Immigrant Stories

Sea Turbines, oil on canvas (2015)

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

21st CenturyBildungsromanImmigrant Narrative

Darling, an adventurous and curious young girl lives in the chaotic yet exhilarating atmosphere of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe before immigrating to Detroit to live with an aunt she hardly knows. As she adjusts to the realities of America, Darling learns to grow into her young adulthood by carefully observing the hardships, triumphs, and tenuous sense of freedom felt by those who have endeavored to begin a new life in an unfamiliar land.   With honesty, humor, and downright gorgeous prose, Bulawayo has crafted a powerful bildungsroman that illuminates the struggles and surprises Darling faces as she navigates her new home and reckons with dark and blissful memories of the country in which she began. 

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

21st CenturyImmigrant Narrative

The melancholy and unadorned loveliness of Brooklyn tells of both the promise and the heartbreak Ellis Lacey endures as she leaves her native Ireland for a chance to build a life in New York City. Though the novel centers around the relationship Ellis builds with a young Italian-American man, it Toibin’s depiction of the dueling forces of excruciating homesickness and the desire to learn and excel in a new country that makes Brooklyn such a lucid and moving portrait of human migration. 

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

21st Century Immigrant NarrativeGraphic Novel

Illustrator and novelist Thi Bui’s groundbreaking graphic novel tells the story of her family’s immigration from Vietnam to the United States in the late seventies. Through her haunting illustrations and poetic language, Bui lays bare the struggles her family faced as refugees and immigrants as well as her own navigation through the unfamiliar territory of first-time motherhood. 

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