Immigrant Stories: In Their Own Words

By Brenna Murphy

In celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, these memoirs highlight the experiences of immigrants from all over the world.

  • Solito

    2022 by Zamora, Javier

    Poet and activist Javier Zamora’s memoir of migrating to the U.S. at the age of nine is unforgettable. He made the trip from El Salvador without any family, facing hardships with exceptional bravery.

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  • Beautiful Country

    2021 by Wang, Qian Julie

    Civil rights lawyer Qian Julie Wang reflects on her childhood experience of arriving in New York from China and her family’s adjustment to life in a new country. A powerful examination of complicated family dynamics and the struggles faced by those who are undocumented.

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  • Hijab Butch Blues

    2023 by H, Lamya

    In this reflective and honest memoir, Lamya H. describes her coming-of-age as a lesbian Muslim woman. Moving to the U.S. from an unnamed Arab country, she reflects on the racism, sexism, and homophobia she encounters in both countries, as well as her journey to find a community of people who accept her.

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  • Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

    2023 by Pham, Thien

    This gorgeous graphic novel touches on themes of family and belonging, and the significance that food has had in the author’s life. Thien Pham and his family fled Vietnam during the war, spent time in a refugee camp in Thailand, and eventually made their way to California. A great pick for teen through adult readers.

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  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After

    2018 by Wamariya, Clemantine

    Clemantine Wamariya’s story of escaping the Rwandan genocide as a child is heartbreaking and raw. After six years of displacement in Africa, she and her sister arrive in Chicago and adapt to life in a new country. Wamariya is now a human rights advocate.

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  • Illegally Yours

    2022 by Agustin, Rafael

    As a teenager, Rafael Agustin learned something surprising about himself: he was undocumented. Now a TV writer, he recounts with sincerity and humor the experience of discovering his identity and growing up in an Ecuadorian immigrant family.

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  • Asylum

    2022 by Okporo, Edafe

    Edafe Okporo, Nigerian activist for immigrant and gay rights, shares his harrowing experience of fleeing his home country after a violent attack. He arrives in New York, where he is detained for six months before eventually being granted asylum. Both memoir and manifesto, this is a call to action for reform and a plea for kindness and compassion for refugees.

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  • Slow Noodles: A Cambodian Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Recipes

    2024 by Nguon, Chantha

    Chantha Nguon shares her deeply moving story of surviving Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s. For the author, food and cooking represent connection to her family and culture, and played a tremendous role in her healing.

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  • The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You

    2019 by Nayeri, Dina

    Dina Nayeri and her family left Iran due to religious persecution, living in Italy and finally arriving in the U.S. Weaving together her own story with those of other immigrants, she writes with compassion and urgency about the refugee crisis.

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