Coming to America

Richard Olen Butler

A compelling chorus of voices that together depict the experiences of the many Vietnamese expatriates living in America.

Annie Proulx

Follow the struggles of Italian, Irish, African, Basque, Norwegian, Mexican, and German immigrants from 1890 to the present, all owners at some time of an accordion brought to America by its Sicilian maker.

Elva Trevino Hart

A vividly told autobiographical account of the life of a child growing up in a family of migrant farm workers. It brings to life the day-to-day existence of people facing the obstacles of working in the fields and raising a family in an environment that is frequently hostile to those who have little education and speak another language. Assimilation brings its own problems, as the original culture is attenuated and the quality of family relationships is compromised, consequences that are not inevitable but are instead a series of choices made along the way. It is also the story of how the author overcame the disadvantages of this background and found herself.

Mary Gardner
Tough, optimistic, yet still scarred by memories of escape and loss--by their traumatic passage by boat out of Vietnam to freedom--the characters in this deeply-felt novel seek an ever elusive balance between their old world and their new home on the Texas Coast.
Fred Mustard Stewart
They were five young penniless people who came to America at the turn of the century--a land of shining hope and breathtaking challenge. They came to fulfill a glowing promise and take the fearful gamble of a new life in a land where anything was possible.
Firoozeh Dumas

"In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s glowing memories of his graduate school years here. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since. Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas, and later lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot. In a series of deftly drawn scenes, we watch the family grapple with American English (hot dogs and hush puppies?—a complete mystery), American traditions (Thanksgiving turkey?—an even greater mystery, since it tastes like nothing), and American culture (Firoozeh’s parents laugh uproariously at Bob Hope on television, although they don’t get the jokes even when she translates them into Farsi). Above all, this is an unforgettable story of identity, discovery, and the power of family love. It is a book that will leave us all laughing—without an accent."

Loida Maritza Perez

"Iliana believed that by attending a college more than five hours from New York City, she could gain independence and escape the watchful eyes of her overprotective, religiously conservative parents. A disembodied voice that Iliana believes is her mother's haunts her nights with disturbing news about her sisters: Marina is careening toward a mental breakdown; Beatriz has disappeared; Rebecca continues in an abusive and dysfunctional marriage. Iliana reluctantly returns to New York City. In this dislocating urban environment, she confronts all the contradictions, superstitions, joys, and pains of someone caught between two cultures but who is intent on finding a home."

James Michener
"...James Michener, introduced an entire generation of readers to a lush, exotic world in the Pacific with this classic novel. But it is also a novel about people, people of strength and character; the Polynesians; the fragile missionaries; the Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos who intermarried into a beautiful race called Hawaiians. Here is the story of their relationships, toils, and successes, their strong aristocratic kings and queens and struggling farmers, all of it enchanting and very real in this almost mythical place."
John Jakes

A German teenager arrives in Chicago in 1892 expecting the immigrant ideal of streets paved with gold. It isn't, of course, but what he does find, freedom, is worth more. Describes in lively detail America at the turn of the twentieth century - including the labor movement, women's rights movement, and the start of the motion picture industry.

Andre Dubus III

An émigré Iranian colonel has spent most of his savings trying to enhance his daughter's chances of a good marriage. Once she is married, he spends the remaining funds on a house at an auction, unwittingly putting himself and his family in the middle of a legal tussle with the house's former owner. What begins as a legal struggle turns into a personal confrontation, with tragic results. 

Ana Menendez
Pushcart Prize-winning author Ana Menendez offers intertwined short stories of Cuban immigrants adjusting to a new life and culture in Miami.
Lan Cao

Mai Nguyen, a young Vietnamese woman, comes of age in America after leaving Saigon in 1975, while her mother has difficulty adjusting to life in their new country, in a moving novel filled with Vietnamese lore.

Cristina Garcia

In 1857, when Chen Pan signs a contract that will take him from China “beyond the edge of the world to Cuba,” he has no idea that he will be enslaved on a sugarcane plantation . . . or that he will eventually, miraculously, escape his bonds and embark on a prosperous life in Havana’s Chinatown . . . or that he will buy a mulatto woman out of slavery and take her into his home and heart . . . or that he will end his long days in Havana, surrounded by children and grandchildren, as Cuban as he is Chinese.

Gayl Jones
A female African-American truck driver in Texas helps the "new underground railroad" of Mexican immigrants to the United States.
Willa Cather
Against Nebraska's panoramic landscape, "My Antonia" recreates the life of an immigrant girl who becomes, in the memories of the narrator, the ideal of strong and resourceful womanhood and a figure of salvation.
Lisa See
Out of the stories heard in her childhood in Los Angeles's Chinatown and years of research, See has constructed this sweeping chronicle of her Chinese-American family, a work that takes in stories of racism and romance, entrepreneurial genius and domestic heartache, secret marriages and sibling rivalries, in a powerful history of two cultures meeting in a new world.
Alex Haley

"The monumental bestseller! Alex Haley recaptures his family's history in this drama of eighteenth-century slave Kunta Kinte and his descendants." The family story continues with Haley's Queen.

Oscar Hijuelos
"...brings to life the rambunctious Montez O'Brien family. The father, Nelson O'Brien, is an enterprising Irish immigrant who travels to Cuba as a photographer during the Spanish-American War in 1898, and there he meets his future wife, the sensitive, aristocratic, poetic Mariela Montez. As they are enroute to America in 1902, their first daughter, Margarita, whose reminiscences inform much of this novel's narrative, is born at sea. The Montez O'Briens settle in a small Pennsylvania town, where Nelson practices his photography trade and runs the Jewel Box Movie Theater, and Mariela gives birth to thirteen more daughters and then, finally, a son.

"As Margarita looks back on her long and full life, the novel recounts the lives, loves, and tragedies of the Montez O'Briens and their always complex relations with one another. It also follows Emilio through his days in Greenwich Village, the army, and Hollywood, where, as Monty O'Brien, he stars in grade-B detective and Tarzan movies and pals around with screen idols like Errol Flynn. Never altogether at peace in the overwhelming feminine world of his family, he searches restlessly for an elusive true love. And after an unhappy early marriage, Margarita herself finds the deepest passion of her life in extreme old age."

Jhumpa Lahiri

"...takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world."

Gary Shteyngart
"Hilarious, extravagant, yet uncannily true to life, it follows the adventures of Vladimir, a young Russian-American immigrant, whose capitalist dreams and desires for a girlfriend lead him off the straight and narrow and into uncharted territory."
T. Coraghessan Boyle

Contemporary story of two illegal Mexican immigrants' woes in California, contrasted with the lives of a politically correct, upscale couple with whom they briefly interact.

Ursula Hegi

"At the heart of this multigenerational novel by critically acclaimed author Ursula Hegi is an intriguing question: If you knew that you could experience a significant love once in your life, would you want these years at the beginning or at the end?

"The Vision of Emma Blau is the luminous epic of a bicultural family filled with passion and aspirations, tragedy and redemption. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Stefan Blau flees Burgdorf, a small town in Germany, and comes to America in search of the vision that has grafted itself to his mind so tenaciously that he's dreamed of it every single night. The novel closes nearly a century later with Stefan's grand-daughter, Emma, and the legacy of his dream, a once-grand apartment house filled with the hidden truths of its inhabitants both past and present."

Gish Jen
"In eight fiercely funny and poignant stories, Gish Jen looks at Chinese-Americans--old and young, parents and children, husbands and wives--as they make their way in American society."