One Book, One Chicago Spring 2010
By Monica Ali
Newly married to a little-known suitor, Nazneen follows her husband from her home in Bangladesh to an immigrant community in London. Speaking little English and unused to the cold, dull urban landscape and unfamiliar manners of British people, she works to overcome isolation and loneliness to raise a family, and eventually finds the strength to take charge of her life.
By Amy Bloom
Alone in 1920s-era New York after her husband and parents were killed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian Leyb must make a new life. Haunted by her missing 3-year-old daughter, Sophie, Lillian finds work as a seamstress and becomes the mistress to a handsome actor. As her English and knowledge of American culture improve, Lillian eventually has the resources to set out across America in an epic search for her little girl.
By Ralph Ellison
In this classic novel, a young black man struggles to find his place in 1950s New York. Feeling alone, he joins a group of social activists known as “The Brotherhood” but comes to find that their motivations are more to glorify themselves than an attempt to know him as a person.
The Servants’ Quarters
By Lynn Freed
With her father in a coma, 9-year-old Cressida and her family are invited by family friend George Harding to move into the servants’ quarters of his mansion. While Cressida acts as a companion to his disabled nephew, she and Harding develop a strange fascination with one another.
By Hillary Jordan
After moving to a farm she calls Mudbound to reflect the lack of amenities and her state of mind, Laura welcomes her brother-in-law and his friend home from World War II. Their difficulties readjusting to life in rural Mississippi bring her face-to-face with the racism in her community and the horrors of war in this haunting novel.
The Ladies’ Lending Library
By Janice Kulyk Keefer
A group of immigrant housewives in Ontario spend the summer of 1963 discussing racy novels, imposing traditional Ukrainian values on their unruly children, and fawning over Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s scandalous love affair. When one of the women begins her own affair, the group must examine their sometimes humdrum existence and decide if their comfortable life is more enticing than the excitement of the unknown.
The Piano Teacher
By Janice Y.K. Lee
Newlywed Claire Pendleton arrives in Hong Kong in 1952 and quickly finds work as a piano teacher for a rich Chinese family. She and their driver, Will Truesdale, fall in love, and as their affair becomes more public, the truth about Will’s shadowy past during the Japanese occupation comes to light.
Too Much Happiness
By Alice Munro
Munro explores the difficulties of everyday life in 10 beautifully written short stories. The title story follows Russian immigrant Sophia on her journey across 19th century Western Europe to take a job at the only university that will hire her as a mathematician.
Out Stealing Horses
By Per Petterson
Aging widower Trond Sander has retired to an isolated house in Norway when a neighbor whose brother knew him as a boy brings back memories of a summer afternoon spent stealing horses. The day, which began as a joyous prank quickly turned to cruel tragedy, now remembered with the pain of a child’s loss and the wisdom of an adult’s perspective.
By Lisa See
Bestselling author See brings a tale of two sisters who leave Shanghai—sold by their father into marriage to unknown men—for Los Angeles in the 1930s. After undergoing horrifying ordeals while in quarantine on Angel Island for months, the sisters forge a new life in America while managing to retain the Chinese traditions that bring them comfort.
By Kathryn Stockett
Returning home to Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, recent graduate and aspiring writer Skeeter Phelan starts interviewing the African American women who work as maids and nannies in her community. This book looks at life in the pre-civil rights-era South with sensitivity and compassion.
By Elizabeth Strout
Thirteen short stories revolve around schoolteacher Olive Kitteridge and her family over a period of 30 years. Their struggles to understand and love one another are contrasted with the beauty of the natural world that surrounds their home in coastal Maine.
Love and Summer
By William Trevor
In a small Irish town in the 1950s, an older farmer’s sheltered young wife, Ellie, begins a flirtation with Florian, who is more interested in moving to America than in a lasting relationship. Their affair is overseen and discouraged by the bitter Miss Connulty, who has spent a lifetime atoning for her mistakes with a lover who abandoned her in her youth.
