Incredible Stories of Immigration to America From Around the World

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Since the beginning of our young republic, the United States of America has been recognized as a nation of immigrants. America is a rich melting pot of people from every country around the world, where the freedom to become a citizen and pursue happiness, regardless of race or ethnicity, has served as the bedrock of our ideals. The following books share the struggles of immigrants who risked everything to be part of this unique democracy.

Enrique’s Journey

Enrique's Journey

Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario, is the harrowing true story about a son’s desperate attempt to reunite with his mother after their separation. When the 17-year- mother leaves Enrique and his siblings in Honduras to find work in the United States, it is so she can feed her family. Enrique decides to search for her on his own despite great danger, traveling across Mexico with little food, and hopping trains even as he encounters violent banditos and corrupt officials. He finally enters the United States, but is deported several times before he is able to reside there permanently. This tale of courage, determination, and love depicts the challenges faced by immigrant children after being separated from their parents.

The Devil’s Highway

The Devil's Highway

The Devil’s Highway, by Urrea Luis Alberto, is a non-fiction book that recounts the dangerous trek of 26 Mexican migrants crossing the United States border. The true story describes in tragic detail the challenges they face traveling through a desolate stretch of desert called the “Devil’s Highway” in order to avoid border patrol and tougher immigration enforcement. After getting lost, 14 of the travelers die from heat stroke or hypothermia due to the extreme weather conditions. This loss of life has a profound impact on not only the group of remaining migrants, but the Border Patrol that discovers them.

The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon,  is a young adult novel about love, fate and immigration. The protagonist is Natasha, a Jamaican-American teen, who meets and falls in love with Daniel, a Korean-American, in New York, on the same day she and her family are facing deportation. Natasha resists being forced to leave the United States while Daniel is on his way to a college admissions interview at Yale. A romance develops between the two teenagers as their lives are about to drastically change. They focus on God’s plan for their own lives, even as they inevitably intersect with the lives of others.

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, is an inspiring story about an affluent Mexican girl’s migration to the United States in the 1920s. Esperanza has an idyllic life living on a large and successful vineyard in Mexico until her father’s sudden death at the hands of bandits. Due to Mexican laws unfavorable to rich landowners, Esperanza and her mother are stripped of their property and forced to flee to America. Esperanza must come to terms with poverty and learn the importance of familial ties, as she faces the difficulty of earning a living in a migrant camp.

Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy

Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See, takes place in the 1950’s and is told from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old, Joy, and her adoptive mother, Pearl. After Joy’s adoptive father hangs himself, she naïvely steals her college fund and runs away to China, hoping to find her birth parents and the true meaning of life. The communist government has sent her birth father, an artist, to live with peasants in the countryside. Joy travels with her father, Z.G., to their new home where they will work collectively among the peasants. Although Joy misses the conveniences of America, she enjoys her new home, eventually falling in love with a promising young artist named Tao. After suffering terrible setbacks, as well as becoming a mother, Joy discovers her true sense of identity.

Of Beetles and Angels

Of Beetles & Angels

Of Beetles and Angels, by Mawi Asgedom, is the true story about Selamawi Haileab Asgedom, or Mawis, as he journeys from a refugee camp in Sudan to America, where he is eventually accepted to Harvard. As a young boy, Mawi is taken on a dangerous trek through the desert to reach a refugee camp in Sudan. Eventually, his family arrives in Chicago with the help of the World Relief Christian organization outreach. With the church sponsorship, Mawi’s family settles in a suburb where he overcomes the challenges of cultural differences, language barriers, and poverty. Through hard work and his father’s influence, he becomes a Harvard graduate.

What Is the What

What Is the What

What Is the What, by David Eggers, is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who travels from Southern Sudan to United States. The author tells the story of Deng, mixing fictional and non-fictional elements. The protagonist faces many dangers during his journey through Africa, including disease, wild animals, and corrupt soldiers. While suffering from hunger and illness, Deng and many other refugees walk through his war-torn country to reach refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. After eventually arriving in America, he is robbed and forced to contend with more challenges and hardships as an impoverished immigrant.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Brooklyn, Colm Tóibín, is a historical romance novel set in New York City. The fictional story follows a young Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey, from her hometown of Enniscorthy, Ireland, to America after World War II. After arriving alone and settling in Brooklyn, Eilis dreams of finding steady work that was unavailable to her back in Ireland. Eventually, she finds a job at a department store during the day and begins taking evening classes to study bookkeeping in the evening. When she discovers a new love interest, a family tragedy strikes and she is forced to revaluate the new life she has created for herself in America. She must choose between independent self-discovery and the familiar life she left behind.

