Diversity brings so much to our lives and allows us to see things from perspectives outside our own culture and environment. Interacting with people from different backgrounds in all varieties brings the world alive. While connecting in person is our favorite way to learn about a person, culture, or belief, reading is a close second. PondLeap has compiled a list of our favorite books that were written by immigrants to the US and have shed light and insight on other cultures for us through the years.
PondLeap’s Top 8 Books Written by Immigrants
Below are summaries of our favorite books written by immigrants to the U.S. as well as a short author bio. We’d love to hear your favorite books by or about immigrants!
1. A Burning
Jivan, the central character, is a young Muslim girl who witnesses a terrorist attack on a train and is accused of executing the attack due to a social media comment. Following this accusation and her arrest, her fate is in the hands of her former teacher, PT Sir, now a politician, and a hijra actress, Lovely, who could set her free.
Megha Majumdar was born in Kolkata, India and moved to the US to study at Harvard. She currently lives in New York City.
2. And the Mountains Echoed
Young Abdullah and his sister Pari are inseparable and have a special bond. Then one day they travel across the desert with their father to Kabul in an event that will change their lives forever. From there the story takes us through Kabul, Paris, San Francisco, and the Greek Isle of Tinos demonstrating the bond between siblings and the choices loved ones have to make that can resonate through a lifetime.
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. He moved to the US in 1980. He is a NY Times Bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. He is also the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
Follows two sisters, Effia and Esi, born in different villages, throughout the generations. The individual storylines address the conflict and struggles of both Ghana and the United States through the centuries. One thread follows Effia and her life starting in the Cape Coast Castle, and treading through centuries of warfare in Ghana. While the other thread follows Esi, torn from Ghana when shipped to the American South in the slave trade, showing the trajectory of life through a young and changing nation right up through present-day.
Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and her family immigrated to the United States in 1991. She obtained a BA in English from Stanford and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ workshop and currently lives in New York.
4. Interpreter of Maladies
A collection of short stories exemplifying the relations between characters across generations and cultures. These stories tackle what it means to be human, to struggle, to love and feeling like a foreigner.
Jhumpa Lahiri was born in the UK to Indian immigrants and moved to the US when she was 3. She graduated from Barnard College and has received multiple degrees from Boston University, where she also taught creative writing.
Telling the story of Hubert Humbert and his obsession with the young Dolores Haze. This controversial novel quickly became a classic for it’s obsession, exhilaration and wordplay.
Vladimir Nabokov was born in Russia, began his career in Paris and Berlin and then moved to the United States in 1940 where he gained renown as an author. Lolita is his most famous work.
6. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Chronicling the life of Oscar de León, an overweight, nerdy boy living in New Jersey hoping for love, but plagued by a family curse. The book also explores the theme of the Dominican diaspora and identity living in the US.
Junot Diáz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Rutgers college and is now the fiction editor at the Boston Review.
7. The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir
An exhilarating memoir of escaping the First Liberian Civil War and learning to build a life in the United States while struggling with identity. The story follows Wayétu through her family’s journey leaving Liberia, being reunited with her mother in the United States, navigating being a black woman and immigrant in Texas and eventually returning to her Libera in search of home.
Wayétu Moore was born in Liberia and came to the United States when her family escaped Liberia. She is also the founder of One Moore Book and a graduate of Howard University. She lives in Brooklyn.
8. The Sympathizer
The narrator, as a communist double agent, comes to the US after the fall of Saigon and is reporting to his communist superiors in Vietnam while helping refugees in Los Angeles. The story explores identity, espionage, and is a gripping tale of love and friendship.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in the US. He is a professor of English and American studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.
A Girl Like That
A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.
Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and raised in Riyadh, Jeddah and Toronto.
Children of Blood and Bone
Follows Zélie Adebola as she attempts to restore magic to the kingdom of Orïsha, following the ruling class’ suppression of the maji.
Tomi Adeyemi, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, is a Nigerian-American writer based in Los Angeles, CA.
An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Mexican-Canadian novelist, short story writer, editor, and publisher.
The Bastard of Istanbul
The Bastard of Istanbul tells the story of their two families–and a secret connection linking them to a violent event in the history of their homeland.
Elif Shafak is an award-winning, British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female novelist in Turkey.
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen
This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book–at its core–is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in.
Jose Antonio Vargas was born in the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of 12.
If you’re looking for a new read for your commute or upcoming end of summer vacation, look no further! These top books written by immigrants will give you an inside perspective on life in other cultures and countries. You can also recommend your favorite immigrant-authored book to us so we can add it to our list! What are some of your favorite books about immigration or people who immigrated?