Coming to America

Here's a group of enterprising Americans and their accomplishments for you: Alexander Graham Bell connected us to the world via the telephone, and Jerry Yang upped that connectivity with Yahoo.com. Werhner von Braun blasted our rockets into space, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger blasted away on the big screen. Carl Djerassi rocked our society with The Pill, and Gene Simmons just plain rocks.

What do these Americans have in common, beyond their contributions to us? They were not born Americans. They are all immigrants. So were Bob Hope, Admiral Hyman Rickover, and Cary Grant. So are Sidney Poitier, Elizabeth Taylor, Gloria Estefan, Dr. Ruth, and Patrick Ewing. They are just a handful of the more than 60,000,000 people who have immigrated to the United States since its founding. Try one of these books to learn about the immigrant story.

Geographies of Home

By Loida Maritza Perez

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"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."

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Monkey Hunting

By Cristina Garcia

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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.

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Who's Irish? Stories

By Gish Jen

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"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."
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The Vision of Emma Blau

By Ursula Hegi

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"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."

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The Tortilla Curtain

By T. Coraghessan Boyle

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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.

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The Russian Debutante's Handbook

By Gary Shteyngart

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"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."
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The Namesake

By Jhumpa Lahiri

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"...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."

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The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O'Brien

By Oscar Hijuelos

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"...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."

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On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family

By Lisa See

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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.
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My Antonia

By Willa Cather

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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.
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