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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Immigrant Experience

Local high school students often come to the library looking for books about the immigrant experience as part of an English class assignment. Library staff have compiled this short list to make the selection process a bit easier.

While many of us remember reading Willa Cather's My Antonia, Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, and Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, there are many other titles to explore that highlight the immigrant experience, and some are listed below.

Love Wife by Gish Jen

Describes a mixed American family with a second-generation Chinese-American father, a WASP mother, two adopted Asian daughters, their half-half biological son, and a Chinese grandmother.

Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Indian American second generation experience. Growing up American with Indian parents and never quite understanding or finding your place in the world.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The story of two families in America that both adopt Korean infants. They meet at the airport while awaiting their adoptive daughters. One is a middle-class white couple and the other is an Iranian-American couple. Their friendship and the differences in their approach to raising their daughters is chronicled in this work.

A Free Life by Ha Jin

The story the members of a Chinese family as they begin a free life in American after the Tiananmen Square massacre in China. The family lives in Boston, New York, and Atlanta while seeking success in America. Read about their struggles and successes as they seek out the American Dream.

Typical American by Gish Jen

A story of the transformation of Chinese immigrants into typical Americans who find greed and consumerism attractive.

Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen

Chronicles the life of a Chinese-American teenager growing up in an affluent Jewish suburb of New York City.

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni

The story of straddling two cultures and struggling to find one's place.

Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin

The wife of Osama Bin Laden's brother describes her life and divorce, and provides an insider's look into Saudi culture.

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You by Hanna Jansen

Based on a true story of a Rwandan Tutsi girl who is the only survivor of her family's massacre.

China Boy by Gus Lee

Story of a seven-year-old Chinese boy and his life in the San Francisco of the 1950s.

Ten Thousand Sorrows: The Extraordinary Journey of a Korean War Orphan by Elizabeth Kim

An immigrant's brutal and disturbing memoir of abuse at the hands of fundamentalist parents and a sadistic husband.

The Spirit Catches you and you Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

The story of Western medicine and Hmong culture and the clash of Hmong history, culture, spiritual beliefs, and ethics against the beliefs of Western medicine and society.

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

This memoir of two brothers who were airlifted out of Cuba to the U.S. in 1962 is a very beautiful and moving account of the Cuban immigrant experience.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this work describes the history of a Greek family in Detroit. The narrator and protagonist, Calliope Stephanides, an intersexed person of Greek descent, has 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. The bulk of the novel is devoted to telling his coming-of-age story growing up in Detroit, Michigan in the late 20th century.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

An Indian-American family's transformation as they reconcile their past with the demands of the present.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this work explores Indian assimilation in American culture.

The Houseguest by Agnes Rossi

The story of an Irish soldier and his family, who come to America in the 1930s and settle in Patterson, New Jersey.

Colors of Freedom: Immigrant Stories by Janet Bode

Newly arrived teenaged immigrants describe their experiences in America, recount traditions of their native countries, and present short stories, poems, recipes, and artwork. Also provides interviews with native-born American teenagers, who share their family histories.

Kids Like Me: Voices of the Immigrant Experience by Judith M. Blohm and Terri Lapinsky

A collection of 23 stories about the immigrant experience based on interviews with of people ranging in age from 10-21 and representing 23 different cultures.

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