Middle Grade Immigration Stories

You’ll never understand a person’s hardships until you walk a mile in their shoes. For most of us, the closest we can get is through a book that tells their story. From the difficult journey to the cultural barriers to the racism, immigrants must have guts of steel to make it in a new land.

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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This is the harrowing tale of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. Most of the workers were young immigrant women who worked 12 hours a day, every day, for meager wages. On the day of the fire the doors were locked, preventing escape. Nearly 150 people died in the fire.

Esperanza Rising by Pamela Munoz Ryan

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At home on her father’s estate in Mexico, Esperanza leads a privileged life. When her father is murdered and her uncle takes over the estate, she and her mother flee to California. Living on a work farm in a house fit for horses, Esperanza must learn acceptance, compassion and patience.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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When it becomes clear that south Vietnam has lost the war, Ha’s family decides to move to America rather than live life under communist rule. They leave behind their family and culture to tackle a new life in Alabama. Unable to speak English, they are subjected to bullying and racism in the mid 1970s American South. Based on the author’s childhood.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

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When Mia’s father loses his restaurant job, they move to Anaheim, CA to manage a motel. At first it seems like a dream job, but the owner, Mr. Yao, cares nothing for their circumstances or livelihood. He only wants to maximize his own profit. Mia works the front desk. When she does the math, she sees how much Mr. Yao is making and is determined to “get off her roller coaster” and onto the good one. Based on the author’s childhood.

It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

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Cindy is an Iranian expat living in California during the Iran hostage crisis of the late 1970s. With hostile relations between the two countries, Cindy’s father loses his job and must confront racism. Luckily, Cindy has two friends who stay true, help her adopt American culture, and appreciate freedom in America. Based on the author’s childhood.

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

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Katie is the daughter of Japanese Americans living in Iowa in the 1950s. When her parents can’t make their Asian grocery store profitable, they move to Georgia to be near their uncle and work in a poultry factory. In Georgia, she and her family are culturally isolated, but her parents will do anything to provide a good life for her and her sister.

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

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Apple and her mother are Philippine immigrants. Apple hasn’t had trouble fitting in, until 8thgrade. Now she’s on the Dog Log and her friends are abandoning her. She’s just as low socially as the fat girl. Apple is about to learn that looks and popularity are nothing compared to having friends who accept you and share your interests.

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

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After Jaime’s cousin dies in a gang shooting in Guatemala, his parents decide to send him and his sister Angela to their older brother in New Mexico. The journey is hard and dangerous. Describes the hardships people are willing to face in order to get to a safe life in America.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

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In a run-down area of Cleveland, Ohio a young girl from Vietnam plants three bean seeds in a vacant, junk yard. An Eastern European immigrant sees the girl digging and assumes she is burying drugs or a gun. When she digs there, she discovers the beans. From there the story interweaves the lives of different immigrants as the vacant lot slowly gives way to a community garden.

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