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Ashley’s Top Picks – Immigration

Looking for a book that is illuminating and full of extraordinary stories? Something that includes doses of humor, tragedy, and heart? Try out some of these tales of immigration and learn what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.

Titles included in this list are:
1. Alien Nation: 36 True Tales of Immigration edited by Sofija Stefanovic
2. We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin
3. Invisible People: Stories of Lives at the Margins by Alex Tizon
4. Beautiful Country: a Memoir by Qian Julie Wang
5. Somewhere in the Unknown World: a Collective Refugee Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang

Each of the titles listed below are linked to our catalog so that you can easily place holds from wherever you are. Simply click on the cover image to jump directly to our library’s catalog!

“Originally told on-stage and adapted here for the page, these 36 fascinating, unique, and celebratory stories of migration, culture shock, family, and life come from well known voices including Sonia Manzano, Alexander Chee, Andre Aciman, Laura Gomez, Aparna Nancherla, as well as regular people hailing from every corner of the world. The past and present of immigration in the United States springs to life in this anthology of stories compiled and edited by ‘This Alien Nation’ host and author Sofija Stefanovic.

These stories, originally performed on stage, are sometimes painful, often funny, beautiful, but above all honest and enlightening. These writers share moments from their lives, reminding us that immigration is not simply a word, ‘alien’ and throbbing with talent and potential. Alien Nation is a balm, a link through human stories, and a celebration of immigration at a turbulent time.

Grab your popcorn, imagine yourself in Joe’s Pub (one of the best-known stages in New York City with seating as comfy as your couch), and dig into these real experiences and inner thoughts of immigrants and children of immigrants; those who left in search of newness, opportunity, and survival, and those that grew up in that newness with their tongues in multiple languages and feet in multiple worlds.”

-Provided by publisher.

“Maybe next time they hear someone railing about how terrible immigrants are, they’ll think about me. I’m a real person.”

“Meet nine courageous young adults who have lived in the United States with a secret for much of their lives: they are not U.S. citizens. They came from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea. They came seeking education, fleeing violence, and escaping poverty. All have heartbreaking and hopeful stories about leaving their homelands and starting a new life in America. And all are weary of living in the shadows.”


“Every human being has an epic story. The late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alex Tizon told the epic stories of marginalized people – from lonely immigrants struggling to forge a new American identity to a high school custodian who penned a New Yorker short story. Edited by Tizon’s friend and former colleague Sam Howe Verhovek, Invisible People collects the best of Tizon’s rich, empathetic accounts – including “My Family’s Slave,” the Atlantic magazine cover story about the woman who raised him and his siblings under conditions that amounted to indentured servitude.”

– From

“In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to ‘beautiful country.’ Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.

In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly ‘shopping days,’ when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center – confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.

But the Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.

Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.”


“Back in the 1980s, Minnesota’s University Avenue was barely clinging to life. Lined with church thrift stores, boarded windows, and prostitutes leaning against streetlights, the sidewalks were thick with bloody, discarded needles. Today, University Avenue is a bustling commercial center, a hub of Halal butchers, Mexican carnicerias, grocery stores selling delicacies to new arrivals from Ethiopia and Bosnia, Iraq and China. A dying strip of America has been revived by the stateless.

As the country’s doors are closing and nativism is on the rise, Kao Kalia Yang – herself a refugee from Laos – set out to tell the stories of the refugees to whom University Avenue is now home. Here are people who have summoned the energy and determination to make a new life even as they carry an extraordinary burden of hardship, loss, and emotional damage: Irina, an ex-Soviet, who still hoards magical American fruit – bananas! – under her bed; the Thai brothers of Vinai and their business selling purified water to gullible immigrants; the Kareni boys, who have brought Minnesota to basketball glory.

In Yang’s exquisite, poetic, and necessary telling, the voices of refugees from all over the world restore humanity to America’s strangers and redeem its long history of welcome.”


Have any other titles you think might fit this list? Let me know in the comments below!