Crossing Borders

By Kristi S.

I’ve written before about the power of fiction to both educate and entertain. Obviously, nonfiction is incredibly important, giving voice to real experiences, but fiction adds extra emotion for me. For that reason, I turn to fiction when I am looking to take a deep dive into current events. I want to be able to feel everything that a character is feeling, to see the experience as it is happening, and to connect on a deep level with the story.

Immigration is a divisive and complex subject constantly talked about in the news today. I find that after being bombarded with news story after news story, fiction helps me to take a breath and think critically about the immigrant experience.

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Reading on my own

America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

Lyrical prose and raw emotion make this story of three generations of women in an immigrant family unforgettable. I forged a deep connection to the characters and Castillo’s unconventional writing style kept me turning pages and reflecting on the story long after I finished.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

This short book packs a major punch. Spare and atmospheric prose echo the stark landscape and haunting emotion of the main character’s journey crossing from Mexico into the U.S. It’s an arresting and authentic look at the immigrant experience.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

The first half of this novel follows the witty 10-year-old Darling, as she navigates a difficult and dangerous life in Zimbabwe. Then, we are abruptly transported to Michigan where Darling has moved in with an aunt. For both the reader and Darling, this change is disarming and overwhelming. This novel gives a powerful glimpse into the challenge of coming-of-age as an immigrant.

Reading with Kids

Now, I am not a parent, but I work with kids and think often about the intricacies of explaining difficult topics to children. Kids are incredibly perceptive and curious, but how do you begin a conversation around an issue as complex as immigration? As always, I think books are the best place to start.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Dreamy text and vibrant illustrations incorporating Mexican culture make this moving and hopeful memoir of the author’s journey from Mexico to the United States shine. Perfect for kids of all ages.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Through a series of poems, a young girl tells of her family’s journey to escape Vietnam and resettle in the U.S. Full of humor and authentic emotion, this is a moving read to help children better understand the immigrant experience. It’s also a stunning audiobook! Great for older elementary-aged children.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

Spare and simple text accompany expressive illustrations in this quietly moving story following a young boy fishing with his father. As they fish, the boy thinks about his parents’ resiliency and sacrifice to leave their lives in Vietnam and start again in the U.S. A poignant story with truly gorgeous illustrations. This is one of my absolute favorite picture books.

There are so many more beautiful, authentic, and touching novels to explore the immigrant experience. Check out this list for more ideas and let me know in the comments of your favorites!

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2 responses to “Crossing Borders”

  1. hubackerg says:

    I think “The Sun is also a Star” is a good one for both young adults & adults. Another provocative & informative novel dealing with immigration that I’d recommend is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, “Americanah“

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