FP Staff Picks: The Best Books about Migration


Weaving together narrative essay and bilingual poetry, Claudia D. Hernández’s lyrical debut follows her tumultuous adolescence and fraught homecomings as she crisscrosses the American continent.

Seven-year-old Claudia wakes up one day to find her mother gone, having left for the United States to flee domestic abuse and pursue economic prosperity. Claudia and her two older sisters are taken in by their great aunt and their grandmother, their father no longer in the picture. Three years later, her mother returns for her daughters, and the family begins the month-long journey to El Norte. But in Los Angeles, Claudia has trouble assimilating: she doesn’t speak English, and her Spanish sticks out as “weird” in their primarily Mexican neighborhood. When her family returns to Guatemala years later, she is startled to find she no longer belongs there either.

A harrowing story told with the candid innocence of childhood, Hernández’s memoir depicts a complex self-portrait of the struggle and resilience inherent to immigration today.

In celebration of this debut text, the FP team has gathered our recommendations of the best books about migration.



by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover (Europa Editions)

This lyrical novel translated from French chronicles the life of Kimiâ Sadr, who leaves Iran at the age of ten for France. It explores her sense of disorientation and alienation as she struggles with the dichotomies within her various identities as a daughter, sister, political refugee, and bisexual.


Esperanza Rising

by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Scholastic)

This YA classic tells the story of Esperanza, a thirteen-year-old girl who moves with her mother from Mexico to California during the Great Depression.


The Warmth of Other Suns

by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)

A masterful historical exploration of the Great Migration and its impact on the shaping of America and the world.


Slave Old Man

by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated by Linda Coverdale (The New Press)

An enigmatic old man lives enslaved on a Martinique plantation for decades. One day, he abruptly escapes without warning and is pursued by the slaveholder and his monstrous mastiff into the jungle, where the normal rules of mastery, ability, and species difference fade into the background. A gripping, surreal tale that above all conjures an urgent sense of movement toward freedom.


The Iliac Crest

by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker (Feminist Press)

This excavation of forgotten Mexican women writers illustrates how gendered language wields destructive power.


Night Sky with Exit Wounds

by Ocean Vuong (Copper Canyon)

This collection probes the still-raw wounds of the borders between both people and countries, and takes refuge in the borderless ecstasy of poetry.


Home Fire

by Kamila Shamsie (Riverhead)

A modern-day British Pakistani Antigone fights for the right to bury her brother on English soil, pitting herself against powerful enemies and the man she loves.


Woman Hollering Creek

by Sandra Cisneros (Random House)

This short story collection explores the lives of a varied cast of Chicana women living on the US-Mexico border.


I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika L. Sánchez (Random House Children's Books)

A coming-of-age YA novel that discusses the realities of immigrant life through the eyes of young Julia Reyes, who struggles to define herself under her conservative Mexican parents' expectations, while also trying to come to terms with the loss of her older sister, Olga, who'd been the family pride. Earnest and exacting, Sánchez doesn't pull any punches throughout Julia's emotional journey.


Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora

edited by Persis M. Karim (University of Arkansas Press)

This book is a collection of poetry and prose by real diasporic Iranian women. Whether brand-new immigrants or second-generation, these women describe their experiences and feelings toward Iran, the motherland, and the new places they occupy with tenderness, grief, and intrigue.


Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

by Cherríe Moraga (FSG)

In this intimate memoir about her mother, Cherríe Moraga writes about the continued effects of colonialism, border, and diaspora on her family, community, and self.


Though I Get Home

by YZ Chin (Feminist Press)

The winner of FP's premier Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, Though I Get Home brings us a cast of characters that move and shift their circumstances in search of a better, freer life. The book is a truly global work, complicating notions of border crossings, homecomings and homegoings, and belonging.



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Lucia Brown