Bookshop Santa Cruz and the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County Immigration Project (SSCIP) worked together to curate a recommended reading list which features some of the most accessible and influential books that educate and inspire action on issues related to immigration in the United States of America. You can view that full list below.
We have also created a list of recommended children's books (for all ages) on these same issues. View the curated kids' list here.
In addition to the recommended reading lists, Bookshop and Santa Cruz County Immigration Project are sponsoring a community-wide read of the book Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario. We encourage you to pick up a copy, then join us for a moderated book discussion on November 5th.
Inspired to go further? Read beyond the list for yet more fantastic works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and more that explore and express the immigrant experience and issues facing immigrants in our country in this time.
Read more about our Words to Act On partnership with the Santa Cruz County Immigration Project here.
Full of longing for both love and country, Americanah is the story of two Nigerians who find themselves separated by continents and time on their escape from their politically unstable home. While Ifemelu makes her way to America in search of an education, Obinze is locked away from the states and finds himself in London sans papers. Together their stories weave an outsider's perspective on western society. Insightful, funny, and astute Adichie has garnered much attention for this novel, and I'm sure you'll find it's deservedly so. - Louise
Literary deejay Diaz spins magical realism, anime, Tolkien, and minority-literature-as-ethnography into a remix of the immigrant's tale from the hands of a master. This smart, funny, and sharp novel confirms Diaz's virtuosic ability to communicate Dominican-American experience with vibrabcy and honesty. - LaTissia Mitchell, bookseller, Ann Arbor, MI
Hamid delivers a haunting parable for our times, a prescient novel that follows the budding relationship of Nadia and Saeed, two young people who must leave an unnamed city imploding with violence and unrest. Both a modern love story and a surreal migration tale, Exit West holds up a mirror and magnifies the ways we are all affected by the loss of home in a world increasingly shifting; as Hamid writes, we are all migrants through time. It is a powerful and lovely prospect. - Melinda
This story broke my heart and I'm all the better for it. When a family of immigrants come to the US when their daughter is severly injured, they are affected by xenophobic actions of their new neighbors. I also suggest picking up Come Together, Fall Apart by the author, a short story collection about the unrest in Panama during the late 1980's. - Karena
A father and mother, a son and daughter: two generations of a typical Bengali-American family, poised uneasily atop the complex and confounding fault lines common to the immigrant experience. Jhumpa Lahiri's novel The Namesake deftly demonstrates how the familiar struggles between new and old, assimilation and cultural preservation, striving toward the future and longing for the past, play out in one particular act of foreign-born parents and their American-born children.
A beautiful collection that deftly illustrates the experiences of the kinds of people our country has, until recently, welcomed with open arms. . . It's hard not to feel for Nguyen's characters. . . But Nguyen never asks the reader to pity them; he wants us only to see them as human beings. And because of his wonderful writing, it's impossible not to do so. It's an urgent, wonderful collection that proves that fiction can be more than mere storytelling - it can bear witness to the lives of people who we can't afford to forget. - NPR Books
The history of the Bay Area is shaped by influxes of immigrants, each wave searching for something so similar and yet so different. Tan beautifully illustrates the dangers of a cultural assimilation that disrupts the continuity between generations and threatens to undermine the dreams that lead people to seek a different life in the first place; and she celebrates possibilities of finding personal identity within such a divided world.
Zeitoun is no ordinary account of Hurricane Katrina. This is a page-turner that reads like the most exciting fiction. Detailing the experience of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian immigrant and carpenter in New Orleans, Dave Eggers recounts the horrors of a storm and a remarkable account of family connection, compassion, a dysfunctional political response and judicial system, and most importantly: survival.— Alison
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (FSG Classics) (Paperback)
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia's parents and her doctores both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.
At a time when immigration politics are at a boiling point in America, Reyna Grande offers an intimate glimpse into the Mexican-American experience, and we are left gifted not only by her honesty, but by her startling and stoic prose that opens up to the wider questions about the lines between loyalty, love, and accepting one’s true self.
Luisaelli's extended essay on her volunteer work translating for child immigrants confronts with compassion and honesty the problem of the North American refugee crisis. It's a rare thing: a book everyone should read.
The Far Away Brothers chronicles the lives of two teenage El Salvadoran siblings as they become hermanos lejanos, or "faraway brothers." Driven from their country, twins Ernesto and Raul brave the Rio Grande and Texas desert and make their way to their older brother in Oakland, only to face all the trials and tribulations of American teenagers, and with their debt to the coyotes constantly looming. - Aric
Millions of immigrants risk deportation and imprisonment by living in the U.S. without legal status. They are living underground, with little protection from exploitation at the hands of human smugglers, employers, or law enforcement. Underground America presents the remarkable oral histories of men and women struggling to carve a life for themselves in the U.S.
The stories of more than 800,000 men, women, and children working in California's fields-one third of the nation's agricultural work force - are rarely heard, despite the persistance of wage theft, dangerous working conditions, and uncertain futures. This book of oral histories makes the reality of farm work visible in accounts of hardship, bravery, solidarity, and creativity in California's fields, as real people struggle to win new opportunities for future generations.