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A Map Is Only One Story: Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  542 ratings  ·  85 reviews
From rediscovering an ancestral village in China to experiencing the realities of American life as a Nigerian, the search for belonging crosses borders and generations. Selected from the archives of Catapult magazine, the essays in A Map Is Only One Story highlight the human side of immigration policies and polarized rhetoric, as twenty writers share provocative personal s ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Catapult
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Kathryn in FL
Available in February 2020

My feelings about this collection of non-fiction essays is mixed. I have always been very invested in reading stories and talking to actual immigrants about their expectations and experiences prior to immigration, and their current perceptions once they have become citizens or residents of the U.S.

Three of my grandparents emigrated to the U.S. in the early 20th century from Europe, with the full Ellis Island Experience. Since I was the last child in the family, none of
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In the first published anthology of writing from Catapult magazine, twenty writers share stories of migration, family, the search for home and belonging, and what it means to exist between languages and cultures.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
This essay collection was outstanding, and truly highlights why Catapult is the best of the best. These 20 essays are from a wide variety of writers and artists, each grappling with home/identity/family/borders in different ways. It struck me while reading - especially Victoria Blanco's essay on El Paso/Juarez border, and Nur Nasreen Ibrahim's essay on the partition between India and Pakistan - how arbitrary and oftentimes meaningless borders are, yet how they impact our lives, histories and rel ...more
Jan 16, 2021 rated it liked it
I would say this was a good cross section of stories told from many perspectives. The most unique thing about this collection was just that some of them were very dark and took the alternative route of the writers leaving the country. Unfortunately, some were brief and seemed geared towards a younger audience. I would say if you’re looking for a consistent collection on this topic, then The Good Immigrant (the U.S. edition) ed. by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman has a more elevated and gritty ...more
Nicole Means
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"A Map is Only One Story" needs to be integrated in history courses internationally. As a social studies teacher, I anxiously awaited this book for months prior to its release--this book exceeded my expectations because the diversity of voices represented throughout the essays are powerful representations of the immigrant experience. The editors selected diverse voices that will help readers move beyond a 'single story' of the immigrant experience--not all immigrants are the same culture, religi ...more
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
What I love most about essay collections is that they introduce me to many new writers I would not have otherwise come across. This anthology was well worth the read just for that. There actually quite a few essays by South Asian women in here too! Some of my favorite essays were, A Map of Lost Things by Jamila Osman, Return to Partition by Nur Nasreen Ibrahim, Undocumented Lovers in America by Krystal A. Sital, How to Stop Saying Sorry When Things Aren't Your Fault by Kamna Muddagouni, The Wail ...more
I feel bad giving this review but it was just mediocre! I really liked a couple of stories and also really didn’t like a couple, and the rest were meh
Sachi Argabright
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A MAP IS ONLY ONE STORY is an anthology collection of essays focused on immigration. This book features 20 writers and their unique stories that explore family, being caught between cultures, and what it truly means to be home. Told from a diverse set of voices from many backgrounds, this collection has many interesting perspectives that will resonate with many readers.

This recent release is something you won’t want to miss! I absolutely loved reading this collection, and I flew through it in a
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 * rounded up

I am conflicted with this review. On one hand, it's important for diverse voices to be heard. Stories from immigrants, existing in liminal places, experiencing cultural schizophrenia, struggling to survive day to day. I appreciate their honesty and sincerity in conveying what they and their families have been through.

However, I can't shrug off that the quality of writing in this anthology is mediocre. Take 'A Map of Lost Things,' tied to the title of this anthology. Jamila Osman
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
There are some outstanding essays in this volume from literary magazine Catapult. My Indian Passport is a Bitch by Deepti Kapoor is a cold-water bath of an essay in the best way - clean and clear and confronting (especially as Westerners contemplate having the privileges of travel removed). Jamila Osman's A Map of Lost Things is a gorgeously wistful piece of writing, and Return to Partition by Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is, well, possibly the best piece of writing I've read so far this year. I can stil ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Overall this book is very magazine-y and that's a disappointment given the topic.  Yes, this anthology is from a magazine but "People" about immigration is a disservice.  These stories are light--something for the beach or a plane ride, a situation where you don't have to think or feel much.  (Later here, I name better alternatives.)

"Return to Partition" was very good on its own.  And it's the best in this collection. "The Dress" was very affecting and a personal favorite.  "Mourning My Birthpla
Sarah Chomette
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A must read. Too often diversity, equity, and inclusion are preached in theory, but the time is not taken to educate oneself on what diversity looks, feels, seems, and even tastes like.

There are so many identities and cultural impacts that can make up an individual. This anthology complied those voices and feelings into one long narrative on immigration, family, and the meaning of home and weaves in the changes and similarities between perspectives.i highly recommend.
Breanna Randall
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderful and important collection of essays. Looking forward to reading more of these authors' work. ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: anthologies
average rating: 3.35

This collection contains 20 stories of writers from a variety of backgrounds who have migrated from their home country. Themes include: the feeling of being stuck between two cultures, not fitting in, having a specific idea of what it means to be a citizen of a certain place, being separated from family, language barriers, and much more.

As in any collection, I was drawn to some pieces more than others. Favorites include: "A Map of Lost Things" by Jamila Osman, "This Hell Not
Fruzsi Gal
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Being bilingual and having migrated to a country across the world myself, I immediately gravitated towards this anthology from Catapult magazine. It features 20 essays on experiences living between two cultures, existing in two languages, and carrying your home inside your heart, often across continents.

