We live in a rich, diverse world, with people of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and beliefs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with expectations from your own experiences and others’ perceptions of your culture. Here are five books to help you navigate your cultural identity.
1. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Many individuals straddle a world of being American and something else, known as third-culture kids. It’s a hyphenated identity that’s often hard to navigate, as it requires a careful balance of respecting one’s roots while finding their way as a first-generation American.
This novel follows a coming-of-age story of a Mexican-American girl named Julia, who, in the wake of her older sister’s death, must learn who she is in relation to her family and her parents’ culture.
2. American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures ed. by America Ferrera
A collection of essays from famous names like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Padma Lakshmi, Michelle Kwan, and Roxane Gay, this book gives readers a look into growing up as someone between multiple cultures.
The stories in this collection don’t just include those of immigrants and their children, but even of indigenous voices who are considered Other in the American landscape.
3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie’s novel tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian girl who grows up in Africa knowing what it’s like to lack wealth and how political turmoil affects educational institutions. She moves to America to get an education and stays longer than anticipated.
The novel follows her journey as she becomes American and then travels back to her home country, where she is no longer considered Nigerian, but back in the US, she’s not considered American.
4. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Showcasing the hardships of an immigrant family from Hong Kong now living in Brooklyn, this novel tells the story of a girl who lives a double life: average schoolgirl by day, and sweatshop worker by night.
It’s a story that many immigrants and their children know, learning to be many things at once: successful American, dutiful child to a family, and true to one’s self.
5. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Many immigrants go to the U.S. in search of the American dream, so Mbue’s novel is appropriately titled. This book follows a Cameroonian family that at first feels lucky to have found work with wealthy employers. Soon though, they find the lifestyle of the rich has a dark side, and it threatens to break the couple’s marriage.
The story shows how hard immigrants and first-generation Americans work to get a foothold in the U.S., often at the cost of their own families’ happiness. It’s a complicated decision between trying to thrive in a country that isn’t always kind to outsiders and going home where conditions are even harder to live in.
Cover picture @heathreads
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