2021 Reading Challenge: Read a Book About Refugees or the Immigrant Experience

OPL invites patrons to take part in the 2021 Reading Challenge, opens a new window! For each challenge, OPL offers suggestions for titles to listen to or read. As you’re working through the challenge, feel free to tag @omahalibrary on Twitter, opens a new window, Instagram, , opens a new windowor Facebook, opens a new window to let us know which read you picked up this month!

The immigrant and refugee stories below describe someone else’s journey of leaving the familiar with the hope of gaining so much more. Their stories are unique and their experiences are timeless. They help to remind us that, like author Abdi Nor Iftin said, “No one gets to choose when or where to be born, but what happens after that is what you can imagine.”

For those looking for true accounts, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s "The Undocumented Americans, opens a new window" tells the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants across America who live day-to-day with fear, love, joy and hope. Following those who are forced to flee their country, “The Ungrateful Refugee, opens a new window” by Dina Nayeri recounts her own journey of leaving Iran to eventually seek asylum in America, alongside those stories of other refugees and asylum-seekers. In “A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, opens a new window,” author Melissa Fleming tells the journey of 19-year-old Doaa Al Zamel who flees Syria only to be stranded on an inflatable ring after the boat she was traveling on sinks. She is left at sea with two young children and only her hope for a safer future to keep her going.  

For other great non-fiction reads, check out the poetry collection "Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience, opens a new window" edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond or the graphic novel memoir of George Takei, “They Called Us Enemy, opens a new window.”

For fiction readers, “Behold the Dreamers, opens a new window” by Imbolo Mbue and “The Book of Unknown Americans, opens a new window” by Cristina Henríquez both tell the story of families who have traveled to America with the hope of improving their situations. In both novels, characters are faced with choices and events that rock their faith in the American dream. 

Try the historical fiction Irish immigrant story “Brooklyn, opens a new window” by Colm Tóibín, or the debut coming-of-age story of a gay Vietnamese American "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, opens a new window" by Ocean Vuong for more spectacular fiction reading.

When Stars Are Scattered, opens a new window” by Victoria Jamieson is a heart-warming graphic novel for children about Omar and his brother who are forced to leave their Somali homeland and make a new temporary home in a Kenyan refugee camp. They live day-to-day with the hope of one day leaving for America. 

If you are looking for a children’s picture book, “Dreamers”, opens a new window by Yuyi Morales captures the author’s own journey with her daughter to the U.S., and the hope pinned on their big dreams. In "Lubna and Pebble, opens a new window" by Wendy Meddour, a young girl in a refugee camp finds her own hope and friendship in a small pebble. As Lubna’s family leaves for a new home, she finds someone else may need her pebble of hope as much as she did.

For more ideas check out this list, opens a new window or request a custom reading list or book bundle, opens a new window tailored to your interests by OPL librarians.

You may submit your completed reading log online or return a completed tracking sheet to any OPL branch to receive a pin and to be entered into a drawing for some fun literary-themed prizes! All completed tracking sheets or online challenge form entries must be received by December 31, 2021, to be entered into the prize drawing.