 

The Namesake

The Namesake

The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a novel that follows the life of Gogol Ganguli as he struggles to discover his place in the world as a second-generation immigrant in the United States. In his youth, he finds it difficult to deal with the unusual name and traditions his parents have passed on to him. However, as Ganguli grows older, he begins to appreciate what his parents sacrificed to move to America from India and the difficulties they faced in their adopted country. He eventually strikes a peaceful balance despite being caught between two conflicting cultures with very different social, religious, and ideological differences.

America Is in the Heart

America Is in the Heart

America Is in the Heart, by Carlos Bulosan, is an autobiography about the Filipino-American poet and activist. It follows the author’s life as a poor young man growing up with his father on a farm in the Philippines, while his mother and siblings must live separately in another city to survive. His story continues with his migration to America in the 1930s, where he hopes to find a better life. Instead, the author discovers a land torn apart by racism and its exploitation of workers. Bulosan details the plight of migrant laborers and his struggles with inequality. Despite his negative experiences and difficulties, he grows to love America and has hope for a better future in his adopted country.

Revolutionary Women Who Defied Authority to Win Freedom

Liberty Leading the People BookRags

The price of freedom was paid not only by our forefathers but those brave women who, through struggle and resistance, paved the way for all of us. This Fourth of July, let’s celebrate the courage of revolutionary women who refused to accept the societal expectations of their time; many are still fighting for freedom today.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai grew up in Pakistan advocating for the rights of girls to acquire an education in her homeland. Unfortunately, this revolutionary belief made her a target. In 2012, after leaving school, she was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban in retaliation for her support of young girls like herself in the pursuit of education. After making a full recovery in Britain, Yousafzai decided to stand up to the fundamentalist political group instead of living in fear or hiding. Her story brought world-wide attention and support from the United Nations, leading her to write about her ordeal in the book, I am Malala. It became an international best seller. Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and continues to inspire through her activism and fight for the rights of children and women around the world.

Angela Yvonne Davis

Angela Davis

Angela Yvonne Davis is an American author, professor and political activist fighting for the rights of the oppressed. In her youth she was one of the leaders of the Black Liberation movement and opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. As a lesbian and black feminist, she supports gay rights and speaks out against racism and sexism, fighting against the exclusion and subordination of women and people of color throughout American society. In 1997, she co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization that works to abolish a corrupt private- and state-run prison system, which has been the focus of her activism in recent years. Davis continues to be an advocate for social and education reform to address homelessness and incarceration and has criticized the broken immigration system.

Bessie Head

Bessie Head

Bessie Head is one of the most influential Botswanan writers of the 20th century. She was born to an affluent white woman and black servant in South Africa, in 1937. During this time, interracial relationships were against the law, so her life was controversial from the beginning. Head was raised in an orphanage after her mother committed suicide. Then, at the age of twelve, she attended an Anglican boarding school for black girls which changed her life. Introduced to the world of books, she eventually became a teacher and journalist. The heavy burden of being a child of an interracial relationship in apartheid South Africa took its toll, and Head decided to migrate to Botswana. She then focused on racial issues and politics, along with the psychological trauma of divisions among human beings. Growing up interracial, without a family, and eventually without a country, profoundly influenced her life and writing. Despite these challenges, Head tried to rise above divisions between human beings and resists being labeled “feminist,” “black,” “African,” or “revolutionary” writer.

Harriet Tubman

Born into slavery in 1822, Harriet Tubman endured cruel beatings until she escaped from her abusive slave owner in Maryland in her early 20s. Although she made it to the North, it was not long before Tubman returned to Maryland to help free her relatives. She subsequently began helping more slaves escape by setting up daring raids in the South and establishing links with the Underground Railroad. Tubman continued these efforts in South Carolina during the Civil War, creating a spy ring to transition former slaves into a new life of freedom. Eventually, after the war, she set up a charity in Auburn, New York, to aid neglected African Americans. She also joined the women’s suffrage movement before she died in 1913, concluding a long life of heroism and activism.

