New Lives in New Worlds: The Global Immigrant Experience

New Lives in New Worlds: The Global Immigrant Experience is a special book group event focused on the immigrant experience outside of the United States. Interested readers will discuss four diverse novels in October and November of 2012 and January and February of 2013. All discussions will be held at the Waldo Community Library.


New Lives in New Worlds is a unique book group experience focused on the immigrant experience in countries outside of the United States. Using fiction to tell the stories of immigrants is often a far more emotionally accurate and compelling method for readers to understand what it means to leave one’s homeland and adopt another. Readers will also gain a more personal perspective of political upheaval while reading these four novels written by contemporary authors representing a variety of cultures.

Experience the romantic tightrope one woman walks between her strict Bangladeshi heritage and liberating London neighborhood in Brick Lane by Monica Ali. Filmmaker and author David Bezmozgis presents a multigenerational saga of Soviet Jews who slipped through the Iron Curtain to the sunny purgatory of Rome in The Free World. The murder of a young troublemaker allows Amara Lakhous to adopt a Rashomon device to tell the story of the murder and reveal the culturally diverse characters in The Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittoria, a social satire cum murder-mystery. A young woman finds inspiration in the film “The Magnificent Seven” and heads Into the Beautiful North to find her own seven saviors for her Mexican village which is strangely devoid of marriageable men in Luis Urrea’s female-centric adventure story.

The Waldo Community Library will host participants for conversations about these featured books with the guidance of Andrea Kempf, professor emeritus from Johnson County Community College and a noted expert in the field of international fiction. Discussions will always take place on Thursday evenings at 6:30 p.m. from October 2012 through February 2013.


Every year large numbers of people move from their homelands to other parts of the world. In 2006, the International Organization for Migration estimated the number of foreign migrants to be more than 200 million people. In Europe there were approximately 70 million migrants and in North America, 45 million.

Telling the stories of immigration in fiction is often a more accurate and more compelling method for readers to learn about what it is like to be a stranger in a new country. Often it is the backstory of the novel that will explain to the reader much of what is going on in various countries that they may only learn from front page headlines.


Brick Lane by Monica Ali

The Free World by David Bezmozgis

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio by Amara Lakhous


Andrea Kempf is professor librarian emeritus at Johnson County Community College. She has been reviewing international fiction for Library Journal since 1975 and was named Fiction Book Reviewer of 2000. Andrea also reviews for the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle.

Alicia Ahlvers is the Branch Manager for the Waldo Community Library for the Kansas City Public Library. She has chaired the ALA Notable Books Council and is currently the chair of the ALA Reading List Council.