Traveling can be an exciting adventure, but not when you try to escape a problematic regime, poverty or abuse. To some, immigration is about survival – they simply want a place where they can survive, regardless of the conditions. To others, immigration is about a better life altogether – while there are no wars where they live, they still want better.

Whether you are thinking of going abroad or you simply like to see things from other points of view, here are some of the best-rated immigrant books on the market. Not only do you get to understand how someone else sees the world, but you also discover new cultures, a different approach and the need to adapt to different living conditions.

Being Authentic, by Morhaf Al Achkar

Looking inside at who you truly are is quite difficult. People often reflect over who they are and what their purposes are, but they have no idea how to find a solution. There is no such thing as authenticity training, but this book is pretty close to it.

The author talks about personal experience while struggling to survive with stage IV lung cancer, while he shares other cancer patients' experiences. The book is based on a plethora of interviews with other people, trying to figure out how these people cope with a deadly affection. But this memoir is more than a cancer memoir, it wants to answer how a Syrian immigrant could find his true self in the raw reality.

As you go through this book, you will discover dialogues, ideas, solutions and authentic profiles for a purposeful life. There is plenty of emotion shared in every page. Learn how to go through heartbreaks and achieve great successes. Discover the authenticity in yourself and learn how to make as much as possible from each day.

The Ungrateful Refugee, by Dina Nayeri

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be a refugee? Dina Nayeri will clear it out for you. With more than 25 million refugees out there, it feels like more than an actual country. Being a refugee means adjusting to a completely new lifestyle – a new culture, new habits, new people and new challenges.

On the same note, being a refugee also means having some gratitude for your new country. After all, a new culture has given you access to a new life. You have a new space and more opportunities than ever. When she was eight years old only, the author fled Iran. Her mother and father were next to her.

She ended up in a refugee camp in Italy. She managed to find asylum in the USA. Since then, she has made it to Princeton. This book shares a story and some points of view that lots of people are not really familiar with. It will tell you what kind of struggles a refugee has to go through and what it takes to survive.

In the Country We Love, by Diane Guerrero and Michelle Burford

Dianne Guarrero has made a name with Orange Is the New Black, as well as Jane the Virgin. Few people know that her life was quite challenging. She was 14 years old when part of her family got arrested and deported. She has managed to remain in the USA and go on with her education though. However, she depended on others. Friends and family took her in and helped her become who she is today.

This book provides a deeper insight into what it means to be a refugee – or better said, what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in the USA. There are more than 11 people in this situation only in the USA and they struggle to survive on a daily basis. Many of them are children and some of them have split families.

Written along with Michelle Burford, this memoir is more than just an insight into an immigrant’s life. It is also a motivational story of triumph. It will show you that some people can go the extra mile and make it big, even if their early years bring in a plethora of challenges. Simply put, it is the triumph over a system that fails millions of people.

The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande

Reyna Grande has two siblings. The whole family was left behind by her father in a tiny village of Mexico. The goal? Making it to the USA. He promised he will return eventually, but with enough money to ensure everyone can get a better life. He promised everyone a dream – but months and years pass and there are no changes.

Eventually, her mother was asked to come along too. The three siblings were left with their grandmother and had to look after each other. Her mother returned at some point. It was now Reyna’s turn to go along and meet her father after many years of absence. It was her turn to get on the other side and work for the family.

This memoir tells the world what Mexicans have to go through in order to get to the USA. The author’s tumultuous years are described in an emotional manner. She was aware of the risks she was taking, but she went for it anyway. These days, she is settled and ready to tell everyone how stressful such an experience can be.

Undocumented, by Dan-el Padilla Peralta

This is one of the most motivational immigrant books out there and tells the story of a boy who has finally made it. While he came from the Dominican Republic in a legal way, he soon realized that life in New York City is hard. When the visa expired, the father returned home, but the mother decided to stay and make it work for her two sons.

Her mother joined the homeless army in a shelter. Meanwhile, Dan-el met a volunteer from a wealthy family. He was fascinated by Dan-el’s passion for books. With a bit of help, the author has made it to a private school. This is when his life turned to 180 degrees. He managed to build a way between the rough shelter and a private school.

Later on, the author has finally made it to Princeton, where he showed everyone that it makes no difference where you come from – work hard and dreams will become a reality. This is the story of a boy who has experienced the American dream to the fullest. It is a dramatic story with lots of motivational moments and deep emotions.

Funny in Farsi, by Firoozeh Dumas

Firoozeh Dumas was only seven years old when her family moved from Iran to the USA. It happened in 1972. No one knew anything about the country. More family members joined the venture later on. They did have a few clues about the place because the father graduated in the USA, but that was pretty much it.

Funny in Farsi brings in the adventure of a family of immigrants who had to adapt to a completely new lifestyle. Her father was an engineer with big dreams – sadly enough, he was failed by his birth country, Iran. On the other hand, her mother was elegant and stylish, but she was never bothered about mastering English.

The story follows every family member’s adventure. It tops with the author’s adventure, who changed her name and became Julie later on. Later on, she had another cultural shock when she met and married a Frenchman. It is a positive story – emotional and sad at times, but happy overall and written in a good tone.