Deborah Sampson Gannett

Deborah Sampson Gannett BookRags

Deborah Sampson Gannett was a Massachusetts woman who was born into hardship. At age 22 she changed her name to Robert Shurtlieff and enlisted into the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Initially she was detected after disguising herself as a male soldier, but eventually was able to pass herself off as a man and fight alongside male soldiers. Gannett was granted a uniform and military equipment, then marched with 50 other recruits to West Point, New York. Her secret was finally discovered by a doctor after she was wounded by a musket in Tarrytown, New York, in 1782. She received an honorable discharge, then went back to her home in Massachusetts. After being rejected by her Baptist church for impersonating a male soldier, she married a man and had three children. She faded into obscurity, but not before sharing her adventures on a speaking tour in 1802.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft BookRags

Mary Wollstonecraft was a revolutionary English writer, philosopher and feminist in the late eighteenth century. Controversial in her time, she wrote about feminist principles and held radical views on the American and French revolutions. She is best known for her treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The book, first published in 1792, was a scandal as it advocated for women’s education and equality. It remains a fundamental text of Western feminism and continues to contribute to modern social thought. Wollstonecraft’s inspiration for her writings most likely stemmed from a difficult childhood of family instability. She endured her father’s alcoholic abuse towards her mother and frequent moves around England due to her family’s financial troubles. Eventually she married William Godwin, but then died of complications from the birth of her second daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Her daughter was heavily influenced by her mother’s writings, carrying on her beliefs and penning the now canonical novel, Frankenstein.

Marie Antoinette

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Marie Antoinette is best known for excesses that inspired a radical revolution. Initially, the young queen from Austria was well liked when she married the prince who would eventually ascend to the throne as King Louis XVI. However, after a reported affair, expensive spending habits, and military support for France’s enemies in Austria, the tide started to turn against the once-beloved queen. The royal couple’s popularity plummeted as they and the rest of the royal family bought expensive clothes and jewelry for elaborate celebrations, while many French people suffered in poverty. Accused and convicted of depleting the treasury and high treason by revolutionaries, she was condemned to die by guillotine like her husband in 1793. Both were buried in unmarked graves. The deaths of many more at court finally subsided with the end of the French monarchy and then the French Revolution that finally concluded in 1802.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was a 17-year-old illiterate peasant who claimed to receive ominous spiritual visions in the early 15th century. Her courage and faith helped her convince the uncrowned King Charles VII of France to let her go to war against England. Her perseverance and tactical strategy turned the siege in France’s favor despite their having endured several devastating defeats at Orléans during the Hundred Years’ War. Eventually, after several engagements with the enemy, Joan of Arc was captured by the English two years later. She was tried, found guilty of being a heretic, and burned at the stake for the crime of crossing-dressing in male military clothing. Despite the damning label, she became known as a heroine and patron saint who changed the tide of a war that would eventually deliver her country out of the control of enemy hands.

Must-Read Books About Extraordinary Teachers and Their Journeys

Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan BookRags

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Day on May 8, we share inspiring narratives about extraordinary teachers, acknowledging their remarkable experiences as educators and celebrating their tireless dedication to students.

The Miracle Worker

The Miracle Worker

The Miracle Worker, by William Gibson, is based both on Helen Keller’s autobiography and the letters written by Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan. An extraordinary educator, Sullivan was able to connect with her young deaf and blind student in incredible ways. Sullivan taught Keller to better communicate despite Keller’s overwhelming disabilities, showing her the meaning of language by signing into her hand. This work took patience and a unique sensibility that others in Keller’s life lacked. The result was an incredible breakthrough that led to an enduring bond between teacher and student. Sullivan and Keller became lifelong companions and friends who would both find much success in literary and academic fields.

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society is a fictional story about a group of high school boys at a wealthy private school and the English teacher, John Keating, who changes their lives. Keating challenges both the school’s conservative curriculum and his students’ expectations by exposing them to classic works of literature, showing them how literature applies to their own lives. He encourages them to be free thinkers and focus on their creative instincts rather than the regimented and traditional methods of studying. Part of their unconventional education involves the discovery of a secret club known as the Dead Poets Society that Keating established when he was a young student at the school. Inspired by their teacher, the boys revive the club’s traditions and meet in a cave, where their journeys of self-discovery lead to unintended consequences.

The Freedom Writers

The Freedom Writers Diary

The Freedom Writers Diary is a non-fiction book about a group of at-risk students who are taught how to journal by a first-year English teacher, Erin Gruwell. Inviting her class to draw inspiration from such books as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Gruwell helps her students write about their own tumultuous lives. The Freedom Writers Diary is told from different perspectives. The students’ entries are anonymous and are often conveyed in dramatic and emotional tones. As the students progress from freshmen to seniors, their writing styles mature and develop, demonstrating the way that their education has prepared them for college acceptance.

