Not all writers think of migrants as a “faceless brown mass”. Indeed, if there is one thing that readers should take away from the ill-fated release of the over-hyped American Dirt, it is that the stories of migrants and refugees have been and are continuing to be told by writers around the world, richly, with nuance, and without relying on trite stereotypes. We asked the authors of some of our favorite novels about immigrants and migration to recommend an alternative reading list to American Dirt. Here are their selections.
by Julia Carrie Wong, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Luis Alberto Urrea, Angie Cruz, Mohsin Hamid, Matt de la Peña, Dina Nayeri and Aida Salazar
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels is the Latinx novel that Oprah should have picked for her book club. The novel has it all – humor, history, politics, emotions, all packaged into a highly readable account of a Mexican American family that straddles the border of the United States and Mexico. This is the Great American Novel, if by “American” we mean the greater America that is both north and south of the border. Urrea is an expert on the border and migration, having spent years and many books exploring these topics. He combines that intimate knowledge with a master novelist’s flair to pull us into a family whose struggles have historical roots but whose feelings are ones that we all know – love, loss and longing.
Elaine Castillo’s America is Not the Heart has a special place in my heart because it’s set in the 408 – the area code for the south bay of the Bay Area. The Bay is dominated by San Francisco, but the 408 is the less than glamorous land of bedroom communities including Castillo’s Milpitas and my San Jose.