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Behold the Dreamers: Books on the Immigrant Experience

Imbolo Mbue’s thought-provoking and compassionate 2016 novel Behold the Dreamers follows the experiences of Jende and Neni Jonge, Cameroonian immigrants who are pursuing the American dream in New York City on the cusp of the 2008 financial crisis.  For other narratives that similarly shed a light on immigrants’ experiences in the United States, check out these novels and memoirs:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Acclaimed Nigerian author Adichie offers a compelling depiction of globalization and immigrant life through the eyes of Ifemulu, a young Nigerian woman striving to build a life in America, and her friends and family.

A Dream Called Home: A Memoir by Reyna Grande
Mexican-American author Grande was only nine years old when she walked across the US border, seeking a home and a better life. In this captivating and inspiring memoir, she describes her search for the American dream as a first-generation Latina college student.

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua
Hua skillfully evokes the experiences of resourceful and determined undocumented immigrants in America through the story of Scarlett Chen, a Chinese factory worker who is sent to the United States to bear her boss’ baby so he can gain a foothold there.

Mother Country by Irina Reyn
Nadia, a Ukrainian immigrant working as a nanny in Brooklyn, struggles to find a way to bring her daughter to the United Sates in this poignant novel that echoes many of the themes of Behold the Dreamers.

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
Jende, Neni and Liomi are fictional versions of the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States. In this thought-provoking and moving memoir, journalist Vargas recounts his experiences of growing up undocumented in the US.