5 Books That Capture The Immigrant Experience

Books about immigration and the individuals living through such life-altering journeys are quite possibly the most prevalent literary opportunity for open-mindedness, acceptance, and recognition of our shared humanity. This list of five books- comprised of novels, nonfiction, and children’s stories- explores the immigrant experience from multiple perspectives and points all over the world. Pick up one of these enlightening reads and enjoy an entertaining while educating adventure!


1. The Last Raft by John H. Cunningham



The Last raft details the tensions of the Cuban Rafter Crisis in 1994 and the truth of America’s involvement or, rather, lack thereof. The story follows five cuban refugees as they escape Cuba during the massive exodus in which approximately 100,000 Cubans emigrated to the United States by way of make-shift rafts. President Clinton also detained 50,000 immigrants in a makeshift tent city in Miami, and mounting civil unrest was caused by America’s political divide on how to hinder Fidel Castro’s regime. Read more about this novel here.

“This is an amazing book… the issues are thoroughly explained by characters who seem to live and breathe on every page.” – Lisa Black, New York Times bestselling author.

2. A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa and Coert Voorhees




Written by Victor Hinojosa and Coert Voorhees, and illustrated by the award-winning Susan Guevara, A Journey Toward Hope tells the story of four migrant children traveling together through the perilous path from Mexico to the United States border. Though they each have a different reason for seeking refuge in America, their combined efforts create way for the power hope and the realization of their dreams. Read more about this children’s book here.

Amazon’s description reads: Every year, roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors arrive at the US/Mexico border to present themselves for asylum or related visas. The majority of these children are non-Mexicans fleeing the systemic violence of Central America’s “Northern Triangle”: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. A Journey Toward Hope tells the story of Rodrigo, a 14-year-old escaping Honduran violence; Alessandra, a 10-year-old Guatemalan whose first language is Q’eqchi’; and the Salvadoran siblings Laura and Nando.


3. Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai




Inside Out and Back Again is the true story of author, Thanhha Lai, and her childhood as a refugee, escaping Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon for the hope to be found in America. Told in verse, and revered for its child’s perspective of immigration, Lai’s childhood experiences are translated into the story of Hà and how the Vietnam war spurred her family’s journey away from the traditions of her home in Saigon toward the unfamiliarity of Alabama.

Inside Out and Back Again is a #1 New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award!”


4. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue




Behold the Dreamers is Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, detailing the intricacies of immigration, race, relationships, and the flaws to be found in the American Dream throughout the story of a young Cameroonian couple founding a new life for themselves in Harlem, New York during the Great Recession. when Jende Jonga, a husband and father determined to provide a better life for his family in America, gains a job at Lehman Brothers as a chauffeur, he is thrilled for this new perspective and the chance to prove his work ethic. However, when the financial situation at Lehman Brothers quickly takes a turn for the worst, the Jonga’s are faced with the harsh reality of power and privelege, and struggle to maintain both Jende’s job and their marriage.

“A debut novel by a young woman from Cameroon that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller.” – The Washington Post


5. Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario



In Enrique’s Journey, the award-winning journalist, Sonia Nazario, depicts the true story of a Honduran boy searching for his mother eleven years after she traveled to America to find work in the United Stated in order to feed her starving family. As he makes his way through Mexico, hiding amongst a hostile world and holding onto freight cars in transit, he meets other immigrant children in similar predicaments (thousands of immigrant children make this journey each year) and they are hunted by Mexican police. This account tells of a perilous journey toward safety and someone Enrique loves, the astonishing power of family and resilience, and questions about immigration reform in America today.

“This is a twenty-first-century Odyssey. If you are going to read only one nonfiction book this year, it has to be this one.” – Isabel Allende, author of The House of the Spirits


feature images via amazon