Almost two years ago I graduated from law school, having written my thesis about migration and criminality. Besides the juridical stuff about migration, I appreciate reading a good fiction book about the subject as well. I always enjoy stories about how people adapt in foreign countries and love reading about all the emotional stuff that comes with starting over in a new country. So if you are interested in migration stories as well or have never heard about it, but think it sounds wonderful, keep reading. Here’s my top 5 migration novels so far:

17986409The Unamericans – Molly Antopol
A short story collection about the migration experience in America. Darkly beautiful and well written. Antopol describes various types of migrants and gives them all a voice. She writes about love and life in a such spectacular and meaningful way. What I loved most about The UnAmericans is the vastly different types of people Antopol describes and how it really seems like she gets the essence of every single one of them. It’s a very impressive read.

All Russians Love Birch Trees – Olga Grjasnowa17797405
This book is originally written in German, but I’ve read the amazing English translation. The author, Olga Grjasnowa is originally from Azerbaijan, but fled to Germany when she was 12 years old. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve read about migration and love so far. All Russians Love Birch Trees is a dreamy story about a migrant girl in Frankfurt, who’s boyfriend suddenly gets hospitalized. The book is about grief, uncertainty and starting over again and again. The book reads like a dream and I absolutely loved how the girl keeps on going even though everything is falling apart. This book is translated in many languages and definitely deserves all the praise it is getting.


We Are Called to Rise – Laura McBride
Based on true events, Laura McBride tells the story of an eight year old immigrant boy and a wounded soldier who’s recovering from an injury and how their lives intertwine. The soldier is dealing with PTSD, coming back from a third tour in Iraq and the little boy and his parents are struggling to find a place for themselves in Las Vegas. They meet by chance and change each others lives forever. We are Called to Rise is a haunting and emotional story about an unbelievable coincidence that changes the lives of these characters for ever. This book is a real page-turner. I read it during a holiday and finished it on the plane on my way back and it definitely gave me something to think about.

Cleave is a master in telling emotional stories, so this is a must read for people that like a good cry. And yes, I like a good cry when it comes to reading books. The Other Hand tells us the story about a young Nigerian refugee, Little Bee, who has been held in immigration detention in England for the past two years. When she is finally released from the detention center she tries to find Sarah, the only other person in Britain that she knows. But the previous time that Sarah and Little Bee met was under terrifying circumstances. Little Bee is a sixteen year old girl, alone in an unknown country and she doesn’t know if Sarah will be willing to help her. Keep tissues on hand for this one.
Carnival – Rawi Hage17610236
This is a book about a migrant, who has been raised in the circus. Fly loves reading books and drives a taxi in a apocalyptic metropolis. Driving around at night he sees everything the city has to offer in all of its horrible and wondrous ways. He meets strange people and has even stranger friends. Carnival is a daunting book about life in a unknown city. I like how the taxi driver is a real bookish person, he refers to books all the time and his entire house is filled with books.

If you want even more, these are some migration books that are still waiting for me on my to-read pile:
Shards by Ismet Prcic
Family Life by Akhil Sharm
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
The Book of the Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez
Open City by Teju Cole

What are your favorite migration reads and have you read any of these books? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Charlotte de Heer. Book Club sister #1 with way too little time on her hands.


Charlotte de Heer is the oldest of the founding sisters. Even though she's too busy for her own good, she'll find the time to write about books she's reading and places she's going.

1 Comment