Brooke Hauser's 6 favorite books about immigrants
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15). Fadiman spent nine years in Merced, Calif., documenting the culture clash between American doctors and Hmong refugees from Laos. At the center of the story is a little girl with severe epilepsy — a condition that her doctors want to treat with anti-convulsants, and that her parents attribute to the wandering of her soul.
What Is the What by Dave Eggers (Vintage, $16). Eggers channels the voice of real-life hero Valentino Achak Deng, one of Sudan's 20,000 "Lost Boys," who walked thousands of miles to escape civil war.
Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (Picador, $16). Roth was 28 when he wrote his debut novel, about a boy coming of age in the Jewish slums of New York's Lower East Side. Though it didn't sell many copies when it was first published, in 1934, Roth's portrayal of the Jewish immigrant experience is now an American classic.
The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Lê Thi Diem Thúy (Anchor, $15). "Linda Vista, with its rows of yellow houses, is where we eventually washed to shore." So begins this semiautobiographical novel about a young girl who flees Vietnam by boat and ends up in San Diego. Lê's lyrical and spare story brilliantly captures what it's like to mourn the loss of one's home country while searching for a place in America.
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (Vintage, $15). O'Neill, who was born in Ireland and raised in Holland, has written one of the most memorable works of fiction about life in New York City post-9/11. The Dutch narrator is a financial analyst who rediscovers a love of cricket while befriending a wily Trinidadian expat. The novel exposes the personal connections formed and lost in the aftermath of a crisis.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Riverhead, $15). Oscar Wao, a Dominican-American "ghetto nerd," hails from New Jersey, but he is haunted by fukú, a curse that has followed his family from Santo Domingo. Díaz's shatteringly original novel proves that sometimes, home is the strangest of strange lands.