Great Books by Immigrant Authors: A Beinecke Top Ten List

February 3, 2017

By Nancy Kuhl

Beinecke Top Ten: Immigrant Authors
Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1961), and Arrow of God (1969) first editions by Chinua Achebe
Born in Nigeria in 1930, Chinua Achebe’s work has poignantly illuminated the effects of white, Christian colonization on the traditions of Igbo society. His first novel, Things Fall Apart garnered Achebe global acclaim as a novelist and preceded two other novels that followed in the trilogy, No Longer at Ease, and Arrow of God. Achebe has spent portions of his life in the United States as a Professor at Bard College, Brown University, and UMass Amherst. The Booker Prize Foundation has called Achebe “The father of modern African writing.”
Things Fall Apart
Call Number: JWJ Zan Ac45 958T
No Longer at Ease
Call Number: JWJ Zan Ac45 960Nb
Orbis Link:
Arrow of God
Call Number: 1976 S17 A698
Interpreter of Maladies (1999) by Jhumpa Lahiri
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Lahiri’s stunning debut collection of nine short stories focuses on the daily experiences of Indian immigrants in America.A daughter of Indian immigrants herself, Lahiri emigrated from London to Rhode Island when she was two years old. Her work intimately details the tension between protecting one’s own culture and the pressure to assimilate.
Call Number: Zab L1394 999J
Native Speaker (1995) by Chang-Rae Lee
Lee emigrated from South Korea to Westchester, New York at the age of three and went on to receive his B.A. in English from Yale. His debut novel, Native Speaker, was his M.F.A. thesis at the University of Oregon. Native Speaker follows the story of a Korean spy and explores themes of struggle and isolation experienced by Korean immigrants in the United States.
Call Number: Zab L509 995N
Black Skin, White Masks (1952, trans. 1967) by Frantz Fanon
Fanon was born in 1925 in Martinique, a Caribbean Island that was a French colony. His work focuses on the struggle and efforts of the Algerian people against the French colonizers through the lens of radical, Marxist-humanist, anti-colonial theory. Black Skin, White Masks presents his psychoanalysis of the colonizer and the oppressed, and illuminates the drastic and predatory effects of language in the process of colonization.
Call Number: JWJ Zan F217 Eg967M
Lucy (1990) by Jamaica Kincaid
Kincaid was born and raised in 1949 in St. John’s Antigua until her mother sent her to Scarsdale, New York to be an au pair for an upper class white family at the age of seventeen. Lucy, her second novel, was originally serialized in The New Yorker, and autobiographically mirrors Kincaid’s own immigration story. 
Call Number: JWJ Zan K574 990L
Dreaming in Cuban (1992) by Cristina García
García’s first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, was a finalist for the National Book Award. García was born in 1958 in Havana, Cuba just one year before Fidel Castro came into power, which caused her family to flee to the New York City. García became a journalist for Time magazine until she devoted herself to fiction writing in 1990. Dreaming in Cuban focuses on three generations of women in a family, moving through time and place as it details the experience of Cuban and American life.
Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) by Edwidge Danticat
Danticat was born in 1969 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and immigrated to Brooklyn, New York to live with her parents, who had immigrated to America after their children were born. Danticat experienced intense isolation as an immigrant teenager, and turned to writing and literature. After attending Barnard College, she received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Brown University, where her thesis became the basis of her novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory.
Call Number: JWJ Zan D236 994Bc
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) by Junot Díaz
Díaz was born in 1968 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his first novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Díaz lived in the Dominican Republic until he was six years old, when he immigrated to New Jersey to reunite with his father, who had already immigrated to the United States to work. His style characteristically incorporates a form of “Spanglish” in the dialogue, and uses cutting humor and insight. Díaz is a devoted activist who addresses immigration and labor issues. Read his updating political commentary on Facebook here:
If Only the Sea Could Sleep (2003) by Adunis
Born in 1930, Adunis, or Adonis, or Ali Ahmad Sai’d Esber is a Syrian poet, translator, and literary critic. He wrote the first complete Arabic translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and is widely recognized as the most prolific and influential living poet of the Arab world. Adunis fled Syria for Lebanon in 1956 and established the Majallat Shi’r magazine, a publication that dedicated itself to avant-garde and experimental poetry. He later emigrated to Paris from Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War in 1980. Adunis has been credited for forming a new poetic rhythm and form, one that is heavily influenced by classical poetry, but also equipped to communicate the experiences of modern Arab society.
Call Number: Zab C6604 Zz2003J

Complied by Raffi Donatich, Y’19

Beinecke Top Tens gather (approximately) ten related items to give an at-a-glance look at some of the Library’s interesting, important, strange, compelling, beautiful holdings. To see more lists, click here: Beinecke Top Tens. To suggest a list subject, contact us: Top Ten Ideas.