These 5 YA Novels About Immigration Should Be Mandatory Reading For Everyone

by Kerri Jarema

If you've been paying even a modicum of attention to the news or social media lately, you'll know that the immigration issue in the U.S. has reached dire proportions as children are being separated from their parents at the Southern border and being held in immigration detention centers. Under the Trump Administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in early April that there would be a "zero tolerance policy" for illegal immigration — since then, according to an article in The Guardian records show that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults between April 19 and May 31. Citizens from both sides of the politial spectrum, and from various religious and family advocacy groups have all spoken against this cruel and inhumane policy. And three acts — Keep Families Together Act, Fair Day In Court For Kids Act and the Help Children Separated Act — have all been brought to the forefront.

It is more important than ever to educate yourself on immigration issues through news and books about the immigrant experience. Below are five YA books that all deal with immigration and immigrants in some way. All five books highlight the struggles that immigrant families deal with as they risk everything to escape dire circumstances and create a better life for themselves and their children and celebrate the hope, the beauty, and the vibrant culture they bring to their adopted countries.

'American Street' by Ibi Zoboi

American Street begins with Fabiola and her mother arriving in Detroit from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, only for them to be separated when Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration. What follows is an unflinching portrayal of Fabiola's life in the U.S., as she attempts to navigate her loud American cousins, the grittiness of her new neighborhood, a new school, and more — all on her own. Never more relevant than now, this look at what it's like for children to be separated from their parents in a strange new world is a must-read.

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'I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter' by Erika L. Sanchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a heartwrenching, and at times difficult to read, account of a Mexican immigrant family living in the U.S. It painfully chronicles the many ways families suffer to immigrate, struggle to hold on to old traditions and embrace the new, and the extreme expectations that immigrant parents can have for their children. If you ever wanted to the harsh truths of immigrant life, this is the book you need to read.

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'You Bring the Distant Near' by Mitali Perkins

This family saga follows five girls across three generations and explores the inheritance of culture. Rane is worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia is wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara is seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti is desperately trying to make peace in the family; and Anna is fighting to preserve her Bengali identity. This book is moving look at the struggle to adapt to a new country while holding on to beloved traditions.

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'The Sun Is Also A Star' by Nicola Yoon

Though The Sun is Also a Star is without a doubt a book about romance and serendipity, it also takes a crucial look at both immigration and expectations for the children of immigrants in the U.S. The day before Natasha and her family are set to be deported to Jamaica, she meets Korean-American Daniel. Over the course of one day, these two learn about each other and each other's unique experience as an immigrant or as the child of immigrants.

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'The Lines We Cross' by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Randa Abdel-Fattah explores the refugee crisis in Australia through the eyes of Michael, native Australian, and Mina, a Muslim refugee from Aghanistan. Amid the refugee debate in their country heats up — thanks in no small part to Michael's father's anti-immigrant group — Michael and Mina must decide where they stand on the issue.

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