An Immigrant's Tale

An Immigrant's Tale is simply the story of an immigrant, an immigrant family, or a refugee, coping with life in a new nation.

A very common setting is late 19th or early 20th century America, with a heavy emphasis on the American Dream, but the trope works in any time and country. A recent theme is the plight of illegal aliens and migrant workers from Mexico working in America.

Typically includes overcoming a language barrier, instances of the Funny Foreigner, and Generational Sagas.

Examples

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    Film 
  • Vito Corleone's subplot in The Godfather, part II
  • Moscow on the Hudson, featuring Robin Williams as a defector from the Soviet Union making a new life in America
  • Ruggles of Red Gap doesn't start out as this, as Ruggles comes to America against his will—he's an English valet who was gambled away to an American tourist—but he becomes enchanted by the people in the little town of Red Gap, and by the new country he's in, rattling off the Gettysburg Address from memory to the delight of the townsfolk.
  • Far And Away, about two Irish people migrating to America.
  • Gangs of New York
  • The Al Pacino version of Scarface (1983)
  • The Italian, directed by Thomas H. Ince, was a 1915 film that followed the life of an Italian immigrant - and this was during the latter part of the major immigration to the US in the late 19th/early 20th century.
  • The Immigrant by Charlie Chaplin
  • Also a later movie called The Immigrant released in 2014.
  • Avalon touches elements of this in the grandfather's flashbacks.
  • How the West Was Won begins in the early 1800s with a group of settlers from the east encountering the hazards of the wilderness, both natural and human, and traces their families through to the later part of the century.
  • My Name Is Khan follows the journey of an Asperger's-suffering Indian Muslim immigrant in the post-9/11 sociopolitical landscape.
  • The Namesake is about Indian immigrants to the U.S. and their son's journey to accept his culture.
  • Amreeka is about two Palestinian immigrants, a mother and son.
  • America America by Elia Kazan.

    Literature 
  • The Emigrants tetrology by Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg, about a Swedish family's migration from Småland to Minnesota in the mid-1800s.
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan tells the story of an immigrant in a foreign country, foreign for the reader and the protagonist and how he's helped by both other immigrants from different countries and the locals until he manages to bring back his family. Notable in using a fantastical visual spectacle to metaphorically capture the emotion rather than literal details of migrant experience.
  • Franz Kafka's Amerika tells the story of a young man's journey to a twisted version of America where the Statue of Liberty holds a sword.
  • The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo. Yes, that Mario Puzo. He actually bemoaned how people preferred a gangster story full of violence than the pains and joys of a single mother raising alone her kids in a foreign country.
  • The Joy Luck Club is a collection of stories about first- and second-generation Chinese-American immigrants.
  • The Jungle
  • Tis is the second of author Frank McCourt's memoirs and is about McCourt's immigration to the United States from Ireland (although he was already a U.S. citizen, having been born in New York to Irish immigrant parents who moved the family back to Ireland when he was a very young child).
  • Shanghai Girls is about May and Pearl Chin, sisters from Shanghai that are forced to immigrate to the U.S. with their husbands when their father loses all his money and World War II starts. May has a child in America, Joy, who is raised as Pearl's child. The sequel, Dreams of Joy, is about Joy's return to China to find her roots.
  • Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok, is about a girl named Kimberly and her mother immigrating to Brooklyn sometime in The '80s.
  • Vita, by Melania Mazzucco, tells the story of two Italian immigrants arriving in New York as children in the early 20th century.
  • Middlesex is one, albeit extremely unconventional, about immigrants Eleutherios "Lefty" and his wife Desdemona Stephanides (who are also brother and sister) who immigrate to Detroit from Turkey.
  • Marsbound starts out this way, with Carmen Dula and her family moving to Mars and struggling to fit in with the community there, but it takes an abrupt left turn partway through.
  • American Girls Collection:
    • Kirsten's series, set in 1854, about a Swedish immigrant family adapting to Minnesota in the pioneer times.
    • Rebecca, a Russian Jew whose family immigrated to Manhattan. Set in 1914.

    Live Action TV 
  • Vanishing Son
  • Halfway Across the Galaxy and Turn Left metaphorically captures the migrant experience of kids by portraying an alien family settling on Earth as refugees. It deals with the everyday such as the kids settling into school, and their fear that the regime they've escaped will catch up with them (in the TV version it does, differing from the book its based on).
  • Welcome To Sweden.

    Music 
  • "America" by Neil Diamond
  • Regina Spektor's "Rockland County" and "8th Floor"
  • "In Your Hands" by Charlie Winston
  • No Gringo by Vienna Teng is one of these with a twist: it's set in a world where America is somewhere people are desperate to leave, not to come.
  • "Thousands Are Sailing" by The Pogues has an immigrant from 1980s Ireland meet the ghost of an immigrant from 100 years earlier.
  • "Concrete Jungle" is a great hip-hop/reggae example by Diafrix.
  • "Paddy's Lamentation", a Civil War-era Irish folk song about an Irishman leaving Ireland due to the famine only to be forced to fight in the American Civil War, losing his leg. It was featured in Gangs of New York.

    Theatre 
  • Kristina fran Duvemala is a musical by ex-ABBA members Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, an adaptation of Moberg's novels.

    Truth In Television 
  • If you come from a family of immigrants, this happens at every family reunion. Or just every time your parents get drunk reminiscing.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto IV stars Niko, a new immigrant to America.
  • Dragon Age II is the story of Hawke, a regular everyperson whose family fled Ferelden during the Blight and ended up in Kirkwall with no money, no status, and almost no connections or relatives. Over the next seven years, Hawke makes a name for themselves and is eventually the Champion of Kirkwall... before being cast right back down to refugee status by fate.

    Western Animation