Share 14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

Erica Nelson works in marketing at Hachette Book Group.

Some of the greatest American literature ever written tells the stories of families—whether they’re striving to provide a better life for their loved ones, to persevere in the face of adversity, or to face each day with optimism. While the American Dream means something different to every family, diversity, idealism, and hard work are consistently what make their stories so poignant and inspiring. Here are some of our favorite novels about families who are carving out a place for themselves in America.


Let Me Explain You
by Annie Liontas

Greek immigrant Stavros Stavros Mavrakis believes he has just ten days to live. Brimming with pride and cursing in broken English, he sends an email to his three daughters and ex-wife outlining his wishes for how they might live better lives. They react just as you’d expect.

Let Me Explain You
Annie Liontas

Greek immigrant Stavros Stavros Mavrakis believes he has just ten days to live. Brimming with pride and cursing in broken English, he sends an email to his three daughters and ex-wife outlining his wishes for how they might live better lives. They react just as you’d expect.

MENTIONED IN:

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

13 Books You Should Read Before Summer Ends

By Off the Shelf Staff | August 16, 2016

Close

The Madonnas of Echo Park
by Brando Skyhorse

This series of artfully interwoven tales chronicles a community of Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles who work as cleaners, gardeners, and day laborers as they chase the American dream. Eye-opening and deeply human, it illuminates an often hidden segment of American life.

The Madonnas of Echo Park
Brando Skyhorse

This series of artfully interwoven tales chronicles a community of Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles who work as cleaners, gardeners, and day laborers as they chase the American dream. Eye-opening and deeply human, it illuminates an often hidden segment of American life.

MENTIONED IN:

7 Books to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Taylor Noel | October 15, 2018

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

11 Artfully Interwoven Episodic Tales

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 3, 2015

11 Literary Servants Tell Their Own Stories

By Emma Volk | August 18, 2015

Close

We Are Not Ourselves
by Matthew Thomas

The promise and tragedy of post-war America is charted in this riveting portrait of an Irish-American family as they chase the American Dream. It is at once expansive and exquisitely detailed, but what readers will remember most is the huge heart at its core. It heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction and is destined to be an American classic.

We Are Not Ourselves
Matthew Thomas

The promise and tragedy of post-war America is charted in this riveting portrait of an Irish-American family as they chase the American Dream. It is at once expansive and exquisitely detailed, but what readers will remember most is the huge heart at its core. It heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction and is destined to be an American classic.

MENTIONED IN:

8 Books to Read Based on Your Favorite TV Shows

By Tolani Osan | October 4, 2018

Love “This Is Us?” Here Are the 11 Books You Need to Read

By Julianna Haubner | January 3, 2018

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

12 Novels that Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple

By Hilary Krutt | February 2, 2016

Reading XXL: 15 Extra Long Books Perfect for Extra Long Winter Nights

By Julianna Haubner | January 26, 2016

13 Reasons to Join Our Mothers’ Book Club

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 22, 2015

Close

Mary Coin
by Marisa Silver
Inspired by Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photograph, Marisa Silver’s MARY COIN is the story of two women in the American Depression of 1936—one a famous photographer and one a migrant laborer in search of work—and their remarkable chance encounter that produced one of the most iconic images of the Great Depression.
Mary Coin
Marisa Silver

In 1936, Dorothea Lange shot the most famous photograph of the Great Depression, “Migrant Mother.” Marisa Silver’s novel breathes life into that famous image in a tremendous reimagining, a compassionate, poignant, dignified portrait of an iconic and unvoiced figure.

MENTIONED IN:

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

A Deeply Moving Novel Born from the Image that Defined the Great Depression

By Wendy Sheanin | September 14, 2015

12 Favorite Novels from a Longtime Industry Insider

By Wendy Sheanin | August 20, 2015

Close

House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus III
An Iranian immigrant to the United States spends the last of his savings to purchase his first home at auction. But when he encounters the previous owner, a self-destructive alcoholic who wants her home back, their personal confrontation exemplifies how a home represents more than just a place to live and is a beacon of the American dream.
House of Sand and Fog
Andre Dubus III

In this masterpiece of American realism and Shakespearean consequence, Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters—people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on—careen toward inevitable conflict, their tragedy painting a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.

MENTIONED IN:

Excited for the Big New Books of Fall? Read These 14 Novels First!

By Taylor Noel | September 11, 2018

10 Literary Houses That Host Family Stories and Buried Secrets

By Elizabeth Breeden | January 13, 2017

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

10 Cross-Cultural Novels that Illuminate the World We Live In

By Tolani Osan | September 24, 2015

A Novel that Explores the Dark Underbelly of the American Dream

By Tolani Osan | September 16, 2015

9 Literary Lives You’ll Be Glad Aren’t Yours

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2014

Close

The Prince of Tides
by Pat Conroy
Spanning forty years, this is the turbulent story of Tom Wingo and his gifted and troubled twin sister, Savannah, as they struggle to triumph over the dark and tragic legacy of their childhoods in the marshland of the South with a violent father and manipulative mother.
The Prince of Tides
Pat Conroy

The sweeping forty year story of the Wingo children of South Carolina: Tom, Savannah and Luke who, along with their mother - who is definitely no rose herself - suffer through years of abuse at the hands of their nasty drinking father and finally are able to throw off and grow through the pain of their childhood. One for the ages.

