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Immigrants in Fiction

Updated: October 28, 2014

Fleeing war, pursuing an education, missing family and friends, living a dream, living in a family member's dream, trying to fit in, and intergenerational clashes are among the themes of fictional tales of immigrants.

by Lee, Min Jin.

Thrown out of her parents’ threadbare home for speaking with contempt to her low-achieving father, twenty-two year-old Casey Han strives to maintain the excessively high standard of living she enjoyed as a student on scholarship at Princeton. Fellow Korean immigrants, co-workers, friends, boyfriends and churchgoers aid and abet Casey in her quest.

by Brennert, Alan.
Expecting to receive the education she is denied as a female in Korea in 1914, Regret travels to Honolulu as the picture bride for a wealthy Korean man who has established himself in the tropical paradise. Instead she finds herself married to a violent alcoholic who is an impoverished plantation worker.

by Dilloway, Margaret.
Encouraged by her father to marry an American serviceman in order to climb out of the dire circumstances of post-World War II Japan, Shoko ultimately settles with her husband and two children in San Diego, California. Never embraced by the Americans she meets, Shoko devotes herself completely to her family. With her health failing, she asks her grown daughter to travel to Japan to seek reconciliation with the brother who turned on her when she married one of the their country's enemies.

by Mengestu, Dinaw, 1978-

Working at a refugee resettlement center in Manhattan, Jonas Woldemarian edits and embellishes the personal statements of asylum applicants. As he recounts the violent and numbing saga of his father’s escape from war torn Ethiopia and his mother’s adjustment upon her arrival in Peoria, Illinois, Jonas may or may not again be embellishing.

by Jarrar, Randa.

Nidali, the daughter of a Palestinian father and an Egyptian-Greek mother, recounts with comedic aplomb her childhood in Kuwait, her family’s harrowing escape during the Iraqi invasion, the no-holds-barred fights between her parents, her teenage years in Egypt, and the family’s ultimate move to Texas where she is routinely perceived as a Spanish-speaking Latina.

by Lahiri, Jhumpa.

Born in Boston soon after his parents arrive from Calcutta, Gogul Ganguli grows up embracing American ways that are an affront to his family’s Bengali heritage. He even legally changes his given name, which his father had chosen to honor a Russian writer he credits with saving his life.The book is beautifully descriptive, capturing 30 years in brief, relevant snippets.

by Hamid, Mohsin, 1971-

Changez reminisces to an American he meets in Lahore, Pakistan, about his meteoric rise to success in a New York financial firm, and his acceptance in elite social circles via his relationship with a woman he met while a student at Princeton University. After September 11, 2001, his love for his new country transforms.

by Umrigar, Thrity N.

Though she has lived in America for almost thirty years, Armaiti’s greatest wish, when diagnosed with a brain tumor, is for a reunion with her three best friends from their undergraduate student activist days in Bombay. Laleh and Kavita don’t hesitate to accept the invitation to travel to America, but they first need to find Nishta, who disappeared when her Hindu parents disowned her for marrying a Muslim