The Amateur Marriage
By Anne Tyler
When the glamorous Pauline meets ex-GI Michael at his family’s grocery store in December of 1941, they are swept up in a whirlwind romance. As the two settle into their roles as husband and wife, however, the ardor cools and the couple begin to fight over everyday trivialities as their personalities run head to head.
A Short History of Women
By Kate Walbert
Dorothy Townsend, a British suffragist, dies in a hunger strike for women’s rights at the turn of the century. Through these short stories, Dorothy’s strong will is passed down through four generations of daughters—each facing her own decisions about womanhood at her time in history.
By Colson Whitehead
After spending the school year as some of the only black kids at white, upper-class private schools, Benji Cooper and his younger brother, Reggie, are eager to spend their summer with friends in Sag Harbor. But as the long days of summer wind down, Benji begins to realize that his carefree summers are numbered in this touching autobiographical novel.
Brooklyn: A State of Mind
Edited by Michael W. Robbins
This wonderful compilation of essays and commentaries offers a virtual tour of multicultural Brooklyn, from its bustling waterfront to its renowned cultural institutions. This collection defines, in a larger context, where America has been and the ongoing evolution into what it will become.
In the Country of Brooklyn: Inspiration to the World
By Peter Golenbock
This fascinating 20th century history told by the people who call Brooklyn home highlights social movements, a history of freedom and tolerance, and the interwoven immigrant stories of its inhabitants.
The Irish Americans: A History
By Jay P. Dolan
From the early 18th through the beginning of the 21st century, the Irish immigrant’s history is tightly woven into the framework of America’s story. These tales of resiliency and loyalty will be familiar to all interested in the struggle for a sense of place and purpose in American society.
Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America
By Peter Quinn
“The Irish America of my search is the one into which I was born—a cohesive urban Catholic community constructed from a peasantry fragmented, transplanted, transformed and defined by the Great Famine and its consequences,” reflects author Peter Quinn about his personal history growing up in the Bronx. Through a series of essays, the essence of what it means to be an American of Irish descent is defined and explored.
A Long Stone’s Throw
By Alphie McCourt
Leaving Limerick to pursue his dreams, Alphie McCourt’s memoir of his travels and personal journey comes full circle with McCourt’s final destination, New York City. In this touching and humorous memoir, McCourt continues the family’s writing tradition begun by his brothers, Frank and Malachy.
Parish the Thought: An Inspirational Memoir of Growing up Catholic in the 1960s
By John Bernard Ruane
Ruane presents a time capsule of parish life during the early 1960s in a working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Written with true affection, this memoir is a reflection on being raised in a religious tradition and its impact on family and community during this era.
Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America
By Christiane Harzig, et al.
This engaging collection tells the stories of assimilation from immigrant women who settled in Chicago from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, exploring how these women from rural Ireland, Poland, Sweden and Germany helped shape the future of this city.
Song of Brooklyn: An Oral History of America’s Favorite Borough
By Marc Eliot
This oral history captures the essence of this borough through the words of the famous—Mel Brooks, Spike Lee and Joan Rivers—as well as the everyday people who will always call Brooklyn their home.
We Would Have Played for Nothing: Baseball Stars of the 1950s and 1960s Talk About the Game They Loved
By Fay Vincent
This series of interviews bring together the top major league players of this era reflecting their love of baseball during its golden era. This fascinating history about the hopes and aspirations of these players reflects America’s sense of self-identity as seen through the eyes of these men.
For Kids and Teens
As people move to new homes, whether in different countries or different neighborhoods, they bring their stories with them. They may travel over oceans or mountains, alone or with families, early in life or later, and settle in cities or fields. The books below reflect this rich American heritage and celebrate what those experiences have in common and how they are all individually unique.
