I’ve just experienced what feels like a college course on immigration via three audiobooks with varying approaches. I made my way into the subject gently with The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood (Tantor Media, 7 hours and 47 minutes), poet Richard Blanco’s warm, funny 2014 memoir of growing up gay in a Cuban immigrant family in the 1970s and ’80s. Blanco is a wonderful storyteller, and Adi Cabral, who reads a new audiobook edition, works magic with the Spanish-accented voices Blanco evokes: dislocated farmer Abuelo, homophobic but loving Abuela, Chevy Malibú–driving Papá, tote-bag-toting Mamá, and a handsome boy named Ariel, whose family arrived on the Mariel boatlift and who becomes Riqui’s first crush. The hilarious, poignant episodes have a mythmaking energy that recalls both ’70s sitcoms and Angela’s Ashes, with vignettes depicting a Cuban “San Giving” turkey dinner; Abuelo’s valiant attempt to raise livestock on a suburban block; and a visit to Disney World in the Malibú to see Riqui’s hero, El Ratoncito Miguel. The family’s experience with Florida police troopers, while tinged with xenophobia, lingered in my mind as a vestige of a gentler world as I immersed myself in the next two titles.

Coming up with words to convey the impact of Jonathan Blitzer’s Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here: The United States, Central America and the Making of a Crisis (Penguin Random House Audio, 18 hours and 13 minutes) chokes me up with sorrow and fury. Starting his story with the U.S. interventions in Central America in the 1970s and ’80s—i.e., propping up strongmen and arming murderers—Blitzer traces the roots of the tragedy we are living through today. It’s heavy stuff, but André Santana’s animated narration is like having a friend go through it with you, and Blitzer himself reads opening and closing first-person sections. Between them are woven the often horrific journeys of heroes like Juan Romagaoza, a med student tortured by El Salvadoran soldiers; Keldy, a Honduran lay pastor who was one of the first separated from her children on the border; and Lucrezia Mack, whose activist mother was murdered by Guatemalan government goons when she was a teenager. With both presidential candidates and many voters now taking anti-asylum, pro-deportation stances, this book should be required reading.

Beginning with a fire that destroyed a notorious refugee camp on the isle of Lesbos in 2020, Lauren Markham’s A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging (Penguin Random House Audio, 7 hours and 32 minutes) charts a complex voyage that combines personal storytelling and cultural criticism with detailed reporting on the “hundreds of thousands and then millions of people from Africa and Asia and the Middle East [who] fled their own homes in search of safety in Europe, washing up waterlogged and desperate and sometimes dead on Greece’s shores.” As she unfurls the story of the hapless Afghan teenagers convicted of arson in what can barely be described as a trial, Markham weaves in travelogue describing her expeditions through the countryside in search of her own family’s roots, aware that even the hairiest of these episodes are relief from the stark terror of “pushback,” a practice where Greek authorities purposely maroon would-be migrants at sea. She muses on the role of Greece in Western iconography and right-wing propaganda, often rooted in apocrypha. The narration of Gilli Messer is so suited to Markham’s thoughtful, self-aware style that it becomes transparent: You forget she isn’t the author.

Marion Winik hosts the NPR podcast The Weekly Reader.