Friday Reading Rainbow: Immigrant Lit

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Friday Reading Rainbow.” Of course, I’ve been reading, but not as much or as deeply as I would have liked. Now that we’re settling into the cozy time of year, I expect to have a little more lamplit armchair time to myself.

In the meantime, two books to mention:

Girl in Translation
Jean Kwok

In some ways, a classic immigrant story. Kimberly faces poverty, discrimination, exploitation, and being an outsider. She eventually succeeds spectacularly in many ways, though with an interesting complication of her story in matters of the heart.

You might like this book if you enjoy honest first-person narration. Kimberly’s voice is fresh and engaging. At the same time, the writing didn’t blow me away. I thought at times there was too much explication of meaning in the reader’s direction, and some parts felt repetitive. I would definitely recommend this to my students, because although it’s not a young adult book, it’s a coming-of-age story and would suit a high school reading level.

The House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros

Hailed as a classic of Chicano literature– but why don’t we just say of American literature, because this book is as American as you can get. The story of Esperanza who doesn’t like her name, in a house she wants to trade in for a home, on a street where Louie’s cousin steals a car and Lucy and Rachel get cat-called for wearing cute shoes, is at once familiar to anyone who grew up in a neighborhood.

So I’m wondering….  is the fiction of immigration and immigrants uniquely suited to telling stories of growing up, of learning how to belong, of protesting and rebelling and adapting? Or am I more interesting in these stories because they are not my experience, because I find my own coming-of-age to be tinted too pale with suburban stereotypes?  I think that these days I’m looking especially hard for reasons to hopefully believe in America and Americans, and these stories of young people are the ones that draw most light.

Some of the best immigration fiction that I’ve read recently:

Til the Well Runs Dry
Lauren Francis-Sharma

The Book of Unknown Americans
Cristina Henriquez

The Kitchen God’s Wife
Amy Tan

The Woman Warrior
Maxine Hong-Kingston

 

 

 

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