YA Immigrants and Refugees

Read stories of displaced people fleeing their homeland to find safety and a better way of life. This list includes both true and fictionalized experiences from across the globe.

Compiled by:
Jen H.
American Street

Ibi Zoboi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y 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.


Sara Saedi
(Adult Nonfiction - 921 Saedi Sae)

At thirteen, bright-eyed, straight-A student Sara Saedi uncovered a terrible family secret: she was breaking the law simply by living in the United States. Only two years old when her parents fled Iran, she didn't learn of her undocumented status until her older sister wanted to apply for an after-school job, but couldn't because she didn't have a Social Security number. Sara pivots gracefully from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one without a date to the prom.

The Astonishing Color of After

Emily X. R. Pan
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Pan)

After her mother's suicide, grief-stricken Leigh Sanders travels to Taiwan to stay with grandparents she never met, determined to find her mother who she believes turned into a bird.

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America

Ibi Zoboi
- Editor
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Black)

A collection of short stories explore what it is like to be young and black, centering on the experiences of black teenagers and emphasizing that one person's experiences, reality, and personal identity are different than someone else.

The Book of Unknown Americans

Cristina Henríquez
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Henriqu)

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave Mexico and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinder block complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

City of Saints and Thieves

Natalie C. Anderson
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Anderso)

Sixteen-year-old Tina and two friends leave Kenya and slip into the Congo, from where she and her mother fled years before, seeking revenge for her mother's murder but uncovering startling secrets.

The Closest I've Come

Fred Aceves
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Aceves)

Marcos Rivas is desperate to escape the projects, his neglectful mother, and her abusive boyfriend, but when he is picked for a class at his high school targeting smart students who are underperforming, he initially resists.


Francisco X. Stork
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Stork)

Four months ago Sara Zapata's best friend, Linda, disappeared from the streets of Juarez, and ever since Sara has been using her job as a reporter to draw attention to the girls who have been kidnapped by the criminals who control the city. But now she and her family are being threatened and the only way for them to escape is to risk the dangerous trek across the desert to the United States border.

Down and Across

Arvin Ahmadi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Ahmadi)

His friends know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott Ferdowsi can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion. With his parents pushing him to settle on a "practical" career, Scott sneaks off to Washington, DC, seeking guidance from a famous psychologist who claims to know the secret to success. Will he be able to find out who he is-- and who he wants to be?

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Ben Philippe
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Philipp)

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian whose family just moved to Austin, Texas, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets. He's amusing himself until it's time to go back to Canada. But soon those labels soon become actual people. When Norris screws everything up royally on prom night, will he be able to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions, and start living his life?

The Good Braider

Terry Farish
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Farish)

Follow Viola as she survives brutality in war-torn Sudan, makes a perilous journey, lives as a refugee in Egypt, and finally reaches Portland, Maine, where her quest for freedom and security is hampered by memories of past horrors and the traditions her mother and other Sudanese adults hold dear.


Eoin Colfer
(Graphic Novels - GN Colfer Illegal)

Ebo is alone. His brother, Kwame, has disappeared, and Ebo knows it can only be to attempt the hazardous journey to Europe, and a better life, the same journey their sister set out on months ago. But Ebo refuses to be left behind in Ghana. He sets out after Kwame and joins him on the quest to reach Europe. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his family

Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Samira Ahmed
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Ahmed)

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter and then there is the world of her dreams. There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs. 

Picture Us In the Light

Kelly Loy Gilbert
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Gilbert)

Danny Cheng has always known his parents have secrets. But when he discovers a taped-up box in his father's closet filled with old letters and a file on a powerful Silicon Valley family, he realizes there's much more to his family's past than he ever imagined. 

The Poet X

Elizabeth Acevedo
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Acevedo)

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. She pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. When she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she can't stop thinking about performing her poems.


Ibi Zoboi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Zoboi)

Zuri Benitez has pride. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable. When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons. She especially can't stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding. Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick's changing landscape, or lose it all. 

The Radius of Us

Marie Marquardt
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Marquar)

After being mugged, seventeen-year-old Gretchen is still struggling to deal with her fears when she meets Phoenix, an eighteen-year-old immigrant from El Salvador. Told in alternating first person points of view, this is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over.


Alan Gratz
(Juvenile Fiction - J Gratz)

Although separated by continents and decades, Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany; Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape the riots and unrest plaguing her country in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 whose homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction, embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge.

Salt to the Sea

Ruta Sepetys
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Sepetys)

As World War II draws to a close, refugees try to escape the war's final dangers, only to find themselves aboard a ship with a target on its hull.

This Land is Our Land: The History of American Immigration

Linda Barrett Osborne
(Adult Nonfiction - 304.80973 Osb)

This book explores the way government policy and popular responses to immigrant groups evolved throughout U.S. history, particularly between 1800 and 1965. The book concludes with a summary of events up to contemporary times, as immigration again becomes a hot-button issue.

The Unwanted: Stories of Syrian Refugees

Don Brown
(Graphic Novels - GN 956.9104 Bro)

Presents a graphic account of the events of Syrian refugees' attempt to escape the horrors of their country's civil war in search of a better tomorrow.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Tahereh Mafi
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Mafi)

A year after 9/11, Muslim teenager Shirin has completely withdrawn from social life, until she meets Ocean James in her biology class and is tempted to actually let her guard down.

You Bring the Distant Near

Mitali Perkins
(Young Adult Fiction - Y Perkins)

From 1965 through the present, an Indian American family adjusts to life in New York City, alternately fending off and welcoming challenges to their own traditions.


Morten Dürr
(Graphic Novels - GN Durr Zenobia)

When the Syrian war reaches Amina's village she is forced to escape, and during her perilous journey she thinks of the brave warrior Zenobia to remind her to stay strong.