America Street: A Multicultural Anthology of Stories
Edited by Anne Mazer
Persea, 1993 (Ages 12 and up)
By Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine, 2007 (Ages 12 and up)
Ask Me No Questions
By Marina Budhos
Atheneum, 2006 (Ages 12 and up)
A Boy from Ireland
By Marie Raphael
Persea, 2007 (Ages 12 and up)
Bridge to America: Based on a True Story
By Linda Glaser
Houghton Mifflin, 2005 (Ages 9-12)
By Karen Hesse
Feiwel and Friends, 2008 (Ages 11-14)
The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings
By Alan Gratz
Dial, 2009 (Ages 10-14)
First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants
Edited by Donald R. Gallo
Candlewick, 2004 (Ages 14 and up)
Fresh Off the Boat
By Melissa de la Cruz
HarperCollins, 2005 (Ages 14 and up)
By Allen Say
Houghton Mifflin, 1993 (Ages 4-8)
Hattie and the Wild Waves
By Barbara Cooney
Viking, 1990 (Ages 4-8)
Home of the Brave
By Katherine Applegate
Feiwel and Friends, 2007 (Ages 10-15)
Journey of Dreams
By Marge Pellegrino
Frances Lincoln, 2009 (Ages 10-13)
By Barbara Shook Hazen, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Dial, 2003 (Ages 6-9)
Lowji Discovers America
By Candace Fleming
Atheneum, 2005 (Ages 8-11)
By Patricia Reilly Giff
Wendy Lamb, 2003 (Ages 8-12)
Mimmy and Sophie: All Around the Town
By Miriam Cohen, illustrated by Thomas F. Yezerski
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004 (Ages 8-10)
Path to My African Eyes
By Ermila Moodley
Just Us, 2007 (Ages 12 and up)
Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara
By Elvira Woodruff, illustrated by Adam Rex
Alfred A. Knopf, 2006 (Ages 8-12)
Something About America
By Maria Testa
Candlewick Press, 2005 (Ages 11-13)
At Ellis Island: A History in Many Voices
By Louise Peacock, illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop
Atheneum, 2007 (Ages 8-11)
Colors of Freedom: Immigrant Stories
By Janet Bode
Franklin Watts, 1999 (Ages 13 and up)
Coming to America: A Muslim Family’s Story
By Bernard Wolf
Lee & Low, 2003 (Ages 8-11)
Coming to America: The Story of Immigration
By Betsy Maestro, illustrated by Susannah Ryan
Scholastic, 1996 (Ages 7-9)
Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration
By Ann Bausum
National Geographic, 2009 (Ages 10-13)
Ellis Island: Coming to the Land of Liberty
By Raymond Bial
Houghton Mifflin, 2009 (Ages 9-12)
The History of Emigration from Ireland
By Katherine Prior
F. Watts, 1997 (Ages 10-13)
I Was Dreaming to Come to America: Memories from the Ellis Island Oral History Project
By Veronica Lawlor
Viking, 1995 (Ages 9-12)
By Russell Freedman
Dutton, 1980 (Ages 9-12)
Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers
By Marina Budhos
Henry Holt, 1999 (Ages 13 and up)
We Came Through Ellis Island: The Immigrant Adventures of Emma Markowitz
By Gare Thompson
National Geographic Society, 2003 (Ages 8-12)
Unless otherwise noted, read these articles on any Chicago Public Library computer and on other computers with Internet access with your Chicago Public Library card.
More About Tóibín and His Writings
“Brooklyn Spans World of Emotions: The Opportunities of a New World Are Contrasted with the Lure of Home in Colm Toibin’s Latest Novel”
By Collette Bancroft
St. Petersburg Times, May 31, 2009
“History, Text and Society in Colm Tóibín’s The Heather Blazing”
By Liam Harte
New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, v. 6, n. 4 (2002)
Available only on Chicago Public Library computers.
Contemporary Authors Online
Thomson Gale, 2010
St. James Press, 2001
By Eamonn Wall
Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture
Macmillan Reference USA, 2004
“His Irish Diaspora”
By Alex Witchel
The New York Times Magazine, May 3, 2009
More About Ireland and Its Literature
CultureGrams Online Edition
“That Much Credit: Irish-American Identity and Writing”
By Shaun O’Connell
The Massachusetts Review, v. 44, no. 1/2 (2003)
By Thomas M. Wilson
Countries and Their Cultures
Macmillan Reference USA, 2001
More About the 1950s in America
“The Fifties: 1950-1959”
American History Online