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie is a true story about the lasting bond between a student, Mitch Albom, and his revered college professor, Morrie Schwartz. After college, Albom abandons his dream of becoming a professional musician and eventually works as a sports columnist instead. Years later, Schwartz, who is dying, reconnects with his former student who feels like a failure. Reuniting after 16 years, they decide to meet every Tuesday to share life experiences and memories. Over the course of several weeks both men reflect on life’s lessons and the natural occurrence of death as part of life. The professor’s final instruction to his student has a profound effect on both men.

To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher

To Teach

Bill Ayers’s book, To Teach, is a nonfiction book about education reform drawn from the author’s personal experiences. Ayers is known for his prominence as a political leader in Chicago and his support of President Barack Obama’s political career. His groundbreaking arguments about the flaws of the public school system have gained popularity over the years. He insisted that school systems are too bureaucratic and rigid, thus hindering the creativity and personal development of students. Believing that standardized tests risked de-humanizing students, he touted the importance of teachers instructing interactively and holistically, while respecting the individuality of each and every student.

Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year

Educating Esme

Educating Esme, by Esme Raji Codell, is drawn from journal entries written during Codell’s first year teaching at-risk students at an urban school. Codell delves into her day-to-day observations and emotions as she attempts to help troublesome teenagers and navigate the expectations of dysfunctional parents and colleagues alike. Codell describes the difficulty of maintaining her optimism as she tries to reason with both administrators and students. Her enthusiasm is unshakable as she devises new and creative ways to battle the bureaucrats and motivate the children to learn.

Push

Push

Push, by Sapphire, is a novel about a 16-year-old girl, Precious, struggling to overcome insurmountable odds with the help of her rigorous teacher, Ms. Rain, at a special school for abused girls. Ms. Rain supports Precious’ journey of self-discovery by helping her face the consequences of her parents’ sexual abuse and encouraging her to cultivate a positive self-image.  With the help of her new support network, Precious begins to make major changes in her life and commits to following a different path. Under her teacher’s guidance she empowers herself to pursue an education and take better care of her son, refusing to follow in her mother’s tragic footsteps.

Literary Soulmates Who Influenced Each Other Through the Ages

Jack London and Charmian Kittredge - Litarary Soulmates

Many romantics believe love conquers all, but can love also create legends? Possibly, especially if passionate partners also share a passion for the writing life. Here are 10 inspiring couples who wrote extraordinary books as literary soulmates while romancing each other—shaping not only their partners’ hearts but the most influential literary works of all time.

Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss

Jonathan Foer and Nicole Krauss

Authors Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss married in 2004 and were together for ten years. During the early years of this celebrated New York couple’s relationship, reviewers noted the similarities in the story lines of their second novels—Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Krauss’ The History of Love. Although the couple denies comparisons, both books do nostalgically address World War II and a child’s loss of his father. Krauss reflected on their relationship and parallels of their lives as literary soulmates: “First, it has to do with why we love each other, long before we ever get to the fact that we’re writers or write about similar things. I think we come from such a similar place. His grandmother survived the Holocaust. I think we intuited a lot of the same things in the silences of our childhood.”

Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt

Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt BookRags

Paul Auster, author of The New York Trilogy married another acclaimed novelist, Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World, in 1982, after they met at a poetry reading the previous year. Both penned these and other important novels during their marriage. Among them was Auster’s Leviathan, in which he used the narrator, Iris, from Hustvedt’s earlier novel, The Blindfold. Reflecting on meeting his wife the first time, Auster playfully said, “Siri likes to say it was love at first sight, but it wasn’t for me. For me, it took about, oh, I don’t know, 10 minutes.”

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne BookRags

Novelists John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion married in 1964 after a long courtship starting in the late 1950s. They wrote and travelled together throughout their relationship, constantly collaborating as literary soulmates. They edited one another’s best work, including Dunne’s highly acclaimed, The Studio and Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem. In Didion’s autobiography, The Year of Magical Thinking, after Dunne’s death, she recalls her life with the famous author and the heartache involved in losing him and their only child. “We imagined we knew everything the other thought,” she writes, “even when we did not necessarily want to know…”

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky BookRags

The first meeting between beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his lifetime love, Peter Orlovsky, in 1954, is a story of life imitating art. Ginsberg was in an old Victorian apartment in San Francisco when his host, the artist, showed him a nearly life-size painting, Nude with Onions. Ginsberg was immediately struck by the beauty of the boy in the painting. The model and young Adonis, Orlovsky, happened to be in the next room. He became not only Ginsberg’s life partner, but also the muse of his poetry; Ginsberg would publish the work that would define his generation—Howl and Other Poems—just two years after they moved in together

