The Immigrant Experience

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Selected books and films to complement Northampton's 2007 On The Same Page city-wide reading project, focussing on The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. August 2007

Fiction | Non-fiction | Children's Books | Films


  • Alvarez, Julia. How the Garcia Girls lost their Accents
    Eagerly embracing their new American culture in Miami, the four Garcia women iron their hair, smoke cigarettes, date American men, forget their Spanish, and lose their accents all in their journey toward adulthood.
  • Boyle, T. Coraghessan. The Tortilla Curtain
    The lives of two different couples--wealthy Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, and Candido and America Rincon, a pair of Mexican illegals--suddenly collide, in a story that unfolds from the shifting viewpoints of the various characters.
  • Curran, Mary Doyle. The Parish and the Hill
    This 1948 classic novel tells the story of three generations of an Irish immigrant family through the eyes of a young girl. Living in a Massachusetts mill town in the 1920s, the O'Connors are caught between the desire to move out of the "parish" (the Irish shanty town) and up onto "the hill."
  • Danticat, Edwidge. Breath, Eyes, Memory
    At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from the impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York to be reunited with her mother, where she gains a legacy of shame that can only be healed when she returns to Haiti, to the woman who first reared her.
  • Erian, Alicia. Towelhead
    Sent to live with her strict Lebanese father in Texas upon the outbreak of the Gulf War, Arab-American teen Jasira endures racial taunts from her new classmates and enters into a dangerously exploitative relationship with a bigoted Army reservist.
  • Goldreich, Gloria. Leah’s Children
    Leah Goldfeder, renowned artist and humanitarian, reflects on the courageous lives of her children--Aaron, Michael, and Rebecca--whose involvement in the causes of the 1950s and 1960s spans the globe.
  • Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars (also film)
    A Japanese-American fisherman's 1954 murder trial becomes the backdrop of a story that follows a doomed love affair between a white boy and a Japanese girl, a simmering land dispute, and the wartime internment of San Piedro's Japanese residents.
  • Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies
    A debut collection of short fiction blends elements of Indian traditions with the complexities of American culture in such tales as "A Temporary Matter," in which a young Indian-American couple confronts their grief over the loss of a child, while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout.
  • Lee, Min Jin. Free Food for Millionaires
    Goodbye, Columbus meets the novels of Amy Tan in this American story of class, society and identity.
  • Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine
    Jasmine, a young widow in India, moves to the United States to begin a new life.

  • Smith, Zadie. White Teeth
    Set in post-war London, this novel of the racial, political, and social upheaval of the last half-century follows two families--the Joneses and the Iqbals, both outsiders from within the former British empire--as they make their way in modern England.
  • Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club (also film)
    Encompassing two generations and a rich blend of Chinese and American history, the story of four struggling, strong women also reveals their daughter's memories and feelings.
  • Tax, Meredith. Rivington Street
    Rivington Street follows the lives of four Jewish women on Manhattan's Lower East Side at the turn of the century as they encounter love, politics, and the working world.
  • Tyler, Anne. Digging to America
    A chance encounter between two families--the Donaldsons, and the Iranian-born Yasdans--at the Baltimore airport, as both couples await the arrival of an adopted daughter from Korea, prompts an examination about what it means to be an American while the lives of the two families intertwine over the years.
  • Umrigar, Thrity N. If Today be Sweet
    A middle-aged widow struggles to decide whether she will live in her native India or immigrate to America, where her son and his wife live in suburban Ohio and where the widow struggles with her cultural identity and need to bring happiness into the family.
  • White, Michael C. Garden of Martyrs
    A story based on actual events from 1806 traces the arrests and executions of two innocent Irish immigrants, one a simple family man and the other a heartbroken man with a checkered past, who are falsely accused of murder and who face their deaths with the help of a tormented French Catholic priest.


  • Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
    A tragic tale of cultural differences chronicles the fight over the proper care of an epilectic Hmong child between a California medical center and her tradition-minded Laotian refugee family.
  • Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey
    Describes one Honduran boy's difficult and dangerous journey to find his mother, who had made the trek northward to the United States in search of a better life when Enrique had been five years old, but who had never made enough money to return home for her children, in a poignant account that addresses the issues of family and the implications of illegal immigration.
  • Thompson, Gabriel. There’s No José Here
    Narrative focuses on the Mexican immigrants who come to the United States, relating their stories, social conditions and working conditions.
  • Urrea, Luis. The Devil’s Highway
    Describes the attempt of twenty-six men to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, a region known as the Devil's Highway, detailing their harrowing ordeal and battle for survival against impossible odds.

Children’s books:

  • Cha, Dia. Dia’s Story Cloth
    A Hmong woman recounts her family's wartime displacement, during which she was forced to flee to a refugee camp in Thailand, in an account illustrated by a traditional Hmong embroidered story cloth.
  • Knight, Margy Burns. Who Belongs Here?
    Encourages tolerance by young readers for immigrants and refugees through the tale, based on a true story, of a young Cambodian refugee, along with anecdotes about other immigrants.
  • Ryan, Pam Munoz. Esperanza Rising
    Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.
  • Winthrop, Elizabeth. Counting on Grace
    Twelve-year-old Grace does her best working at the mill to bring in more money for her family, and when Grace writes a letter to the Child Labor Board describing the conditions, things change when a reporter shows up to get the story.


Category: Reading Lists

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