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janbb's avatar

Looking for suggestions for novels about immigration to America for a course I'm planning?

Asked by janbb (44048 points ) September 19th, 2011

I’ve done several sessions on this topic and am looking for some titles I may have missed. Anything you have read that you can recommend?

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25 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

John Jakes had one, I think it was set in California, about an immigrant to America and he started an iron mill and used lots of immigrant labor, but I can’t recall the name of it.

janbb's avatar

Thanks – I will look into it although I’m looking for things of a more literary nature. Howard Fast also wrote a series but again, it is a bit more popular than I need.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@janbb That might be a little “fluffier” than you’re looking for.

Lightlyseared's avatar

White Teeth By Zadie Smith. Its got immigrants coming from different backgrounds and different generations and the effects and dilemas that immigration has on them.

OK, so there are few problems with this recomendation…1 it’s set in the UK. 2 it’s set in the UK. Admitedly this might seem like the same problem but I figured it’s such a big one it was probably worth mentioning twice.

marinelife's avatar

Drude Krog Janson’s A SALOONKEEPER’S DAUGHTER (1887)

Julia Alvarez’s HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS (1991)

YEKL, A TALE OF THE NEW YORK GHETTO (1896) Abraham Cahan

Willa Cather My Antonia (1918)

Amy Tan’s THE JOY LUCK CLUB (1988)

Sandra Cisneros’s THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET (1984)

and, finally, Amistaad by Aleix Pate (1997) about people who were forced to immigrate.

marinelife's avatar

@janbb I may not be a librarian (whom I admire greatly), but I am a professional researcher.

janbb's avatar

@marinelife Thanks. I have done a number of those you list – Alvarez, Cather, and Tan – but some of them are new ideas. **Beloved** was another one that made for a very interesting discussion.

CWOTUS's avatar

Pretty much anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, an Indian-born writer (and a damned good one) who writes frequently about Indian expatriates in the US, and the transitions they make in coming here – and later returning – and the effects on their children as well.

Her short story collection Unaccustomed Earth was where I made my first acquaintance, followed by The Namesake.

janbb's avatar

Yes – I taught **The Namesake** ; it was very good too.

CWOTUS's avatar

Here is a list I found via the Google. (I also liked Garcia Girls.)

janbb's avatar

Thanks! (Is it really bad that I like to query jellies instead of Googling randomly? Maybe I like the illusion that I have research assistants.)

XD's avatar

What is the What by Dave Eggers is an engrossing read. This review points to some similar nonfiction options.

janbb's avatar

@XD thanks.

Seek's avatar

It’s not a novel, but a memoir, but Frank McCourt’s ‘Tis is heart wrenching and hilarious and wonderful.

KatawaGrey's avatar

The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. It’s not officially a biography but it’s a story very heavily based on her mother’s life. Her mother was born in China and lived a good chunk of her life there and then moved to the US. Careful, though, the things this woman went through are horrific and terrifying. It’s an excellent read, but the only thing that gets you through is the knowledge that she got out. I had to put it down a lot but it’s such a wonderful read and an excellent chronicling of a woman’s journey.

Jeruba's avatar

There’s The Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle, which is a very good novel that I did not like at all. I have read that this is required reading for students in Germany (in English, I presume), but I’m not finding corroboration for that at the moment.

I second Jhumpa Lahiri. Interpreter of Maladies is excellent, but it is short stories and not a novel.

And don’t forget H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N.

janbb's avatar

@KatawaGrey I’ve taught two novels by Amy Tan in prior courses so I’ll probably skip her for nwo but I like her a lot, particularly *The Bonesetter’s Daughter.”

@Jeruba Thanks.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

You may also want to consider Susan Sontag’s book In America.

janbb's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake Is that a novel?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Yes, it won the National Book Award in 2000. It’s 387 pages.

janbb's avatar

Thanks – I’ve never read her before. Will look for it.

Kardamom's avatar

I am posting my answer without having yet read anyone else’s answer, so forgive me if I repeat anyone’s picks.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

China Boy by Gus Lee

Paper Daughter by Elaine Mar

A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee

The Foreign Student by Susan Choi

Here is a site dedicated to the 50 Greatest Works of Immigration Literature I haven’t perused the whole site, so not sure if any of them are actual novels.

Here is a list on Amazon of Immigration Novels

And here is another list about immigration novels from the Billington Library I haven’t checked it out so I don’t know if there are any about coming to America.

And here is a list of authors by PBS that are specifically about coming to the US.

Hopefully you can find something amongst this pile. : )

janbb's avatar

@Kardamom But can you cook?

Kardamom's avatar

Hmmmmm The Immigration Cookbook? LOL

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