These 12 great American books were written by immigrants


Is there anything more human than the urge to tell a story? Whether it’s gossip or the great American novel, a story is a glimpse into how someone else’s mind works, a slice of life we ​​may never have seen by ourselves- same.

You have to know: In fact, this urge to convey to someone else what we are going through is what drives many American immigrants to write. Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri explained why she writes when she said: “What attracted me to my profession was the desire to force the two worlds I occupied to mingle on the page. , because I was not brave enough, or mature enough, to allow in life. ”

The questions that immigrant writers from the United States address in their stories are American questions: what is American identity? How do I fit into this tapestry?

Right now, only 51% of Americans believe immigrants make the country stronger through their talents and hard work. However, these books are proof to the contrary.

1. Jacob Riis, How the other half lives (1890)

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When Riis emigrated from Denmark to New York in 1870, he saw the dangerous and unlivable conditions that many poor immigrants tolerated in the residential area of ​​the Lower East Side, and he wanted to expose this truth. What started as an article and some photographs in Scribe in 1889 became a book in 1890. The book captured images not only of the misery that immigrants faced, but also discussed the greed and neglect of the wealthy who owned the buildings. The then police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt, told him, “I read your book and came to help you.

The book also exposed the widespread use of sweatshops and dangerously cheap labor practices, while setting a groundbreaking precedent for muckraking journalism as it led to reforms in housing, work, education and l sanitation.

2. Junot Diaz, Oscar Wao’s Brief Wonderful Life (2007)

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Diaz emigrated from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey as a teenager to reunite with his father, who had worked in the United States throughout his childhood. While studying at Rutgers University, Diaz was exposed to Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros, authors whose work would eventually motivate him to become a writer.

Oscar Wao’s Brief Wonderful Life was published in 2007 and immediately received critical acclaim, winning the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book follows the life of Oscar De Leon, a Dominican boy obsessed with science fiction, fantasy genres and love.

Diaz sees a strong link between these genres and the immigrant experience. In a 2007 interview with Edwidge Danticat, Diaz said, “The X-Men meant a lot to me, because that’s what it really felt like to grow up bookish and smart in a poor urban community in central New Jersey. . ”

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3. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

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Nabokov, originally from Russia, emigrated to the United States in 1940 at the age of 41 to work as an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History. He started to write Lolita on butterfly collecting trips in the western United States

Lolita concerns the thirty-something professor Humbert Humbert and his attraction and sexual relations with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Dolores Haze, whom he calls Lolita. Humbert himself is a European living in the United States, and the book is peppered with observations on American culture from a European perspective. It is considered one of the best books of the 20th century, has been included on Times list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2010 and also made Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

4. Edwidge Danticat, Breath, eyes, memory (1994)

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Breath, eyes, memory chronicle Sophie Caco, who was raised by her aunt in Haiti before moving to New York to live with her mother, who still struggles with a traumatic rape, of which Sophie is the product. The story is based on Danticat’s own experiences as an immigrant.

The book was listed by Oprah’s Book Club four years after its publication in 1994. Danticat was subsequently appointed to Harper’s bazaar list “20 people in their twenties who will make a difference”, a list of the “15 bravest women of the year” in Jeanne magazine and “30 Under 30 Creative People to Watch” in the New York Times Magazine.

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5. Khaled Hosseini, The kite runner (2003)

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Hosseini grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, before settling in France at the age of 11. Her family moved to New York City to seek asylum four years later. Hosseini ended a 10-year medical career to pursue writing full-time after The kite runnerSuccess.

The story concerns young Amir, a boy from Kabul. Its background is made up of many tumultuous events that Hosseini’s family had fled: the Soviet military occupation, an exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban. The book spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including four weeks at # 1.

6. Jhumpa Lahiri, Disease Interpreter (1999)

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Lahiri was born in London to parents from West Bengal, India. She moved to the United States as a child and grew up in Kingstown, Rhode Island. Diseases was released in 1999 after years of editors’ rejection of its stories. The stories address issues such as marital difficulties, miscarriages and intergenerational discord in the lives of Indian immigrants.

In a News week trial, Lahiri spoke of his tenuous relationship with the term “Indian-American”. She said: “Like many descendants of immigrants, I felt an intense pressure to be two things, faithful to the old world and fluent in the new, approved on either side of the hyphen.”

Lahiri won the PEN / Hemingway Award for Best First Fiction Film of the Year and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Disease Interpreter.

7. Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy (1990)

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The 1990 novel Lucy begins when the main character enters the United States from the West Indies to work as a domestic helper for a wealthy white family. It’s a plot that resembles Kincaid’s own life. Born in 1949 in Antigua, Kincaid moved to Scarsdale, New York at the age of 16 to work. After taking classes at a community college and a brief stint at Franconia College, she moved to New York City, where she first wrote for a teenage magazine and then eventually for the Paris review and the New Yorker, where the first sketches of Lucy have found their first home.

Kincaid is now a professor at Harvard University and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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8. Chang Rae Lee, Native speaker (1995)

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Lee came to the United States from South Korea at the age of 3 and went on to earn his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon. After the novel’s resounding success, Lee began teaching in Hunter College’s prestigious Creative Writing Program.

Native speaker concerns Henry Park, a Korean-American industrial spy. It explores the feelings of isolation and alienation that many first generation immigrants may experience. Ultimately, the book deals with the difficult process of “becoming” American. The book has won numerous awards, including the Hemingway Foundation / PEN Award.

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9. Anzia Yezierska, Bread donors (1925)

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Yezierska moved to the Lower East Side of New York City with her Jewish family after arriving from Poland at a young age. She has spent her 50-year writing career exploring the plight of Jewish and Puerto Rican immigrants to the city.

Bread donors, published in 1925, is about a 10-year-old Jewish girl who has to contend with life in the immigrant enclave of apartment buildings on the Lower East Side. As the protagonist ages, she also explores her struggle with her Jewish identity. The novel deals with the confrontation between new and old immigrants, and between immigrants and natives.

10. Cristina Garcia, dream in cuban (1992)

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Cristina Garcia was born in Havana, but her family moved to the United States when she was 2 years old. After graduating in political science and working for Time as a journalist and researcher, Garcia turned to writing fiction. she published dream in cuban in 1992. She later told Chicago Tribune, “I surprised myself at how Cuban the book was. She added: “I don’t remember growing up with a yearning for Cuba, so I didn’t realize how Cuban I was, how deeply I had a feeling of exile and longing. . ”

The novel centers on three generations of the same Cuban family: a daughter, a mother and a grandmother. Cuban history, culture and Santeria are also essential elements of the novel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

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11. Art Spiegelman, Maus (1991)

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Spiegelman emigrated from Sweden in 1951 at the age of 3. Spiegelman studied art and philosophy and, influenced by CRAZY magazine, began a career in comics.

Spiegelman began interviewing his father about his memories of the Holocaust for Maus, a graphic novel with two chronologies. One thread concerns the present and depicts the conversation of Spiegelman and his father, while the other depicts the events of the Holocaust using different animals to represent different races: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, and Non-Jewish Poles are pigs.

The book was a huge success and became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

12. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003)

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After the conservative Islamic revolution imposed stricter laws in her home country of Iran, Nafisi found herself in conflict with the university faculty over the books she wanted to teach – books like Lolita. After quitting her job, Nafisi invited students from her class to meet at her home once a week to discuss the books.

Nafisi came to America in 1997 and wrote Read Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in the Books. The book spent 117 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and won numerous awards. that of London Times also named it one of the “100 best books of the decade”.

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