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Education

Middle School Reading Lists

Download our new Recommended Reading List for Middle School Students. These selections enable middle schoolers to learn about different religious and non-religious belief systems.

Tanenbaum staff are always available to help you find additional resources or to answer questions – we also welcome your suggestions for additions to our reading lists. Contact us at education@tanenbaum.org!

Browse our middle school reading list for immigration-related reading, and check back as we add more topics. Click on the title of any book to purchase it at amazon.com.

Ashes of Roses, Mary Jane Auch
Rose Nolan arrives at Ellis Island with her family in the early 1900s and finds out right away that her sick brother must return to Ireland.  After moving in with an Uncle she dislikes and starting to work in a sweatshop, Rose becomes friends with some union organizers and begins to enjoy New York.

Orphan of Ellis Island, Elvira Woodruff
Dominic has spent most of his life in foster care.  During a field trip to Ellis Island, he
is embarrassed when a guide asks his class to talk about their families.  He hides in a closet and falls asleep, and wakes to find himself on a journey from Italy to the U.S.

Arabian Jazz, Diana Abu-Jaber
The two grown daughters of Matussem Ramoud, an Arab-American immigrant, daytime hospital maintenance man and nighttime jazz musician work through the pressures of work, relationships, and loss.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez
The four de la Torre daughters flee the Dominican Republic because of political persecution and work to assimilate in their new home.  A study guide is also available.

The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
Esperanza’s life in a Spanish-speaking area of Chicago is described in a series of spare, poignant, and powerful vignettes, each centered on details of her childhood.

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat
A Haitian-American girl shares her experience of moving from Haiti to New York City.

Arranged Marriage: Stories, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
A collection of stories about young girls and women who have come to the United States from India.

Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina Garcia
Three generations of Cuban and Cuban-American Women seek a spiritual home as their families journey to the U.S.

Boat People, Mary Gardner
An award-winning novel describing the difficulties and culture clashes faced by a group of Vietnamese refugees living in Galveston, Texas.

Growing Up Ethnic in America: Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American, ed. Maria M. Gillan & Jennifer Gillan
A collection of stories from celebrated writers – including Tony Morrison and Amy Tan – about the conflicts crossing borders and becoming American.

The Gangster of Love, Jessica Hagedorn
The story of Rocky Rivera, who emigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. with
her mother and emotionally disturbed brother, and her adolescence in 1970s San Fransisco.

Empress of the Splendid Season, Oscar Hijuelos
Lydia España moves through life, from a pampered daughter of a wealthy Cuban family to a struggling immigrant seamstress to a widowed cleaning woman in Harlem.

Typical American, Jen Gish
Foreign students trapped in New York when the Communists assume control of China in 1948 band together to try and achieve the American dream while retaining their Chinese values.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston
A pungent, bitter, but beautifully written memoir of growing up Chinese American in Stockton, California.  Kingston distills the dire lessons of her mother’s mesmerizing “talk-story” tales of a China where girls are worthless, tradition is exalted and only a strong, wily woman can scratch her way upward.

The Mistress of Spices, Chitra Divakaruni
Tilo, trained as a mistress of spices, uses the magical properties of the spices of her homeland to help her customers, first- and second-generation immigrants, adapt the Old World ideals to their New World.

The Coffin Tree, Wendy Law-Yone
A Burmese woman and her brother migrate to America as political refugees.

Native Speaker, Chang-rae Lee
Korean-American Henry Park is forever uncertain of his place, a perpetual outsider looking at American culture from a distance. As a man of two worlds, he is beginning to fear that he has betrayed both and belongs to neither.

Jasmine, Bharati Mukherjee
The odyssey and metamorphosis of a young immigrant from rural India who creates her own version of the American dream.

Love, Stars and All That, Kirin Narayan
A young Hindu woman educated at a convent school is amazed at life on the campus
of Berkeley and struggles to fulfill a destiny predicted for her in India.

A Feather on the Breath of God, Sigrid Nunez
A young woman of mixed race writes about life with her parents, a workaholic Chinese-Panamanian and a self-dramatizing German, and her struggle to become her own woman.

We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, Achy Obejas
Short stories about Cuban lesbian immigrants.

Our Feet Walk the Sky: Woman of the South Asian Diaspora, ed. The Woman of South Asian Descent Collective
Stories, poems and essays.

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
The stories of four Chinese women and their hardships and the American-born daughters who struggle to reconcile their American values with their mothers’ expectations.

Britta’s Journey: An Immigration Saga, Ann Marie Mershon
A moving account of the trials and tribulations of a Scandinavian family’s emigration
to the U.S. in 1904.

Walk in My Shoes, Alwyn Evans
After a terrifying journey from war-torn Afghanistan, Gulnessa and her family find their struggles are not over as they struggle to make lives for themselves in Australia.

Road to Chlifa, Michele Marineau
Karin journeys from Beirut to a new high school in Quebec and must create a new life for himself in a land not defined by war.

Find more recommendations at the American Library Association’s Becoming American: New Immigration Stories project.