Stories of immigration and identity

25 April 2017

Despite all the impassioned political discussion surrounding immigration in recent times, politicians rarely seem to delve into the personal stories behind the headlines. Here are a few of our favourite books exploring the experiences of those making their home in a new country or individuals investigating their own cultural identity. 

Have we missed your favourite? Let us know on Twitter @picadorbooks.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A love story which begins is Nigeria, then spins out into America and the UK as the lovers are divided by military rule in their home country, and reunited there fifteen years on.

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Antigona and Me by Kate Clanchy

Clanchy tells the story of her Kosovan nanny, and her escape from the violence of war and her marriage. The kitchen-table conversations of writer and subject form the heart of this unusual tale.

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The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon

A beautiful tribute to Sarajevo, football and childhood in the form of collected essays: caught in the States when the war broke out, Hemon brings the culture and nuances of Sarajevo into brilliant focus.

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 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

A masterful magist realist novel set in New Jersey, but concerning dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. The overweight and nerdy protagonist daydreams of love, fantasy and the family curse.

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Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan

Subtitled Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police, this is a first-hand account of Romanian oppression, and a deeply personal child’s eye view of a father’s rebellion, arrest and imprisonment.

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Call It Sleep by Henry Roth

New York’s Lower East Side is the setting of this 1934 story of Galician emigrants moving to what is effectively a Jewish ghetto.

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 The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

Tamil Trinidadian Sam Selvon was the first black British writer to tell the Windrush generation story of the 1950s. Homesickness and the search for love and work are the keynotes.

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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

A Bengali couple leave Calcutta for Boston, and reinvent their lives. The novel is an intimate portrait of two generations living and loving in the USA.

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Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay

Poet Jackie Kay takes a trip to Nigeria in search of her birth father in this warm but unsentimental journey into nature, nurture and identity.

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The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Chinese-American Hong Kingston delves into her mother’s past in this tale of a changing China in the 1940s. Fusing myth and memoir, The Woman Warrior is a classic of feminist writing.

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 A Way In The World by V. S. Naipaul

The Trinidadian master author of A House For Mr Biswas melds fiction, autobiography and history in this musing on the colonial legacy in the Caribbean.

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The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

Derbyshire-born author Sahota’s novel depicts a disparate group Indian people thrown together in a house in Sheffield, and focuses on the pressures and pains of illegal immigration.

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