Immigrants in America
Immigrants to America come from different places, for different reasons, at different ages, each with their own vision of the American dream. Still, many of the challenges of uprooting and starting over in a new place are universal. These books show the shared struggle to maintain a balance between holding on to the traditions and community of the old world and assimilating into the new world.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
This is the coming-of-age story of Oscar who immigrates to New Jersey from the Dominican Republic as a young boy. As a foreigner and an overweight nerd, Oscar has a lot to overcome in his quest for love and the loss of his virginity. Heavy and light doses of Dominican history, fantasy and sci-fi references, and Spanish/Spanglish enhance Oscar’s story. This book is the winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
In a street market in Lahore, a young Pakistani named Changez has a one-sided conversation with a jumpy American visitor. Changez recounts the story of his time in the US as an immigrant student (Princeton Class of 2001) and financial analyst. Changez falls hard for Erica, a troubled American woman. His affection for other Americans and the country as a whole is more restrained. Then 9-11 happens, and for Changez, that begins "the impending destruction of (his) personal American dream".
Family Life by Akhil Sharma
Eight-year-old Ajay emigrates from Delhi, India to Queens, New York with his parents and older brother Birju. The family is adjusting and assimilating according to plan when Birju has a tragic accident. Precocious Ajay narrates a candid account of how his family copes.
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, a captain in the South Vietnamese Army flees to southern California, but not to pursue the American dream. He is a Communist sympathizer and a secret agent, under orders to spy on his fellow refugees. This book is the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Jende Jonga uproots his small family to New York from Cameroon, hoping to "claim his share of the milk, honey and liberty flowing in the paradise-for-strivers called America". Jende finds work as a chauffeur for another striver, Wall Street executive Clark Edwards. The problems of the Jonga and Edwards families, extending well beyond Jende's unsuccessful bid for legal status, quickly overlap. Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian immigrant herself, won the 2017 Pen/Faulkner Fiction award for this debut novel.