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Immigrant and Refugee Stories for Tweens and Teens

In honor of World Refugee Day, browse the titles below and find stories that will take you on a journey to a new place. Some fiction, some nonfiction, all focus on a story of leaving somewhere behind for a new life.

Click on the titles for location and availability. Additional media formats included below.

 

90 miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
Also available in: e-audiobook

When unrest hits the streets of Havana, Cuba, Julian's parents must make the heartbreaking decision to send him and his two brothers away to Miami via the Pedro Pan operation. But when the boys get to Miami, they are thrust into a world where bullies seem to run rampant and it's not always clear how best to protect themselves.

The bone sparrow by Zana Fraillon

"Subhi's contained world as a refugee in an Australian permanent detention center rapidly expands when Jimmie arrives on the other side of the fence and she asks him to read her late mother's stories to her"--.

The night diary by Veera Hiranandani

Shy twelve-year-old Nisha, forced to flee her home with her Hindu family during the 1947 partition of India, tries to find her voice and make sense of the world falling apart around her by writing to her deceased Muslim mother in the pages of her diary.

Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook

When the Sudanese civil war reaches his village in 1985, eleven-year-old Salva becomes separated from his family and must walk with other Dinka tribe members through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of safe haven. Based on the life of Salva Dut, who, after emigrating to America in 1996, began a project to dig water wells in Sudan.

Offers an account of the first fourteen years of the author's life in poems, telling of her time spent between her mother's native Cuba and her home in Los Angeles, until the revolution in Cuba dramatically alters relations between the two countries she loves.

Esperanza rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Also available in: e-book | audiobook

Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

Home of the brave by Katherine Applegate

Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner.

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

Nora, a fifteen-year-old Mexican girl, faces the challenges of being an illegal immigrant in Texas when she and her mother cross the border in search of Nora's father.

Also available in: e-book

Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.

Illustrator James McMullan discusses how his early childhood in China and his wartime journeys with his mother influenced his life and career.

Red glass by Laura Resau

Sixteen-year-old Sophie has been frail and delicate since her premature birth, but discovers her true strength during a journey through Mexico, where the six-year-old orphan her family hopes to adopt was born, and to Guatemala, where her would-be boyfriend hopes to find his mother and plans to remain.

Saving Kabul Corner by N. H Senzai

Twelve-year-old Ariana, a tomboy, and her ladylike cousin Laila, recently arrived from Afghanistan, do not get along but they pull together when a rival Afghani grocery store opens, rekindling an old family feud and threatening their family's livelihood.

Also available in: e-audiobook

The memoir of Michaela DePrince, who lived the first few years of her live in war-torn Sierra Leone until being adopted by an American Family. Now seventeen, she is one of the premiere ballerinas in the United States.

Also available in: e-audiobook

Seen through the eyes of a boy who longs for an education and the right to call one palce home, this is a story of survival, faith, and hope. It is a journey that will open readers' hearts and minds.

In 1940, Hans and Margret Rey fled their Paris home as the German army advanced. They began their harrowing journey on bicycles, pedaling to Southern France with children's book manuscripts among their few possessions.

The red umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Also available in: e-book

In 1961 after Castro has come to power in Cuba, fourteen-year-old Lucia and her seven-year-old brother are sent to the United States when her parents, who are not in favor of the new regime, fear that the children will be taken away from them as others have been.

The turtle of Oman : a novel by Naomi Shihab Nye

When Aref, a third-grader who lives in Muscat, Oman, refuses to pack his suitcase and prepare to move to Michigan, his mother asks for help from his grandfather, his Siddi, who takes Aref around the country, storing up memories he can carry with him to a new home.

As a baby in her mother's womb, as a schoolgirl in Manilla, and as a reluctant immigrant to Chicago at age sixteen, Angel burns with a desire to be an activist, but learning truths about her mother and grandmother help her find peace.

Stories of my life by Katherine Paterson

A personal account by the Newbery Medal- and National Book Award-winning author shares stories about the experiences that inspired her novels, from her childhood in China to her marriage to a minister and relationships with four children.

Audacity by Melanie Crowder

Learn about immigrant Clara Lemlich and her struggle for women's labor rights in the early 20th century in New York.

Dream things true by Marie F. Marquardt

Evan, the nephew of a conservative southern senator, and Alma, who lives with her large, warm Mexican family, fall in love, but when Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins raids on their town, Alma knows she needs to tell Evan her secrets, but how can she tell her country-club boyfriend that she is an undocumented immigrant?

Stories of recent Mexican, Venezuelan, Kazakh, Chinese, Romanian, Palestinian, Swedish, Korean, Haitian, and Cambodian immigrants reveal what it is like to face prejudice, language barriers, and homesickness along with common teenage feelings and needs.

Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai

Escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, eleven-year-old Fadi and his family immigrate to the San Francisco Bay Area, where Fadi schemes to return to the Pakistani refugee camp where his little sister was accidentally left behind.

The secret side of empty by Maria E Andreu

As her friends make plans for life after high school, M.T. struggles to envision her future as an undocumented immigrant and becomes determined to make a life for herself in the only place she has ever known as home.

The tyrant's daughter by J. C Carleson

Exiled to the United States after her father, a Middle Eastern dictator, is killed in a coup, fifteen-year-old Laila must cope with a completely new way of life, the truth of her father's regime, and her mother and brother's ways of adjusting.

Growing up in a regime that oppresses its citizens, fourteen-year-old Charlie Law befriends a young refugee from a neighboring country, poised to attack Charlie's country.

Tells the story of how a young Chechen refugee landed in Toronto and, though originally interested in soccer, became Canada's premier boxer and gold medal winner at the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The inker's shadow by Allen Say

Recounts the author's coming of age at a military academy, where he endured harsh racism before embarking on a journey to discover himself as a Japanese-American artist.

In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Nadine goes to live with her father in Miami while her cousin Magdalie, raised as her sister, remains behind in a refugee camp, dreaming of joining Nadine but wondering if she must accept that her life and future are in Port-au-Prince.

American street by Ibi Zoboi

When Fabiola's mother is detained upon their arrival to the United States, Fabiola must navigate her loud American cousins, the grittiness of Detroit's west side, a new school, and a surprising romance all on her own.

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