect on human lives.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
The Next Great Migration
Sonia Shah elegantly covers the science and history of migration in animals, plants, and humans. Far from being a disruptive behavior to be quelled at any cost, migration is an ancient and lifesaving response to environmental change, a biological imperative as necessary as breathing.
Conclusively tracking the history of misinformation from the 18th century through today’s anti-immigration policies, The Next Great Migration makes the case for a future in which migration is not a source of fear, but of hope.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
The God Who Sees
Karen Gonzalez is the author of “The God Who Sees: Immigrants, The Bible, and the Journey to Belong.“
Mrs. Gonzalez offers a moving and persuasive analysis of immigration through a faith perspective, focusing on Biblical stories of migration: Abraham, Hagar, Joseph, Ruth and more. These intrepid heroes of the faith cross borders and seek refuge. As witnesses to God’s liberating power, they name the God they see at work, and they become grafted onto God’s family tree.
WATCH THE INTERVIEW
Books About Immigration & Dreamers
The Undocumented Americans
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Looking beyond the flashpoints of the border or the activism of the DREAMers, Cornejo Villavicencio explores the lives of the undocumented—and the mysteries of her own life. She finds the singular, effervescent characters across the nation often reduced in the media to political pawns or nameless laborers. Through these stories we come to understand what it truly means to be a stray. An expendable. A hero. An American.
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen
Jose Antonio Vargas
“This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves.”
Other Books About Immigration & Immigrants
The Ungrateful Refugee
Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel–turned–refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton University. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives.
The Good Immigrant
26 Writers Reflect on America
A collection of short stories in which the writers share powerful personal stories of living between cultures and languages while struggling to figure out who they are and where they belong. Editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled essays that are poignant, challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.
The Land of Open Graves
Jason De Leon
The Land of Open Graves reveals the suffering and deaths that occur daily in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as thousands of migrants attempt to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. De León uses an innovative combination of ethnography, archaeology, and forensic science to produce a scathing critique of “Prevention through Deterrence.”
Once I was You
In Once I Was You, award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa shares her intimate experience growing up Mexican-American on the South Side of Chicago. She offers a personal account of how the rhetoric around immigration has not only informed American attitudes toward outsiders, but also sanctioned willful negligence and profiteering at the expense of our country’s most vulnerable populations.
The Warmth of Other Suns
The Warmth of Other Suns is a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land: the decades-long migration of Black citizens who fled the South in search of a better life. She examines this exodus of almost six million people, how it changed the face of America, and how it compares to the migrations of other peoples in history.
Books about Immigration: Novels
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to reunite with his love, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam.
Young Adult Books about Immigration
Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experience as a young Haitian immigrant, while infusing magical realism and vodou culture. Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.
The Sun is Also a Star
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is the story of how two teens meet and spend 12 fateful hours together in New York City: Jamaican American Natasha Kingsley has 24 hours until her family of four is deported to their native Jamaica, and Korean American Daniel Bae wants to be a poet but feels forced to make his parents happy and attends a college interview with a Yale alum.
Americanized : Rebel without a Green Card
Saedi pivots gracefully from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country at any time to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one of her friends without a date to the prom. This moving, often hilarious memoir is for anyone who has ever shared either fear.
It’s what we’re all about.
For 80 years, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has been a champion for refugees and migrants from around the globe. We compassionately serve the most vulnerable as they rebuild their lives in America.
At a time of unprecedented crisis, these newcomers need our help more than ever. Learn more about our work and how you can make a difference today.
WATCH: A Refugee Family's Journey
LIRS carries out a wide range of programs to provide holistic, trauma-informed, and age-appropriate care to the vulnerable individuals we serve. Simply put, we reunite migrant families, resettle refugees and rekindle the American Dream.
Test Your Knowledge
The term “refugee” is often in the news these days, but can you correctly answer these questions about those who flee the unimaginable?
Take our Refugee Quiz to find out what you know – and what you might not!
Small gifts. BIG impact.
Your contribution, however small, makes a big difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. It provides basic necessities and vital integration services like English classes, cultural orientation, medical care and more. It provides safe and loving care for unaccompanied migrant children. And it allows LIRS to advocate for common-sense, compassionate public policy at a time of unprecedented need.