ARTS & CULTURE
04/19/2017 01:39 pm ET | Updated Apr 19, 2017

29 Inspiring Books About Immigration The New York Public Library Thinks You Should Read

Give yourself a literary reminder that most Americans today are, or came from, immigrants.

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No week is the wrong week to dive into good books by or about migrants and immigrants. During a time of heightened scrutiny and inflammatory rhetoric directed at immigrants in the United States, these stories have never been more valuable. 

This may be the exact right week to read an migration or immigration narrative, though: It’s New York City’s annual Immigrant Heritage Week, and to celebrate, the New York Public Library’s Elizabeth Waters posted a fantastic list of NYC-based immigration books, both fiction and non-fiction, worth checking out. (The NYPL is also throwing a number of free events in honor of the week, for New York readers.)

It’s easy for some to see immigrants as threatening outsiders who are encroaching on their resources, jobs and space. But a closer look at the experiences of people who have immigrated or migrated to the United States often shows a more nuanced, humane viewpoint. Immigrants’ novels and memoirs can remind us that they’re simply flesh-and-blood people, who have often overcome great obstacles to earn a living, to improve their new communities and to become American. 

Check out the NYPL’s recommendations below ― click on the titles to check out the books from the NYPL ― and head to their blog for more on the selected books.

Nonfiction

1. The Other Half: The Life of Jacob Riis and the World of Immigrant America by Tom Buk-Swienty; translated from the Danish by Annette Buk-Swienty

WW Norton Company

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2. The Rise of Abraham Cahan by Seth Lipsky

Schocken

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Smithsonian Books

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4. Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Vintage

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5. When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago

Vintage

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6. The Factory of Facts by Luc Sante

Pantheon

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7.Tis: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

Harper Perennial

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It Books

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Atria

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10. Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart

Random House

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11. Not for Everyday Use: A Memoir by Elizabeth Nunez

Akashic

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Penguin Press

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13. Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

Ecco

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Fiction

14. Maggie, A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

Modern Library

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15. Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska

Persea

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16. Call it Sleep by Henry Roth

FSG

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17. Christ in Concrete by Pietro Di Donato

Signet

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18. Brown Girl, Brownstones by Paule Marshall

Dover

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19. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos

HarperCollins

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Plume

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21. Typical American by Gish Jen

Houghton Mifflin

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22. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Vintage

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23. Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee

Riverhead

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Picador

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25. The Russian Debutante’s Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

Riverhead

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26Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Tóibín

Penguin

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27. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Riverhead

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28. Open City by Teju Cole

Random House

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29. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Random House

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