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Gertrude Stein Alice B Toklas BookRags

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Modernist writer Gertrude Stein announces the impossibility of its own existence; clearly one cannot write another’s “autobiography,” and yet this nonsensical task is exactly what Stein sets out to do. The novel playfully and arrogantly features the character of Gertrude Stein as one of the three “geniuses” whom Alice has met. At the same time, The Autobiography is absolutely affectionate in the way it pays tribute to the lovers’ lives among Parisian artists in the 1930s. The two frequently hosted other Modernist writers and painters, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and many, many others.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir BookRags

Renowned French philosopher and existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre wrote No Exit and many other literary works while in a life-long open relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, beginning in 1929. De Beauvoir is the accomplished author and feminist most famously known for her book, The Second Sex as well as The Ethics of Ambiguity. Although they never married, the writers were in a committed relationship for over 50 years. Beauvoir wrote of her companion as her soulmate, “We were two of a kind, and our relationship would endure as long as we did: but it could not make up entirely for the fleeting riches to be had from encounters with different people.” Still, they read and edited the other’s work with the same respect and love they had for each other.

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West BookRags

In 1928, Virginia Woolf famously based her novel Orlando on her lover (and fellow writer) Vita Sackville-West, whose son declared the work “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.” Less well known as a writer, Sackville-West curiously wrote a match-sized book for the Queen Mary’s dollhouse several years before the publication of Woolf’s novel; the tiny artifact has only recently been published as a life-sized book. The story was one of 200 “volumes” housed in the dolls’ house and featured a “sprite,” a mischievous time traveler, who donned the fashions of various historical epochs. In Woolf’s novel, Orlando likewise moves fluidly through time, shifting easily between genders and among costumes. So while literary history believes Sackville-West to be the basis for Woolf’s novel, Orlando likely has a source in the dollhouse book.

Jack London and Charmian Kittredge

Jack London with Charmian Kitteridge, BookRags

Jack London was a prolific writer, penning numerous classics, including White Fang, that were based on his real-life adventures as a seafarer and gold prospector in Alaska during the late 1800s and early 1900s. His mistress turned wife, Charmian Kittredge, was his typist and editor. She helped London meet his deadlines by organizing his work after his morning ritual of typing 1,000 words per day. We know much about London from her daily diary entries. Kittredge was not only his inspiration but constant companion on sailing adventures across the Pacific Ocean. She also accompanied him on his travels by train on lecture and book tours throughout the United States, in the early 1900s. They had a true passion for each other. London enjoyed her spirit for adventure and lust for life that matched his own. In a love letter to her, he proclaimed those sentiments: “But You, You, who are so much more, who know life and have looked it squarely in the face, who are open-eyed and worldly wise, and mature in thought and knowledge.” In another letter he expressed, “Dear, sweet Love, you are mine, I am yours.”

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barret Browning

Elizabeth Barret Browning and-Robert Browning BookRags

Victorian poets Robert Browning, author of My Last Duchess, and Elizabeth Barret Browning were married in secret, in 1846. Their dedication to each other and their craft were shared in countless letters and noted by close friends. They produced significant work during their passionate relationship as literary soulmates that included Barret Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Sonnet XXIX. Her most famous Sonnet 43, in Sonnets from the Portuguese, was written for her husband with the famous opening verse, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Peter Abelard and Heloise d’Argenteuil

Abelard and Heloise BookRags

Peter Abelard was a medieval scholar from the eleventh and twelfth centuries who wrote numerous works on philosophy and theology. The love affair between him and his student Heloise d’Argenteuil—an intelligent writer, scholar and feminist—had serious consequences for them both. Although they were married in secret and had a son together, they were ultimately forced apart by Heloise’s uncle who had Abelard castrated for not fulfilling his marital obligations to his niece. After the couple separated, she became a nun and he a monk in separate monasteries. They continued their love affair through correspondence—in The Letters of Abelard and Heloise—expressing their deep feelings for each other and regrets. Despite her dedication to the church, Heloise could not deny her longing for Abelard as expressed in one of her letters: “In my case, the pleasures of lovers which we shared have been too sweet—they cannot displease me, and can scarcely shift from my memory. Wherever I turn they are always there before my eyes, bringing with them awakened longings and fantasies which will not even let me sleep.”