Summer Fun for Adults Week 8: Global Society

A selection of books featuring immigration and migration stories.

It's week 8 of the library's Summer Fun for Adults program. This week's theme is global society and we're featuring immigration and migration stories. The books featured below were released in the past few years and capture a range of voices across countries and continents. Many are available in both print and e-book formats.

Nonfiction and Memoir

Penguing Book of Migration StoriesMalayaThe Best We Could DoA Map is Only One Story

 Call Me AmericanThe Ungrateful RefugeeThe Next Great MigrationThe Good Immmigrant

How Yiddish Changed AmericaSigh, goneThe Undocumented AmericansThe Girl Who Smiled Beads

The Penguin book of migration literature : departures, arrivals, generations, returns / edited with an introduction by Dohra Ahmad ; foreword by Edwidge Danticat
Every year, three to four million people move to a new country. From war refugees to corporate expats, migrants constantly reshape their places of origin and arrival. This selection of works collected together for the first time brings together the most compelling literary depictions of migration.

Malaya : essays on freedom / Barnes, Cinelle, author
Out of a harrowing childhood in the Philippines, Cinelle Barnes emerged triumphant. But as an undocumented teenager living in New York, her journey of self-discovery was just beginning. Because she couldn’t get a driver’s license or file taxes, Cinelle worked as a cleaning lady and a nanny and took other odd jobs—and learned to look over her shoulder, hoping she wouldn’t get caught. When she falls in love and marries a white man from the South, Cinelle finds herself trying to adjust to the thorny underbelly of “southern hospitality” while dealing with being a new mother, an immigrant affected by PTSD, and a woman with a brown body in a profoundly white world.

The best we could do : an illustrated memoir / Thi Bui
This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

A map is only one story : twenty writers on immigration, family, and the meaning of home / edited by Nicole Chung and Mensah Demary (print and e-book available)
From rediscovering an ancestral village in China to experiencing the realities of American life as a Nigerian, the search for belonging crosses borders and generations. Selected from the archives of Catapult magazine, the essays in A Map Is Only One Story highlight the human side of immigration policies and polarized rhetoric, as twenty writers share provocative personal stories of existing between languages and cultures.

Call me American : a memoir / Abdi Nor Iftin with Max Alexander (print and e-book available)
Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop and watching action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies. Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, though, Abdi was forced to flee to Kenya. In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America did not come easily.

The ungrateful refugee : what immigrants never tell you / Dina Nayeri
Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel–turned–refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America. She settled in Oklahoma, then made her way to Princeton University. In this book, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with the stories of other refugees and asylum seekers in recent years, bringing us inside their daily lives and taking us through the different stages of their journeys, from escape to asylum to resettlement.

The next great migration : the beauty and terror of life on the move / Sonia Shah (print and e-book available)
The news today is full of stories of dislocated people on the move. Wild species, too, are escaping warming seas and desiccated lands, creeping, swimming, and flying in a mass exodus from their past habitats. News media presents this scrambling of the planet's migration patterns as unprecedented, provoking fears of the spread of disease and conflict and waves of anxiety across the Western world. On both sides of the Atlantic, experts issue alarmed predictions of millions of invading aliens, unstoppable as an advancing tsunami, and countries respond by electing anti-immigration leaders who slam closed borders that were historically porous. But the science and history of migration in animals, plants, and humans tell a different story. Far from being a disruptive behavior to be quelled at any cost, migration is an ancient and lifesaving response to environmental change, a biological imperative as necessary as breathing.

The good immigrant : 26 writers reflect on America / edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman (print and e-book available)
From Trump's proposed border wall and travel ban to the marching of white supremacists in Charlottesville, America is consumed by tensions over immigration and the question of which bodies are welcome. In this much-anticipated follow-up to the bestselling UK edition, hailed by Zadie Smith as "lively and vital," editors Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman hand the microphone to an incredible range of writers whose humanity and right to be here is under attack.

How Yiddish changed America and how America changed Yiddish / edited by Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert
Is it possible to conceive of the American diet without bagels? Or Star Trek without Mr. Spock? Are the creatures in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are based on Holocaust survivors? And how has Yiddish, a language without a country, influenced Hollywood? These and other questions are explored in this stunning and rich anthology of the interplay of Yiddish and American culture, edited by award-winning authors and scholars Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert. It starts with the arrival of Ashkenazi immigrants to New York City’s Lower East Side and follows Yiddish as it moves into Hollywood, Broadway, literature, politics, and resistance. We take deep dives into cuisine, language, popular culture, and even Yiddish in the other Americas, including Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia.

