Top 10 Nonfiction Books about Immigration in America

Immigration is a big part of America’s heritage, whether your ancestors came here on the Mayflower, passed through Ellis Island, or crossed the border from South America. Here’s a list of some of our favorite titles which discuss the past, present, and future of immigration in America.

content.chilifreshEllis Island Interviews: In Their Own Words by Peter M. Coan: Coan captures the voices of immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924 with first-person narratives of their experiences.

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea: Urrea reconstructs the ordeal of two dozen men who tried to cross the border into the U.S. through the desert. Half of them died, and Urrea uses their experience to reveal the exploitive conditions at the border and show the human side of immigration policy.

Translation Nation by Hector Tobar: Tobar’s interest is in the complexity of the Hispanic life in the United States. To explore the Hispanic influence and burgeoning communities, Tobar conducted hundreds of interviews and even went undercover by signing with labor recruiter and working manual labor jobs.

The Other Americans: How Immigrants Renew Our Country, Our Economy and Our Values by Joel Millman: This former Forbes Magazine editor profiles immigrants and communities across the nation, arguing that they are, in fact, the hope of America.

content.chilifresh-1Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail by Ruben Martinez: Martinez follows the story of one Mexican family from their poverty driven lives in Cheron, Mexico to the United States after three members were killed while trying to outrace the border patrol.

Unguarded Gates: A History of America’s Immigration Crisis by Otis L. Graham: Unguarded Gates examines America’s history of immigration pressures, policy debates, and choices. In assessing the past, present, and future of immigration, Graham shows that the failure to control the influx of foreigners is leading America toward further security risks, unsustainable population growth, imported workers competition with American labor, and ultimately, social fragmentation.

Crossing Into America: The New Literature of Immigration by Louis Mendoza and S. Shankar: This book includes essays on American immigration by acclaimed writers such as Maxine Hong Kingston, Julia Alvarez and Li-Young Lee, as well as diary entries and letters from undocumented workers, and articles from national newspapers.

From the Old Country: An Oral History of European Migration to America by Bruce M. Stave: Interviews from the WPA Ethnic Group Survey from the 1930s, and later interviews from the 1970s form the bulk of this book. Immigrants from around the world discuss issues such as securing employment, gender roles, and prejudice in America.

content.chilifresh-2Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas: Dumas’s lighthearted memoir is a funny account of her family’s move from Iran to California in the early 1971.

Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya: The work is a touching memoir of Minatoya’s attempt to understand her parent’s Japanese culture and her own American experience. The book combines delightful family stories with sobering incidents of discrimination and cultural difference.


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