Further Reading: Migrants

As the nation turns its attention to the plight of the migrants detained at our borders, now’s a perfect time for readers to immerse themselves in the global migration crisis. The following recommended titles, linked to their excerpted Booklist reviews, explore the horrors migrants must endure both at home and abroad. (Earlier this week, we published a mammoth list of books for children and young adults at a tender age; read it here.)


Cast Away: True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis, by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson

With the overwhelming images of refugees and migrants fleeing war in North Africa and the Middle East in search of safe home in Europe, this stirring contemporary account roots the mythic perilous journey in the heartbreak of personal stories. The catastrophic numbers are overwhelming (number of refugee and migrant asylum seekers entering the EU in 2015: 1,004,356), and the big stories are appalling: for example, 800 refugees locked in the hold of a doomed fishing vessel die when the boat sinks. But it’s the personal stories, like those collected here, that bring the appalling headlines and numbers to vivid, individual life.



Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid, by Giuseppe Catozzella, translated by Anne Milano Appel

Growing up in her Somalian community, wracked by poverty and civil war, Samia Yusuf Omar is a champion long-distance runner from age eight. Her dream is to run in the Olympics in Beijing and then in London. How will she get there? On her journey to the London Olympics in 2012, she makes the horrific migrant trek from Somalia through Sudan to Libya and to the Mediterranean, where the smugglers’ overloaded boat on which she is traveling capsizes.


Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid, by Joseph Nevins

Nevins writes a compelling indictment of this nation’s immigration policy directed toward Mexico, centering on one Mexican immigrant, Julio Cesar Gallegos, 23, who died in 1998 along with six others in the California desert in Imperial Valley. Nevins condemns this tragedy not with emotional rhetoric but rather via an extensive, thoroughly documented explication of the political and economic history of both Imperial Valley and Juchipila, Mexico.




Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, by Matthew Car

Tens of thousands of men, women, and children have undertaken perilous journeys to Europe during the last two decades, traveling dangerous routes across oceans and vast deserts without travel documents, stowed away in packed boats that often capsize, hanging upside down underneath trucks and trains, hidden in the wheel carriages of jet planes. The power of this stirring, authentic account comes from Carr’s ability to capture the refugee experience through his face-to-face interviews and his passionate observation of the current scene.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, by Jessica Bruder

Journalist Bruder explores the segment of today’s older Americans forced to eke out a living as migrant workers. She examines the phenomenon of a new tribe of down-and-outers—“workampers,” or “houseless” people—who travel the country in vans as they follow short-term jobs, such as harvesting sugar beets, cleaning campsites and toilets in wilderness parks, and stocking and plucking merchandise from bins at an Amazon warehouse, averaging 15 miles a shift walking the facility’s concrete floors.




The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape, by Harm de Blij

Globalization may indeed level the global playing field for a fortunate minority, but the great majority of the earth’s six billion people face obstacles that are steeper than ever. Not the first book to decry the dramatic contrasts between the “globals,” the locals, and the “mobals” (migrants), this selection is nevertheless unique in cataloging the myriad ways in which such contrasts are informed by geographic factors, including language, natural resources, urbanization, and environmental risks. De Blij is as engaging as ever, and his fear for our collective future is evident on every page.


Tears of Salt: A Doctor’s Story, by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta, translated by Chenxin Jiang

In heroic doctor Bartolo’s memoir, written with the help of journalist Tilotta, he explains that migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East travel by boat to his homeland to escape war, torture, and terror. Throughout his story of rescues and deaths (including 368 body bags on October 3, 2013), Bartolo makes it clear that he loves Lampedusa and the desperate people who flee their homes to reach it.





About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the former Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist.

1 Comment on "Further Reading: Migrants"

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  1. Terri Pilate says:

    Hi, Eugenia, I wish you hadn’t included Nomadland in your excellent list! While there are some RV-living elders out there with no choices, the author had an agenda and sought out these people and their sad stories. There is a huge group of people who choose to live in an RV, be part of Amazon workforce or pick sugar beets to make enough money to finance the rest of the year for their adventure seeking while living in an RV full time. I follow many of them on Facebook and via email. I have plans to do this as a retired librarian and hope to supplement our pension with workamping in State Parks as a docent. The other books on the list are eye opening. Thank you! –Terri

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