Dear Prestwick House,

Our high school literature curriculum team is currently looking for diverse books that explore the immigrant experience in America from different angles. Do you have any suggestions?

There are a lot of excellent books focusing on the immigrant experience that we’ve been adding to our collection over the last few years. The ten books in this list all feature characters from vastly different backgrounds coming to and residing in the United States for a variety of reasons. From real-life accounts and personal experiences to fictional stories about family ties and cultural identity, these books will show your students what it means to be an immigrant in America.

American Street
Embark on a coming-of-age journey filled with magical realism and romance in Ibi Zoboi’s stunning debut novel in which she expertly weaves together the complicated issues of immigration with the desires of chasing after the American dream. As your students follow Fabiola from Haiti to the streets of Detroit, they will find themselves captivated by this story of one girl’s fierce determination to build a good life.

Enrique’s Journey
Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of newspaper articles, Enrique's Journey tells the compelling story of a boy who undertakes the formidable trek from Mexico to the United States to reunite with his estranged mother. Illegal immigration is often discussed in terms of statistics, but author Sonia Nazario has added an essential human perspective to the conversation. 

The Jungle
Upton Sinclair’s novel is best known for its depiction of Chicago’s industrialized society, but it is primarily about the lives of Lithuanian immigrants in early 20th century America. With its vivid imagery and powerful message about self-perpetuating political corruption, management-union conflicts, and the horrors of the meat-packing industry, The Jungle will give your students a new perspective on the human condition.

Outcasts United
The compelling true story of a group of young refugees from war-torn countries and the resilient soccer coach who brings them together, Outcasts United gives insight into the struggles young immigrants face when trying to assimilate into American culture. If your classroom is in need of inspirational nonfiction that presents a multicultural perspective, Outcasts United is an excellent selection.

Behold the Dreamers
Take your students back to the 2008 global financial crisis with Behold the Dreamers, an intimate look into the lives of two extremely different families. The Jongas, having recently emigrated from Cameroon to America, make a living working for the Edwards family, a wealthy husband and wife with connections to Lehman Brothers. Fast-paced and political, Behold the Dreamers is an excellent novel to connect students with literature about American exceptionalism. 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Appropriate for older readers, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter follows Julia Reyes, a rebellious teenager and the child of Mexican immigrants, as she struggles with depression and family issues after the unexpected death of her older sister, Olga. Unlike Julia, Olga lived a seemingly ideal life, but that illusion is shattered when Julia discovers a dark secret following her sister’s passing. Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, this book will have students eager to see where Julia’s story ultimately leads.

The book that inspired the award-winning movie, Brooklyn is a charming historical novel featuring a brave woman who must choose between the two men she loves, as well as between two vastly different coun­tries. Colm Toibin paints an authentic portrait of the immigrant experience, as the main character Eilis Lacey travels between Ireland and New York City during the 1950s. 

Under the Feet of Jesus
Poignant and heart-wrenching, Helena Maria Viramontes’s novel tells a remarkable story about the lives of a working-class Latino family of migrant fruit-pickers in California. Told from the perspective of young Estrella, Under the Feet of Jesus tackles the heavy themes of poverty and immigration with grace, dignity, and delicacy. 

The Leavers
Winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, Lisa Ko’s The Leavers is a powerful novel that examines cultural heritage, familial relationships, and the true meaning of belonging. When his mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, suddenly goes missing, Deming Guo finds himself completely alone. It’s not until he’s adopted by well-meaning white parents and renamed Daniel Wilkinson that the boy realizes just how much he has lost. 

When I Was Puerto Rican
A universal coming-of-age story, this memoir tells of author Esmeralda Santiago's childhood in Puerto Rico and subsequent move to America. Her process of acclimating to a new culture and language is an experience your students will find both compelling and resonant. When I Was Puerto Rican is a great addition to both your multicultural and nonfiction units.

Do you have questions about other books that cover the immigrant experience or need personalized reading recommendations for your class or school? Leave a comment below, or send an email to We’re happy to help you!