Books about Immigration: 21 Inspiring Must-Reads | LIRS

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!

Books about immigrants cover

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
Jacob Soboroff Book about immigration

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

Jia Lynn Yang immigration book

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

jessica goudeau 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

Sonia Shah

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

Karen Gonzalez book about immigrants

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

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

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 Books About Immigration

The Ungrateful Refugee

Dina Nayeri

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 Books about immigration

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

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 books about immigration

Once I was You

Maria Hinojosa

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

Isabel Wilkerson

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 Books about immigration

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Christy Lefteri

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.

Americanah Books about immigration

Americanah

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. 

Books about immigration Exit West

Exit West

Mohsin Hamid

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.

The Sympathizer Viet Nguyen

The Sympathizer

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

Immigration books for young adults

American Street

Ibi Zoboi

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 Book

The Sun is Also a Star

Nicola Yoon

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.

Books about immigration young adult

Americanized : Rebel without a Green Card

Sara Saedi

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.

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