Powerful Migrant Stories That Matter Now More Than Ever

Immigrants and migrant workers in America have stories that desperately need to be told. Check out this article to learn how and why to listen.

Author's Corner Diverse Voices Fiction Non-Fiction Recommendations
On a painted background of sunset colors, the books 'The Undocumented Americans,' 'The Best We Could Do,' and 'Ander and Santi Were Here' sit.

Last year, a boat in the Mediterranean capsized, killing six hundred migrant passengers in what was deemed an entirely preventable accident. About a week ago in Florida, a drunk driver side-swept a vehicle with over three dozen migrant workers in it, killing eight. Since 2014, more than 89,000 immigrant men, women, and children have been reported dead or missing in the Americas. Migrant workers face the most risk to their lives —in most countries, the number of fatal injuries on the job is higher for migrants than other workers. And when these deaths occur, they are often looked over; the memorial for the recent bus crash in Florida was recently reported missing, and no one knows how or why. We can’t keep overlooking the conditions that immigrants and migrant workers live in when there is so much fiction and nonfiction readily available for us to read to educate ourselves.

Migrant stories are now more important than ever with the widespread lack of empathy and awareness toward the migrant experience in America. The Florida bus accident, while devastating and preventable, did one single good thing: the Mexican consulate has opened an investigation into the company that underpaid and overworked the people on that bus, the Olvera Trucking Corporation. This is just one example of the conditions that migrant workers have to face in this country, which won’t change unless awareness is spread. One significant way to spread awareness is to read migrant and immigrant stories. Reading first-hand accounts is much better than just watching the news or listening to reporters’ second-hand accounts. While some are fictional, here are six stories that you can read in order to better understand this public crisis and empathize with the individuals that are affected.

Internment by Samira Ahmed

A book cover with a white background, depicting a teenage girl with a black hat and black clothing, images of a brick wall with barbed wire overlaying it. The word "internment" in orange is written over top of her, and the word "resist" is displayed on her hat.

This fiction novel explores a dystopian American future in which Muslim Americans are put into internment camps. Chilling and far too realistic, it challenges readers to face the injustice in their own societies before it’s too late.

Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa

Book cover with the words "Ander & Sandi Were Here" covering the whole thing, in white. There are two people on the front, embracing. One is shorter with brown hair, wearing a green short-sleeved shirt. The other is taller, wearing a white t-shirt and a yellow button up.

This LGBTQ+ novel examines the love that two people can have for each other, growing and changing themselves and their identities. This heartbreaking — and heartwarming — novel shows readers the challenges of undocumented immigrants facing ICE detention in a compelling yet fictional manner. This allows readers to easily apply what they learned from the novel to real life.

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamad

A book cover depicting a drawing of a refugee camp under a pink and purple night sky, with two boys walking.

Similar to stories like Maus, this graphic novel is a biographical nonfiction piece about a man and his experience at refugee camps in Kenya, taking on responsibilities no child should ever have to. It will make you laugh, sob, and smile ear-to-ear, teaching about the human condition and the lengths people will go to for love and family.

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

A book cover with a drawn family facing a faintly drawn body of water. Cover is pale blue and pink, with sunset-colored block letters on the left saying "The Best We Could Do".

Another graphic novel memoir, The Best We Could Do explores the effects of immigration on families. Between building a life and raising a family, the main characters struggle through everyday life while worming their way into readers’ hearts.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Book cover with a young girl on it, floating in the sky. She has long black hair and a golden dress, and is holding two roses. Below her we can see a distant image of a farming landscape.

A popular read for elementary and middle readers, this fictional story recounts the tale of a young, wealthy Mexican girl whose life is suddenly upheaved when she and her mother are forced to move to a labor camp in California. This is an incredibly inspiring story about the resilience of families who rise together to overcome devastating circumstances.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

A book with a pink cover, several imprints of documents, and a red flower.

Villavicencio’s groundbreaking book tells stories from immigrants across America, from Flint, Michigan to New York during 9/11. As one of the first immigrants to graduate from Harvard, Villavicencio’s unique perspective lends a personal touch to each story and brings each character to life.

Books like these will inspire readers, giving them much-needed empathy for the thousands of people who have been in situations like those depicted in the novels. Immigrants and migrant workers’ stories are some of the most important and the least told, so be sure to get your hands on these incredible books and surround yourself with the awe-inspiring and heartbreaking accounts of these both real and fictional people.

Want to learn more about immigration stories? Try out article about the Jewish-American immigrant experience.

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