We have an incredible opportunity to learn from the experiences of our immigrant siblings by reading their words and understanding their contexts. Episcopal Migration Ministries offers these book discussion kits as a way to empower local congregations, book clubs, and other groups to learn more about immigrant communities and individuals. For guidance on how to host a virtual book club, read this guide.

If you use one of these kits to engage a group in discussion, please let us know! We would love to see the impact these resources can have in our local communities. Spread the word and post about your discussions on social media, using the hashtag #EMMReads. The discussion kits are rich in resources and questions to get your discussion going, but if you have any questions or need assistance, please contact [email protected].

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami

What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize­­–finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she elucidates how accidents of birth—such as national origin, race, and gender—that once determined the boundaries of Americanness still cast their shadows today.

Request the discussion kit for Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America.

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang

The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is at the core of the American narrative. But in 1924, Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing arrivals from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning those from nearly all of Asia. In a riveting narrative filled with a fascinating cast of characters, from the indefatigable congressman Emanuel Celler and senator Herbert Lehman to the bull-headed Nevada senator Pat McCarran, Jia Lynn Yang recounts how lawmakers, activists, and presidents from Truman through LBJ worked relentlessly to abolish the 1924 law.

Request the discussion kit for One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965.

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The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Looking beyond the flashpoints of the border or the activism of the DREAMers, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio explores the lives of the undocumented—and the mysteries of her own life. She finds the singular, effervescent characters across the nation often reduced in the media to political pawns or nameless laborers. The stories she tells are not deferential or naively inspirational but show the love, magic, heartbreak, insanity, and vulgarity that infuse the day-to-day lives of her subjects. In her incandescent, relentlessly probing voice, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio combines sensitive reporting and powerful personal narratives to bring to light remarkable stories of resilience, madness, and death. Through these stories we come to understand what it truly means to be a stray. An expendable. A hero. An American.

Request the discussion kit for The Undocumented Americans.

After the Last Border by Jessica Goudeau

The welcoming and acceptance of immigrants and refugees has been central to America’s identity for centuries–yet America has periodically turned its back at the times of greatest humanitarian need. “After the Last Border” is an intimate look at the lives of two women as they struggle for the twenty-first century American dream, having won the “golden ticket” to settle as refugees in Austin, Texas. Writer and activist Jessica Goudeau tracks the human impacts of America’s ever-shifting refugee policy as both women narrowly escape from their home countries and begin the arduous but lifesaving process of resettling in Austin, Texas–a city that would show them the best and worst of what America has to offer.

Request the discussion kit for After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America.

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We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled
We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria tells the story of the Syrian uprising, war, and refugee crisis through interviews that Wendy Pearlman conducted from 2012 through 2016 with more than 300 displaced Syrians across the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. An accessible and deeply human entry point into one of worst humanitarian catastrophes of our times, the book both explains the Syrian conflict and conveys what it has been like for ordinary people to live it.

Request the discussion kit for We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria.

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is an urgent, provocative and deeply personal account from Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who happens to be the most well-known undocumented immigrant in the United States. Born in the Philippines and brought to the U.S. illegally as a 12-year-old, Vargas hid in plain-sight for years, and went on to write for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country while lying about where he came from and how he got here. Both a letter to and a window into Vargas’s America, Dear America is a transformative argument about migration and citizenship, and an intimate, searing exploration on what it means when the country you call your home doesn’t consider you one of its own.

Request the discussion kit for Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.

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The Ungrateful Refugee
The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri

What is it like to be a refugee? It is a question many of us do not give much thought to, and yet there are more than 25 million refugees in the world. To be a refugee is to grapple with your place in society, attempting to reconcile the life you have known with a new, unfamiliar home. All this while bearing the burden of gratitude in your host nation: the expectation that you should be forever thankful for the space you have been allowed. With surprising and provocative questions, The Ungrateful Refugee recalibrates the conversation around the refugee experience. Here are the real human stories of what it is like to be forced to flee your home, and to journey across borders in the hope of starting afresh.

Request the discussion kit for The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks.

Request the discussion kit for The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads