The Year in Immigrant Stories - Define American

The Year in Immigrant Stories

A look back at representation in 2020 popular culture,
curated by Define American.

 

While immigration as an issue took a back seat this year to a barrage of world-changing and paradigm-shifting developments, immigrants in popular culture were more abundant and accessible than ever. Here are the immigrant stories that we think defined 2020:

January

Little America (Apple TV+)
An anthology series that observes the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring, and surprising stories of immigrants in America.

February

Party of Five (Hulu)
The five Acosta children navigate daily life struggles to survive as a family unit after their parents are suddenly deported back to Mexico.

March

Cover of The Undocumented Americans.

Photo: Penguin Random House

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation. Finalist for the National Book Award.

April

I’m No Longer Here (Netflix)
17-year-old Ulises loves to dance. But when the local cartel mistakenly targets him, he’s forced to flee his home in Mexico, landing alone in the wilds of Queens, New York.

May

Ramy's mother pledges citizenship.

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn / Hulu

Ramy – “They” (Hulu, S02E06)
A whole episode about Ramy’s Egyptian mother becoming a U.S. citizen to vote Trump out of office and protect the Supreme Court, and her confirmation possibly being derailed by a mysterious complaint about her Lyft driving.

June

Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi (Hulu)
A journey across America, exploring the rich and diverse food culture of various immigrant groups, seeking out the people who have so heavily shaped what American food is today.

July

Cover of The Son of Good Fortune.

Photo: HarperCollins Publishers

The Son of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio
A big-hearted debut novel following an undocumented Filipino son as he navigates his relationship with his mother, an uncertain future, and the place he calls home.

August

Immigration Nation (Netflix)
With unprecedented access to ICE operations, as well as moving portraits of immigrants, this docu-series takes a deep look at U.S. immigration today.

September

Cover of Conditional Citizens.

Photo: Penguin Random House

Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami
What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize­­–finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship.

October

The Donut King (Greenwich Entertainment)
It’s the rags-to-riches story of a refugee escaping Cambodia, arriving in America in 1975 and building an unlikely multi-million-dollar empire baking America’s favorite pastry, the donut.

November

His House (Netflix)
The immigrant experience as a horror movie. As a young couple from war-torn South Sudan seeks asylum and a fresh start in England, they’re tormented by a sinister force living in their new home.

December

Farewell Amor (IFC Films)
Reunited after a 17-year separation, Walter, an Angolan immigrant, is joined in the U.S. by his wife and teenage daughter. Now absolute strangers sharing a one-bedroom apartment, they discover a shared love of dance that may help overcome the emotional distance between them.

Like this list?

Help us advocate for accurate and authentic representation of immigrants in Hollywood by making a gift today.

Support Our Work