Help me build a diaspora/immigrant experience lifetime to-read list
May 17, 2014 3:57 PM   Subscribe

After finishing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Americanah," and thinking about how I loved Zadie Smith's "White Teeth," and Hanif Kureishi's "Buddha of Suburbia," I'm finding I want to read more immigration/diaspora/post-colonial literature. Please help me build a lifetime reading list. All geographies welcome. I am very deliberately trying to read more women authors in 2014 and beyond, too.
posted by mostly vowels to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
What about Typical American and Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:25 PM on May 17, 2014

Some of Jhumpa Lahiri's short stories are beautifully poignant and really capture the 2nd-generation experience. Hell-Heaven is one of my favorites.
posted by krakus at 4:44 PM on May 17, 2014

Here are a few books that would fall into this category:

Leila Ahmed - A Border Passage
Randa Jarrar - A Map of Home
Marjane Satrapi - Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
posted by LNM at 4:50 PM on May 17, 2014

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee

Searching for that novel lead me to this list which might be useful.
posted by vespabelle at 5:02 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Helen Oyeyemi is very good, and her first novel, Icarus Girl, fits your question perfectly, though it is not my favourite of her books (that would be White is for Witching). Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is a very postcolonial take on a colonial story—a religious American family goes to Africa to save the heathens and it goes very badly for them. Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things is a very good novel set in India. these are the first ones I thought of. now I am going to look at my bookshelf...
posted by spindle at 8:33 PM on May 17, 2014

and I think I got most of the most interesting ones in my first answer. Rawi Hage's Cockroach is a really good immigrant story (except that I didn't like the ending). and if Europeans displaced after or because of WW2 are of interest, Clarice Lispector, Witold Gombrowicz and Thomas Mann are all worth researching.

and if Native American experiences of colonialisation fit, Josepg Boyden's Through Black Spruce and Leanne Simpson's Islands of Decolonisation are both good.
posted by spindle at 8:44 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: a good resource is the Three Percent blog—they review world literature translated into English and a lot of what they write about could be an answer to this question.
posted by spindle at 8:48 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I liked All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestu, which is about an immigrant to America from Ethiopia, by way of Uganda.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:49 PM on May 17, 2014

Anything by Akhil Sharma, for sure.

And of course, Grace Paley for Diaspora Jews in New York.
posted by escabeche at 9:09 PM on May 17, 2014

Lisa See's On Gold Mountain
posted by brujita at 9:16 PM on May 17, 2014

Derek Walcott.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:25 PM on May 17, 2014

Eva Hoffman's Lost in Translation follows a teenager from Soviet-occupied Poland to Montreal, BC, and eventually, Cambridge MA. It's about the translation across continents and what it's like to shift from fluency in one language to another.
posted by Jesse the K at 8:22 AM on May 18, 2014

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a non-fiction book about Hmong immigrants in America, and specifically the story of a severely epileptic Hmong girl and her family's encounters with the US medical system.
posted by permiechickie at 5:20 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can only personally recommend Nervous Conditions and The God of Small Things but this list looks like it has a bunch of other books that fit your criteria.
posted by mosessis at 12:11 AM on May 19, 2014

Judy Fong Bates' Midnight at the Dragon Cafe is the story of a young Chinese girl who immigrates with her mother to a small town in Canada in the 1950s. Her father is already there and soon her older half brother joins them as well.
posted by soelo at 3:59 PM on June 17, 2014

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