June is Immigrant Heritage Month! To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of some excellent fiction reads that tell immigrant stories. Thanks to our former Adult Services Librarian Cailin for finding these gems before leaving us in May! We also have many immigrant stories on display in the Lobby.
A Woman Is No Man, by Etaf Rum
Rum’s novel is told from the varying perspectives of three generations of Arab-American women. Fareeda, the eldest of the women, struggles to maintain her family’s Arab identity in America. Isra, Fareeda’s daughter-in-law, moves from Palestine to New York with her new husband after an arranged marriage and grapples with the discrepancy between the life she imagined for herself and reality. Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, fights for the opportunity to go to college rather than repeat her mother’s fate. It is an intriguing book about maintaining cultural identity in a foreign land as well as the role of women (and men) in a conservative Arab family.
The Boat People, by Sharon Bala
This work of contemporary fiction is broadly based on the real events of 2009 in which over 500 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka arrived on Canada’s doorstep. Sprinkled with flashbacks to war-torn Sri Lanka, the main narrative of the book takes us through the refugee process: from the boat journey to detention and admissibility hearings. The value of this book comes from the different perspectives of the main characters. Chapters alternate between the lives of a refugee who is separated from his son once they reach Canada, a Tamil-Canadian lawyer reconnecting with her family’s past, and a third-generation Japanese-Canadian who has been handpicked by the conservative Minister of Public Safety to adjudicate the hearings. Bala expertly navigates the mixed feelings of fear, hypocrisy, connection, and hope that surround the events of 2009.
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is the story of two immigrants. Ifemelu emigrates from Nigeria to the United States to attend Princeton. Her story chronicles the depression, racism, and sexism she faces as woman who is both black and foreign in America. Meanwhile, Obinze, takes his chances living an undocumented life in London. While Adichie tackles issues of immigration, race, and gender, the root of the novel is a love story spanning years and continents.
Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie tells the story of a British woman whose grandparents emigrated from Jamaica several decades before the novel takes place. While the book mainly deals with issues of racism, sexism, and mental health, it also explores culture clashes between Queenie’s Jamaican family and the British world they live in.
For more books on immigration, check out our display in the lobby of the Library during the month of June!