The best modern memoirs and non-fiction books about immigration

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  • America’s history is largely a history of immigration, and the best way to learn about these experiences is to read stories from immigrants.
  • We have compiled 16 contemporary memoirs, non-fiction, and anthologies by immigrant and refugee writers, including Ilhan Omar, Meredith Talusan, and Diane Guerrero.
  • Read more: The Best Books of February 2021, According to the editors at Amazon

America is shaped by waves of immigration, with each and every story a valuable thread in its long and complicated history. Works by authors of immigrants or refugees describe the material and immaterial expeditions of those who leave behind everything they know. And when memoirs about immigration are told through firsthand experiences, thoughts, and feelings of an immigrant, they combine vulnerability, strength, and trauma to tell an authentic story.

You may have read a classic immigration memory at school, such as Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela’s Ashes, which describes his life as a child of Irish immigrants going through the Great Depression, or How the Other Half Lives, Danish The documentary by the American Jacob Riis from 1890 about the urban living conditions of immigrants and impoverished workers who later catalyzed massive reforms. Both books offer unforgettable portraits of the lives of immigrants from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are just as powerful today as they were many decades ago. At the same time, there were many perspectives from immigrants from these time periods who never made it to print, creating a void in our understanding of the entire American immigrant experience.

With that in mind, we have grouped together some contemporary memoirs, non-fiction books, and anthologies by immigrants, refugees, and first generation authors to paint a more thorough and comprehensive picture of modern immigrant life in America. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point for learning about immigration from different perspectives.

Here are 16 insightful modern-day memoirs and books by immigrants we recommend reading:

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