7 YA Novels of Immigrant Experiences to Read This July 4th

If the past few weeks have made you wish for stories that center the hopes and fears of new arrivals in the US, the Independence Day holiday is a perfect chance to pick up a new release that delves into a story of immirgation to America.

Here are seven stories that center the experiences of young adult and teenage immigrants and their children. Several notable new releases from the past year have focused on the stories of uncodumented immigrants, a perspective rarely sccen in YA until the past few years.

In italics are publisher synopses. 


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The Sun Is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon

This one is already on my list of favorite reads of 2018, so I try to shoehorn it into any list I can. Luckily, it fits right in here.

Natasha is an undocumented immigrant from Jamacia. Daniel is a Korean-American son of immigrants. The world they inhabit is vibrant, diverse, and often painfully real in this tale of love, science, and serendipity.

As Natasha and Daniel grapple with the ramifications of their prospective interracial romance, Nicola Yoon takes time to zoom out from the couple, grounding their love story in the complex histories of their immigrant parents and blended cultures.

my review


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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter – Erika L. Sanchez

Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.

But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

tbr list


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Something in Between – Melissa de la Cruz

It feels like there’s no ground beneath me, like everything I’ve ever done has been a lie. Like I’m breaking apart, shattering. Who am I? Where do I belong?

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own.


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You Bring the Distant Near – Mitali Perkins

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.


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American Street – Ibi Zobio

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

tbr list


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Love, Hate, & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

my review


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The Astonishing Color of After – Emily X.R. Pan

This is one of the three books I’m currently reading, so I can only speak to the first third or so, but I am absolutely entranced so far. Gorgeous, rich prose full of colorful imagery and raw emotion.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.


What are your favorite YA stories of immigration and first-generation experiences?

 

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3 comments

    1. I read an interview with Emily X.R. Pan discussing the process of developing Leigh’s character. Pan herself is Taiwanese, but she still took the time to research the experiences of biracial Asian-Americans and talk to people she knows who have just one Taiwanese parent. The book shows so much care and respect for Leigh’s specific background and experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, that’s so cool! I didn’t know that. That’s so amazing to read that people cared to do their research, even if they have an idea of what it’s like.

        Like

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