Some of the essays were better than others, some made me cry, some made me think, and some gave me that aching sort of recognition that makes your heart sing – yes, there are other people out th
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Where are you from? People stilll ask me, but the answer is not simple. I am from a place beyond the scope of any map or road atlas. I am from a house of borrowed things, a land of irreconcilable and devastating losses, a terrain marked by grief. I am from nomads who moved in search of water, carving a home wherever they ended up, like water carves itsnshape into rock. I am from wild hope, a blinding courage, a blur and madness uncharted by any cartographer. I am from a land unmapped and entire ...more
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Important read! Some of the essays were more powerful than others, but overall a 5 for its cultural and political significance.
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an essay collection from twenty writers around the theme of immigration. It is fantastic. The different essays highlight writers from different countries, different generation of immigrants, immigration status, etc. The cities of Juarez and El Paso, twin cities just across the border where people go across the border all the time, and families are split between two countries. The definition of home is explored. Another essay looks at how culture is acknowledged and understood over multip ...more
Rebecca McPhedran
Maps are a polite fiction. They never tell the whole story.

A fantastic collection of essays that highlight the struggles and the lessons from immigration. Essays touch on things like having passports that are notoriously restricting in your travels, essays about being away from your family; and then struggling to say goodbye to them when you didn't really know them. There are poignant essays about how the dream of a new country doesn't turn out to the the utopia you thought; it's actually a ne
Jennifer Cunningham
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
After reading this book of 20 short stories, I feel like I’ve just completed a trip around the world of diversity. The book is a compilation of mostly women authors reflecting on their culture, their heritage, ancestry, immigration, race, and how this all intersects with the world at large. Each essay is unique and personal. The reader has the opportunity to visit all six inhabited main continents. The stories relate to current times and ongoing conversations. Their stories are intriguing, enter ...more
Alicia Bane
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This collection of essays was really fantastic. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, some are funny, some are both. Each author offers a glimpse into how immigration has impacted their life — one is not able to freely explore the world due to the restrictions of her visa, one has to keep her undocumented status a secret at all costs, one explores how the films of Hayao Miyazaki reflect her experiences of being half Japanese and half American. There are 20 pieces of writing in all, and each fee ...more
Natalie {booksandbakeryfinds}
Feb 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
A well curated and compelling collection of essays highlighting the writers' unique experiences with immigration, family and home. I appreciated the honest and heartfelt nature of the stories, and that each writer came from a different country and/or cultural background.
Certainly recommend this one to anyone interested in learning more about the immigrant experience from #ownvoices writers.
Taylor Stewart
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, bipoc, essays
Each of these essays are so eloquently put — I literally could not stop myself from flipping to the next one!
Dec 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting to hear what immigrants experience in America. Many different focuses and styles of communication.
Jenn Adams
Maybe 4.5 just because there were some essays I didn’t love as much as others, but that always happens with essay/story collections.

Fascinating range of perspectives and stories. Lots of raw emotion and harsh reality.
Favorites included: My Indian Passport Is a Bitch; Carefree White Girls, Careful Brown Girls; Say It with Noodles; The Dress; How to Stop Saying Sorry When Things Aren’t Your Fault. But I think pretty much every piece had something I could appreciate.
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Definitely some stronger essays than others, the usual hazard of anthologies. One absolute clunker in the bunch, and several head-scratchers, but an engaging read overall. Loved “A Map of Lost Things” by Jamila Osman and “What Miyazaki’s Heroines Taught Me” by Nina Li Coomes in particular.
Sarah Crass
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A collection of 20 essays - insights into the lives of individuals and families living far from “home”. All choosing immigration for different reasons - all struggling to reconcile identity and “home”. Powerful, proud, strong and honest. An excellent book.
Sharanya Ramesh
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great set of short stories detailing various immigrant experiences. Excited to have been introduced to such a great group of writers and will be looking for more stories by them!
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
5 stars for the essays in the first half of the book (up until the illustrated one named "Say It With Noodles.") The essays here were truly excellent and poignant.

3 Stars for the remaining essays (starting with the illustrated one--couldn't understand this one in particular, if there was a point to it and if yes, what was the author trying to say exactly?) Anyway, the essays in the second half of the book were...lacking.
Bogi Takács
I read a good chunk of this anthology (not in order), and I thought the only standout piece was Shing Yin Khor's graphic essay. I really recommend that one. I usually don't add DNFs to Goodreads anymore, but I did want to make that recommendation.

Some of the other pieces just didn't grab me, and there was one where the author claimed that he preferred life in his country of origin because he could bribe people easier and the police were his friend, and that other writers from his country played
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Nicole Chung has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, GQ, TIME, Longreads, The Cut, and Vulture, among others. She is the editor in chief of Catapult magazine and the former managing editor of The Toast. All You Can Ever Know is her first book. Find her on Twitter at @nicolesjchung. ...more

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14 likes · 1 comments
“There is nothing easy about migration. It is a search for a better life, but in this way it is also a death. How easily would you choose to leave this life? How quickly, if the decision were made for you? It is a line you cannot uncross, whether you are lucky enough to visit every few years or if you left knowing you will never return. Everyone and everything you knew and loved are gone.” 0 likes
“Sometimes it seems to me a miracle that so many worlds exist on the same planet and don't collapse into one another and collapse. How do we do it? Even more so in the age of social media, where everything exists all of the time. How can I lie in that hotel bed, the pillow fluffy and white, and see this happen, and not only not fall apart, but thrive, make my coffee, walk along a trail, sit in a meadow and revel in the glory of nature?” 0 likes
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