Migrant Stories for Young Adults

These memoirs and novels, some written in verse, focus on the experiences of young migrant workers. They capture the blood, sweat, and tears of hardworking families from a variety of backgrounds and countries who move from one home to another and must recreate their lives anew with each journey. Recommended for grades 7-12.

Related Resources

El Caracol: The Story of Alfonso — Labor Camp Child

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Alfonso Cruz Espinosa was born into the loving arms of his parents in 1927 in Los Angeles. Following their own American dream, he and his family migrated from Los Angeles to the San Joaquin Valley of California. There they moved from labor camp to labor camp, facing the hardships many Depression-era workers encountered, multiplied by the fact that discrimination against non-white workers was blatant and widespread. A tale lovingly told by Espinosa's daughter, El Caracol is a beautiful testament to the strength and tenacity of the human spirit.

CrashBoomLove

Age Level: 16-18

Mexican-American poet Herrera wrote one of the first novels in verse for the teen audience. Sixteen-year old Cesar is the son of migrant workers, and he shares his coming-of-age experiences.

Downtown Boy

Age Level: 12-14

"In 1950s California, 10-year-old Juanito is tired of moving with his migrant-worker parents and staying in relatives' homes in San Francisco's Mission District. He aches for his often-absent father. Finally, Papi returns, and home becomes San Diego, where Juanito settles into a deeper sense of place and faces family secrets and hardship." — Booklist

Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Born into a family of migrant workers, toiling in the fields by the age of six, Jose M. Hernàndez dreamed of traveling through the night skies on a rocket ship. Hernández didn't speak English till he was 12, and his peers often joined gangs, or skipped school. And yet, by his twenties he was part of an elite team helping develop technology for the early detection of breast cancer. He was turned down by NASA eleven times on his long journey to donning that famous orange space suit.

Return to Sender

Age Level: 9-12

When Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, the family decides to hire a family of Mexican migrant workers. For Tyler, the workers' presence on the farm — as well as that of the three young daughters — is shrouded in mystery. As he develops a friendship with Mari, the eldest, he begins to wonder about the family's immigration status and what it means to be patriotic. In the meantime, Mari struggles with her own complicated feelings and worries about her mother, who is missing.

The Circuit

Age Level: 9-12

"Francisco Jiménez was born in Mexico, entered California illegally as a very young child, and spent his boyhood alternating between migrant farm work and the classroom. This collection of autobiographical short stories was written years later, when Jiménez had become an established professor at Santa Clara University (CA), but they give immediate access to the feelings of the growing boy." — School Library Journal

The Maldonado Miracle

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: After Jose's mother died, his father left to work in the United States, leaving Jose on his own in Mexico. Jose's attempt to cross the border is harrowing, and his stay at a migrant worker camp turns into a nightmare, forcing him to flee for his life. Hiding out in a church seems a wise thing to do — until the blood dripping from his wounded shoulder lands on a statue of Christ. Now everyone thinks the statue itself is bleeding. Jose's accidental "miracle" kick-starts a media frenzy — and threatens the future of an entire town.

The Thing About Luck

Age Level: 9-12

There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck — which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this winner of the National Book Award by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata. Summer knows that kouun means "good luck" in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan — right before harvest season.

Under the Feet of Jesus

Age Level: 16-18

"Migrant Mexicans shackled to a life of itinerant farm labor form the backdrop for a summer in the life of young Estrella and her family. Seemingly a prescription for sorrow, in Viramontes' hands the canvas instead teems with color and builds toward hope for a liberating future — at least for Estrella." — Booklist