MENTIONED IN:

Love “This Is Us?” Here Are the 11 Books You Need to Read

By Julianna Haubner | January 3, 2018

In Memoriam: 12 Authors We Lost Too Soon in 2016

By Sarah Jane Abbott | December 26, 2016

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

11 Novels that Will Have You Seeing Double

By Emma Volk | March 8, 2016

Some Literary Fathers You Will Be Happy Aren’t Yours

By Off the Shelf Staff | June 12, 2014

Close

Ruby
by Cynthia Bond
An epic and unforgettable story of a 1950s man determined to protect the woman he loves from the small East Texas town desperate to destroy her. Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, RUBY is a transcendent novel of passion and courage.
Ruby
Cynthia Bond

An epic and unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her. Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, RUBY is a transcendent novel of passion and courage.

MENTIONED IN:

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

11 Books to Read While You Wait for Oprah’s Memoir

By Erica Nelson | April 5, 2016

Close

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie vividly weaves memory, fantasy, and stark reality to paint a portrait of life in and around a Spokane Indian reservation. Set against a backdrop of addiction, car accidents, laughter, and basketball, these stories portray the reservation’s strong sense of community and attitude of hope to persevere despite the odds.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
Sherman Alexie

Elegantly depicting the struggles of Native Americans to survive in a world that remains hostile to them, this is the book that made Sherman Alexie a literary star. Told through twenty-two interconnected stories that reveal different aspects of life on a Spokane Indian reservation, it runs the emotional gamut from humor to loss to a stubborn will to survive.

MENTIONED IN:

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

12 Essential Books About Race in America

By Eloy Bleifuss Prados | January 18, 2016

Close

The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk—and the Joy Luck Club is born. Over the years and the births of their daughters, they become united in their shared experiences of loss and hope, choosing to gather and raise their spirits rather than sink into tragedy.

The Joy Luck Club
Amy Tan

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk—and the Joy Luck Club is born. Over the years and the births of their daughters, they become united in their shared experiences of loss and hope, choosing to gather and raise their spirits rather than sink into tragedy.

Close

Americanah
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This powerful, tender story of race and gender is centered on Ifemelu, a brilliant young woman who departs military-ruled Nigeria for an American university where, for the first time, she is forced to grapple with her identity as a black woman. Her defeats and triumphs are a richly told story set in today’s globalized world.
Americanah
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This powerful story of race and gender is centered on Ifemelu, a brilliant and self-assured young woman who departs military-ruled Nigeria for an American university where, for the first time, she is forced to grapple with her identity as a black woman. Ifemelu faces difficult choices and challenges, suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, and eventually achieves success as the writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. Fearless and gripping, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world.

MENTIONED IN:

6 Books Obama Recommends for Summer Reading

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 18, 2018

12 Authors I Desperately Need New Books From

By Taylor Noel | April 16, 2018

Love Scandal? Insecure? Black-ish? You’ll Love These 7 Books, Too!

By Nicole Blades | November 17, 2017

Coming to America: 13 Immigrant Stories That Represent Our History

By Julianna Haubner | March 2, 2017

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

12 Engaging Reads for Students in Life’s Classroom

By Kerry Fiallo | September 6, 2016

Close

Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson
Set in 1954 on San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt—the community is still haunted by the memory of its Japanese residents being sent into exile during World War II while their neighbors watched.
Snow Falling on Cedars
David Guterson

Set on a small island in Puget Sound, this gripping, tragic, and densely atmospheric novel is a masterpiece that will leave you shaken and changed.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Oceanfront Books to Tide You Over Until Your Next Beach Vacation

By Erin Flaaen | June 8, 2017

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

13 Banned Books That Will Always Have a Place on Our Shelves

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 29, 2016

13 Reasons to Join Our Mothers’ Book Club

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 22, 2015

Close

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz
Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old-world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But because of a curse that has haunted his family for generations, Oscar may never get what he wants.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Diaz

This book emphasized to me that America very often is not just the space we occupy, but the histories, traditions, and cultures we/our ancestors brought with us to this space, whether 10 years ago or 300 years ago. America is informed by a multitude of traditions from around the world, and how we negotiate those traditions to form the American ideal is an exciting and fascinating process. – Etinosa Agbonlahor

MENTIONED IN:

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

15 Books from Ann Patchett’s Very Long List of Favorites

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 4, 2016

8 Books that Represent “My America”

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 3, 2014

Close

Middlesex
by Jeffrey Eugenides
This contemporary American epic, which won the Pulitzer Prize, recounts the history of three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, centering on their intersex child Calliope, whose evolution from Callie to Cal is just one of the moving transformations in this exquisite novel.
Middlesex
Jeffrey Eugenides

MENTIONED IN:

17 of Our Favorite First Lines to Start 2017

By Kerry Fiallo | January 3, 2017

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

Celebrating 100 Years of Pulitzer Prize-Winning Fiction

By Erin Flaaen | April 12, 2016

11 Ground-breaking LGBTQ Novels

By Emma Volk | February 4, 2016

Being Born Twice Sometimes Works Better: Jeffrey Eugenides’s MIDDLESEX

By Susan Rella | March 4, 2014

Close

Miracle at St. Anna
by James McBride

Toward the end of World War II, four Buffalo Soldiers from the Army’s Negro 92nd Division find themselves separated from their unit and behind enemy lines. Risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with less respect than the enemy they are fighting, they discover humanity and small miracles in the residents of the small Tuscan village of St. Anna di Stazzema.

Miracle at St. Anna
James McBride

Toward the end of World War II, four Buffalo Soldiers from the Army’s Negro 92nd Division find themselves separated from their unit and behind enemy lines. Risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with less respect than the enemy they are fighting, they discover humanity and small miracles in the residents of the small Tuscan village of St. Anna di Stazzema.

MENTIONED IN:

14 Novels That Portray Diverse and Resilient American Families

By Erica Nelson | November 24, 2016

Close

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create an Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

You must be logged in to add books to your shelf.

Please log in or sign up now.