Sigh, gone : a misfit's memoir of great books, punk rock, and the fight to fit in / Phuc Tran (print and e-book available)
In 1975, during the fall of Saigon, Phuc Tran immigrates to America along with his family. By sheer chance they land in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a small town where the Trans struggle to assimilate into their new life. In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books such as The Metamorphosis, The Scarlet Letter, The Iliad, and more, Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.

The undocumented Americans : a homecoming / Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (print and e-book available)
Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she’d tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell.  So she wrote her immigration lawyer’s phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants—and to find the hidden key to her own.

The girl who smiled beads : a story of war and what comes after / Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil (print and e-book available)
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, ran and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries searching for safety. They did not know whether their parents were alive. At age twelve, Clemantine and Claire were granted asylum in the United States. Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, this book captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever lost, what can be repaired, the fragility and importance of memory.

Fiction and Poetry

How to Love a CountryExit WestThings are Good NowTrack Changes

Passage WestAduaUnaccompaniedHow Much of These Hills is Gold

How to love a country : poems / Richard Blanco
Blanco digs deep into the very marrow of our nation through poems that interrogate our past and present, grieve our injustices, and note our flaws, but also remember to celebrate our ideals and cling to our hopes. Charged with the utopian idea that no single narrative is more important than another, this book asserts that America could and ought someday to be a country where all narratives converge into one, a country we can all be proud to love and where we can all truly thrive.

Exit west : a novel / Mohsin Hamid (print and e-book available)
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Things are good now : stories / Djamila Ibrahim
Set in East Africa, the Middle East, Canada, and the U.S., Things Are Good Now examines the weight of the migrant experience on the human psyche. In these pages, women, men, and children who’ve crossed continents in search of a better life find themselves struggling with the chaos of displacement and the religious and cultural clashes they face in their new homes.

Track changes / Sayed Kashua ; translated from the Hebrew by Mitch Ginsburg
Having emigrated to America years before, a nameless memoirist now residing in Illinois receives word that his estranged father, whom he has not spoken to in fourteen years, is dying. Leaving his wife and their three children, he returns to Jerusalem and to his hometown of Tira in Palestine to be by his family's side. But few are happy to see him back and, geographically and emotionally displaced, he feels more alienated from his life than ever. Sitting by his father's hospital bed, the memoirist begins to remember long-buried traumas, the root causes of his fallout with his family, the catalyst for his marriage and its recent dissolution, and his strained relationships with his children-all of which is strangely linked to a short story he published years ago about a young girl named Palestine. As he plunges deeper into his memory and recounts the history of his land and his love, the lines between truth and lies, fact and fiction become increasingly blurred.

Passage west : a novel / Rishi Reddi
1914: Ram Singh arrives in the Imperial Valley on the Mexican border, reluctantly accepting his friend Karaks offer of work and partnership in a small cantaloupe farm. Ram is unmoored; fleeing violence in Oregon, he desperately longs to return to his wife and newborn son in Punjab, but he is duty bound to make his fortune first. In the Valley, American settlement is still new and the rules are ever shifting. Alongside Karak, Jivan and his wife, Kishen, and Amarjeet, a U.S. soldier, Ram struggles to farm in the unforgiving desert. When he meets an alluring woman who has fought in Mexico's revolution, he strives to stay true to his wife. The Valley is full of settlers hailing from other cities and different continents. The stakes are high and times are desperate, just one bad harvest or stolen crop could destabilize a family. And as anti- immigrant sentiment rises among white residents, the tensions of life in the west finally boil over.

Adua / Igiaba Scego ; translated by Jamie Richards
Adua, an immigrant from Somalia to Italy, has lived in Rome for nearly forty years. She came seeking freedom from a strict father and an oppressive regime, but her dreams of becoming a film star ended in shame. Now that the civil war in Somalia is over, her homeland beckons. Yet Adua has a husband who needs her, a young man, also an immigrant, who braved a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. When her father, who worked as an interpreter for Mussolini's fascist regime, dies, Adua inherits the family home. She must decide whether to make the journey back to reclaim her material inheritance, but also how to take charge of her own story and build a future.

Unaccompanied / Javier Zamora
Javier Zamora was nine years old when he traveled unaccompanied 4,000 miles, across multiple borders, from El Salvador to the United States to be reunited with his parents. This dramatic and hope-filled poetry debut humanizes the highly charged and polarizing rhetoric of border-crossing; assesses borderland politics, race, and immigration on a profoundly personal level; and simultaneously remembers and imagines a birth country that's been left behind.

How much of these hills is gold / C Pam Zhang (print and e-book available)
Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence. Fleeing the threats of their western mining town, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future.

All descriptions are provided by the publishers.

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