The picture above is the author’s courtesy.
A collection of books from all over the world to read about immigrants and immigrant experience with quotes and the descriptions of plots.
Many of us know that the path to healing is accompanied by the art of well-told stories. When we flutter in the dimension of the unknown, they inspire us, tremble the most sensitive strings of our soul, scare us back to life. For immigrants, the sense of disorientation is an oft-heard challenge; regardless of the period in History, ones a person uproots, his mind undergoes an irreversible change due to all these brand-new experiences and visuals that he or she suddenly discover away from a place that would still be called home. When the change occurs, people attempt to preserve things that they know about themselves through various things, one of these things is reading. Reader, perhaps like no other form of story-telling can drift you away and nourish from within especially if the book you are reading is relatable to your experience. Besides that, they can remind you that you are not alone in your journey and many have been through the same before. The realization of thereof makes alienation and confusion of immigration and integration less accentuate tumult – we cannot always be confident in everything. A few days ago, I had started compiling a little collection of books that brought me through some rough times and taught me about the issues of identity in other cultures. More we learn about each other’s cultures’ authentic, unadjusted stories; more we understand and relate to each other.
Call it Sleep by Henry Roth
Call It Sleep, a dark and painfully conspicuous novel by Henry Roth centers around a young Jewish boy growing up on the Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century. It reflects on the darkness and loneliness that the experience of immigration often brings along and on the struggle of David Schearl, the main character, whose parents are immigrants, to fit it in the unwelcoming and harsh word. While the issue of hostility is present in the novel, what makes it particularly gut-wrenching is that it preliminarily originates from David’s father.
Due to the nature of subjects tackled in the text, the story, by all accounts was considered modernistic and highly progressive. Only thirty years after its publication did it receive considerable public recognition. However, despite its piercing plot, the book’s infinite subjects of family relationships, peer recognition, and acceptance make it relatable, especially so, for immigrants who find themselves disoriented. It is also relevant for their children, who grow up having to adjust to two entirely different settings – inner – at home, and outer – in society.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah, a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has many facets; in its core, it’s a love story that has shown its capacity and genuineness through time and distance; however, it is also a compelling dissection of attitudes towards immigrants, foreign culture and the implications of one’s identity. The book tells a story of two sweethearts from Nigeria, Efimelu, and Obinze who, in search of political asylum, part their ways by going to the US and England respectively. Adichie creates a vivid testimony of their struggles with integration, self-identification, and the perception of them that is inevitably linked to the characters’ skin- color and a country of origin.
“She rested her head against his and felt, for the first time, what she would often feel with him: a self-affection. He made her like herself. With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.. It seemed so natural, to talk to him about odd things. She had never done that before. The trust, so sudden and yet so complete, and the intimacy, frightened her. But now she could think only of all the things she yet wanted to tell him, wanted to do with him.”
“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive. And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.”
Karma and Other Stories by Rishi Reddi
Karma and Other Stories represents a brilliant collection of stories revolving around Indian-American community that is struggling to balance their traditions with ruthless demands of Western secular lifestyle. In this colorful tapestry, we see everything inter-generational conflict between immigrant parents and their American children, arranged marriages, prohibited romances and the implications of sexual temptations felt to “outsiders.” While we see how Reddi reinvents herself in each story making it unique, it is possible to glean a general message out of the book: “the best things in life are always the ones that we identify with ourselves and our upbringing, and money or comfort can not overshadow them.”
“It is October in New England, red, yellow, and violet leaves splash across the ice-blue sky and decorate the dull concrete below.Once, during a visit to Hyderabad, Lakshmi tried to describe autumn to her sister. She told her about the music of dry leaves tumbling along the pavement and the brightness of coral-colored trees explains a perfect sky. Her sister couldn’t understand. It was much like trying to explain the monsoon to a New Englander; one can carefully describe the physical properties of the season, one can relate all factual details, but the mood, the essence of it remains unrevealed.”
“To enjoy the sweetness of the summer, we must live through the winter cold. Otherwise, both are lost to us.”
The Scent of Pine by Lara Vapnyar
The novel tells a story of a woman in her late thirties who works as an adjunct at a community college in Boston. We find Lena, the main character at the intersection of vehement doubts; her career hasn’t been going anywhere in particular, and her emotional connection with her husband is tenuous and almost forceful. At the beginning of the story, Lena is offered an opportunity to attend a conference on sexual education in the Soviet Union that is to take place in Saratoga Springs. The invitation is a relief for her, and she eagerly accepts it. However, no-one ends up attending her talk and she, defeated and disappointed, jumps into a brief affair with another conference attendant named Ben. The two, in the lure of adventure, decide to go to Maine where Ben has a cabin. During their trip, Lena tells Ben stories from her past when she, being an 18-year-old girl worked as a counselor at a youth camp in the Soviet Union.
The Scent of Pine, contrary to other books presented on the list, is focused on the recollection of the old country rather than on the journey in the new one. However, this recollection serves as an analysis of Lena’s decisions that she made upon immigrating to America. The novel’s narrative is audacious, seductive, sometimes playful and it delivers a good semblance of emotions and moments that a person who is transitioning from adolescence to adulthood gets to experience.