The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

The author has gone a long way to complete this masterpiece – one of the most detailed immigrant memoirs out there. It is not the story she wants to remember though. It was not the story she wanted to tell either. But one thing led to another and she realized that she has to make it public, express her thoughts and ideas like never before.

This adventure follows the author as she embarks on a trip to discuss with fellow undocumented immigrants. Furthermore, she tried to discover her role and purpose, as well as a way to go forward. This book floats from one idea to another. You discover the harsh realities some immigrants have to go through, but you also discover the author’s hassle to make it happen.

Some of the stories will simply shock you. Everyone is aware of these realities, but no one really pays attention to them. Undocumented immigrants are everywhere around, but people have no clue about them. For instance, the book will also introduce you to writers who have been recruited into the cleanup process of the 9/11 mess – federally funded. This shows how deeply rooted the problem is.

Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid

The action takes place in a country that is about to be torn apart by a war. Two young individuals meet and decide to stick together. Nadia is sensual, but she also has a sense of independence. Saeed is different – he is a bit restrained. The two fall in love, but the war and unrest will ruin their future plans. The nightmare begins and they need to do something, no matter what.

Bombs start falling around. There are checkpoints everywhere. Explosions shake the city a few times a day. As they try to survive, they learn about some doors. Everyone talks about them, but few actually know what is going on. These doors lead to the west and the young couple decides to join. They decide to leave everything behind – families, friends and lives – and step through one of these doors.

This is one of the most touching immigrant books out there. It follows two souls as they escape from the nightmare called home. They struggle to stick together, but they also try to maintain their personality. Will they manage to do it? Get ready to have your emotions float from loyalty and love to drama and anger – everything coming over to you at once.

Brother, I’m Dying, by Edwidge Danticat

This book follows the story, life and experience of a family. Edwidge Danticat has always seen her uncle as her second father. She loves her parents, but one thing leads to another and her parents end up leaving Haiti. They go to the USA, hoping to find a better life. Her uncle is left with her then – she has no other option but look after him.

The book goes through her early teenage years. As she reaches 12 years old, she finally has the opportunity to meet her parents again. She manages to get to New York City and start a new life. She missed her brothers as well, but she can barely remember her parents. While the prospect of a better life sounds great, she knows that she has to leave her life, her uncle and her place behind.

Things escalate quite quickly. Her uncle ends up in trouble with local mobs and an incorrect political system. He gets to the USA as well, hoping he will be safe. However, he ends up arrested for being an undocumented immigrant. He is detained and dies within days only. His bother – the author’s father – ends up dead shortly after too. This is a sad story that highlights some harsh realities in today’s society.

American Chica, by Marie Arana

Marie’s family comes from two different directions. Her father is Peruvian and he tries his best to raise her into a proper lady. On the other hand, her mother is American. Her mother’s side has taught her how to shoot guns, how to snap chicken necks and get food done. There are two completely different cultures and each of them comes with unique particularities – the author has struggled to keep between them, but she has managed.

As she immigrated to the USA, she ended up realizing that she is far from what a typical American would be like. She realized that she is somewhere in the middle – she simply did not fit in. Her identity failed her. The title of this book is perfect – she was an American chica.

This is one of the most detailed immigrant memoirs out there and not only. You get to discover the author's struggle as she tries to integrate, but you also discover the cultural differences between the two cultures. Most importantly, you will discover how two different people – the author's parents – have managed to overcome cultural tensions for more than half a century.

The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui

This is one of the best immigrant books on what it takes to make it. It is an illustrated memoir about the rush for a good future while keeping the past alive. The story is also a bit dramatic, as the author discusses the effects of displacement over a child. It all started in the 1970s, with the fall of South Vietnam.

At that point, everyone tried to flee the country and find a better life. Some people never made it. Some others did. This book will take you through the hassle associated with building a better life altogether. However, challenges went further than that.

This story is not just about fleeing Vietnam, but also about the author’s struggle as a first time mother. She learns that being a parent leads to countless sacrifices, as well as unspoken and deep love. Somehow, she has managed to get over all the difficulties and she is now ready to share her life with everyone.

Butterfly Boy, by Rigoberto González

This is a heartbreaking story that digs deeper into the difficulties immigrants have to face when moving to a better-rated country. It is also a poetic story with an intense personal sense. It stories a chicano who trades his old life for a new one, only to realize that the past can never be avoided.

The author has grown up around poor Mexican farmworkers. As if he did not have enough difficulties, he also realizes that he was gay – in a community that does not necessarily accept gay behaviors. He lost his mother when he was only 12 years old and he was abandoned by his father.

Eventually, Rigoberto González has managed to find a vocation as a writer. He has reevaluated his relationship with his father and he has found his identity in a mix of class, race and sexuality. From many points of view, this memoir leaves you with a deeply emotional state. However, overall, it has a positive ending that will motivate you to work to overcome all potential difficulties life throws at you.


As a short final conclusion, these are some of the most emotional immigrant books out there. Written by people who have faced the impossible, these books will show you what life looks like through an immigrant’s eyes. It will show you the challenges they have to face, as well as what it takes to beat all odds and become successful.

On another note, these immigrant memoirs could also be quite motivational. No matter how hard life seems to be, there is always a way out. It takes time to work it out, but it is totally worth it.

If you are into memoirs check out favorite YA and friendship memoirs.

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