Though there are many people who leave their home countries voluntarily, many more are forced out by harsh circumstances; a 2016 report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that every minute, 24 people are displaced from their homes, resulting in a record-breaking 65 million being forcibly displaced people around the world. The identities forged from this upheaval are constantly being negotiated and renegotiated as people resettle and acclimate to foreign environments. Despite being a nation built by immigrants—from our railways to the architectural design and construction of the White House—America’s leaders and foreign allies have recently chosen to attack immigrant communities around the world by enforcing a xenophobic policy. The welcoming attitude toward the poor, tired, and tempest-tost enshrined in the poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty has been replaced with a distinctly un-American hostility to difference.
Despite the adversity, centuries of historical precedent assure us that endurance is practically encoded in the DNA of immigrants, who are, in effect, cultural hybrids, forced to straddle worlds. Theirs is a story spanning continents and conflict zones, a story about internal battles and group trauma and barriers both real and imagined. This reading list gives shape and voice to the vast territory that is the immigrant experience.