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.

Mosquito

By Gayl Jones

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A female African-American truck driver in Texas helps the "new underground railroad" of Mexican immigrants to the United States.
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Monkey Bridge

By Lan Cao

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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.

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In Cuba, I Was a German Shepherd

By Ana Menendez

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

By John Jakes

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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.

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Hawaii

By James Michener

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"...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."
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Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America

By Firoozeh Dumas

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"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."

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Ellis Island

By Fred Mustard Stewart

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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.
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Boat People

By Mary Gardner

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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.
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Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child

By Elva Trevino Hart

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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.

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Accordion Crimes

By Annie Proulx

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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.

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